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Phyllis Hunter



The 1942 Watertown High grad is the only South Dakota tennis player ever to play in the U.S. National Championships (now the U.S. Open) in New York City, reaching the round of 16 in 1941 and 1946.

In 1941, she won her first two matches before falling to eventual runner-up Pauline Betz (who would go on to win four U.S. Open singles titles). In 1946, she again won her first two matches before falling to Margaret Osborne, the top player from Northern California, and Hunter and partner Dorothy Head made the doubles quarterfinals.

Hunter was ranked No. 1 in the Northwestern Lawn Tennis Association (SD, ND, Minn.) Section while still a junior player and the Northern California Section while in college at Sacramento Junior College and Cal, and held the highest national ranking ever by an adult tennis player from this state – she was No. 21 in women’s singles and No. 9 in women’s doubles in 1946.

In 1938, as a 14-year-old, she played in her first NWLTA tourney – the All-Dakota Championships in Aberdeen – finishing runner-up in women’s singles. The next year she won that tourney in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Hunter was self-taught as a tennis player. She developed her passion and skill for tennis despite a host of challenges: Unlike men's teams, women's sports were not a part of organized athletics; there were few opponents with whom she could practice; and no coaches were available in Watertown to work with her. She went to the library and read every book they had on tennis and also sent away for a few. She had a couple of good practice partners (Jolly Carlson and “Lefty” Johnson), when they were available, but usually she just spent hours hitting against a wall, often the side of her family’s home or their grocery store.

She moved to California because of the weather and access to coaching – at Cal she was coached by one of the nation’s most respected coaches, Tom Stow. She didn’t come home for the whole summer, instead staying in the Bay area and playing tennis. In 1948, she stopped playing competitive tennis, citing intentions to focus instead on her husband and family. Underlying her devotion to her family was the perception that her husband, Paul Selchau, did not appreciate the fact that she could readily beat him (as well as other male opponents).

Hunter was inducted into the S.D. Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.


































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