Court named after Steamboat tennis icon Carol Baily | SteamboatToday.com

Court named after Steamboat tennis icon Carol Baily

Carol Baily has been making a name for herself since winning her first tennis tournament at age 12 back in 1963.

Now, more than 50 years after chalking up her first victory, Baily's name has made its way onto a tennis court only a few steps from the entrance of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, where she has worked as an instructor for years.

Loretta Conway, director of business development at the Tennis Center, said Baily's accomplishments, both on the court and to the local tennis community, made her the perfect candidate to have her name placed on the hard court previously known as the U.S. Open Court. Last year, the Tennis Center honored the Swiggart family by naming a court in honor of Jim and Stacy Swiggart, who ran the tennis center since the doors opened in 1991.

At that time, leaders in the tennis community talked about honoring Baily but decided to hold off a year so that both the Swiggarts and Baily could receive the recognition they deserved. Conway doesn't expect the naming of the courts to become a regular thing at the Tennis Center, adding that honor will be reserved for those who have reached a special level.

"It makes me feel very honored to be recognized," Baily said. "I kind of knew it was coming. I knew they were going to do this for a while, but I kept telling them,  'No, you're not.'"

But, at a Sunday evening’s dinner that capped the Steamboat Tennis Association's Annual Summer Tennis and Pickleball Championships, Baily officially had the court named in her honor, not only for what she accomplished on the court, but also for the example she set off of it.

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"She is a great role model, for sure," Conway said of Baily. "She never walks around like she owns the place. She has  accomplished so much on the court and done so much for the sport here, but she is always humble about her success."

Baily's first title came in 1963, at the Boulder Women's Open in the doubles division, where she played with mentor Phyllis Lockwood, but it wasn't her last.

She left Colorado to attend Arizona State University, where she was a member of the No. 1 ranked NCAA women's team. The squad won two national titles during her time there.

She wrapped up her collegiate career at the University of Colorado, where she played No. 1 singles and doubles while completing her degree in anthropology

After college, she played on the Women’s Tennis Association's Professional Circuit, was ranked 51st by the International Tennis Federation in 1980 and competed in three U.S. Opens and the Australian Open and qualified for Wimbledon from 1975 through 1996.

When she moved to Steamboat Springs in 1974, she worked as a waitress at the Robber's Roost during the day and at Chemin de Fer scooping ice cream by night.

But, eventually, she found her way into the tennis community, serving as tennis professional at the Steamboat Athletic Club from 1975 through 1991.

She worked with Tuck Clagett, Pat Carney and the Steamboat Tennis Association to make the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs a reality. When it opened in 1991, she took her place as one of the tennis professionals.

She holds a place as one of Colorado's top players and combined for 14 singles and 27 doubles titles in the Colorado State Open, the Denver City Open and the Intermountain Sectional Championships. Her 41 combined major state titles secure her ranking of second in the state. She was the No. 1-ranked player in her age division in the state through most of the 1990s and was ranked No. 1 in the  world, both in singles and doubles, in her age division in 1991 and 1995.

She might still be out there dominating her age division if not for two knee replacement surgeries and bad shoulders that have slowed her game in recent years. But, even that can't stop her from stepping onto the court for an occasional tennis or pickleball lesson. Her lifelong quest for education has led her to teach a balance and physical conditioning class to seniors

"I was a little surprised," Baily said of the honor. "I've been in town a long time. I've played a lot of tennis, and I've taught a lot of tennis, but I never expected to be recognized for enjoying what I love to do."

Baily said she is thrilled the Tennis Center has named a court in her honor, but she insists she is not finished leaving her mark on the game in our mountain town.

She recently began her "Playing it Forward" campaign to help raise money for the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center Maintenance Endowment Fund, held at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. Baily will match donations dollar-for-dollar up to  $5,000, if donations are made before Aug. 30.

Donations can be made at yvcf.org/tennisandpickleballcenter.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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