Love of the game

By Charles Guthrie

Rider men’s and women’s tennis Head Coach Ed Torres has been involved with tennis nearly his whole life.

Torres learned to play tennis when he was nine years old from a club pro at the Spring Lake Bath and Tennis Club where his dad had also been a club pro since 1920.

While at the club, the future Rider coach would eventually take part in tournaments against the other clubs in singles and doubles tournaments.

Torres only played there during the summer because he also played other sports.

“I liked basketball,” Torres said. “Baseball was my favorite sport though. If I had a choice to go pro in any of the three sports I would have chosen baseball from watching the Yankee greats such as [Joe] DiMaggio, [Mickey] Mantle, and the Dodgers Jackie Robinson, and Duke Snyder.”

It was then off to Asbury Park High School. He learned early that baseball wouldn’t be in his future plans after freshman tryouts.

“I went to the tryouts as a first basemen,” Torres said. “The guy trying out with me was a bigger stronger kid. He was a better hitter and fielder than I was.”

This turned out to be a good thing for Torres. He became captain of the basketball team and finished with a 40-2 record as the No. 1 singles player for the tennis team. They won the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association championship in 1950.

At then Rider College, Torres was set on hoops until he met tennis coach Bob Kilgers.

“I wasn’t focused on tennis because the team had been dropped two years earlier,” Torres said. “He saw me in the hallway and said I would be the No. 1 player. Kilgers knew me because he read about me in the papers. I was still unsure until I read The Rider News and they said the team had 12 matches and I was the No. 1 player.”

Torres compiled a 43-1 record as a singles player, and a 38-4 record as a doubles player in college.

“We lost three matches in four years while I was at Rider,” Torres said. “We lost three years in a row to Rutgers, then went undefeated the next year and beat them.”

After graduating from college with a degree in business, Torres went into the service. When he came back, he went to Monmouth to take education classes so he could get his master’s degree in administration.

“I would have gone back to Rider, but Monmouth was only five to six miles away from my house,” Torres said.
Torres then became a Spanish teacher at Neptune High School, where he was still able to give lessons and play on weekends. He coached for Neptune junior high school for three years and worked as a club pro at numerous tennis clubs.

He soon became an administrator when he was appointed vice principal and was no longer able to be a club pro because of time constraints.

The job wasn’t able to stop Torres from playing, though.

Since 1989, Torres has competed in the New Jersey Senior Games and the National Senior Games. In 1991, he went to the U.S. National Senior Sports Class III Senior Games Tournament in Syracuse, N.Y., and won gold in the men’s doubles 55-59 bracket.

He became involved in the Middle States Tennis Association where he was ranked No. 2 in the 55-59 age group in 1991.

In 1993, Torres won a bronze medal in the 60-64 men’s doubles at the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic that took place in Baton Rouge, La. He would later be inducted into the Rider Hall of Fame.

A few months later, he received a call from Rider’s athletic director about the school’s tennis coaching vacancy.
“I was retired, so I figured I would try it out for a year just to help them out,” Torres said. “If it wasn’t for that offer, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

After winning the gold medal in 1996 at the National Senior Games that took place in Tucson, Ariz., in singles, Torres couldn’t compete for a few years.

“I didn’t get to go for about eight to nine years because of work,” Torres said. “It used to be in the summer and then they moved it to the fall.”

Last year, Torres won an event in Atlantic City, N.J., that qualified him for the Nationals in Louisville, but he couldn’t make it down.

“I was never able to get down there,” Torres said. “They had to cancel over 200 flights due to bad weather.”

Torres said next year he will be able to qualify for the National Senior Games at the Woodbridge Racket Club. The National Senior Games for 2009 will take place in San Francisco, Calif.
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Torres said he has won about 17 medals in the New Jersey Senior Olympics and three in the National Senior Olympics.

All this playing must run in the Torres family, as his father played tennis for 70 years until he was 85 years old.

One thing is for sure. Torres is certainly a tennis lifer.

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