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Katharine "Kay" Esther Stammers (3 April 1914[1] – 23 December 2005[2]) was a tennis player from the United Kingdom.

Contents

Career

Stammers was born in St Albans, United Kingdom where her parents taught her to play tennis on the grass court at their family home.[3] Left-handed and with a good forehand,[3] Stammers played an attacking style of tennis[3] and was trained by Dan Maskell.[4]

Stammers played in an era when the women's game was dominated by Helen Wills Moody, Helen Jacobs, and Alice Marble.[4] But Stammers defeated Jacobs in a 1939 Wimbledon semifinal and in singles matches at the 1935 and 1936 Wightman Cup.[4] At the 1935 Kent championships in Beckenham, England, Stammers became the first British player to beat Moody in 11 years.[4]

According to Wallis Myers and John Olliff of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Stammers was ranked in the world top ten in 1935, 1936, 1938, 1939, and 1946, reaching a career high of World No. 2 in those rankings in 1939.[5]

Stammers won the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1935 and 1936 with partner Freda James Hammersley. She also won the women's doubles title at the 1935 French Championships with partner Peggy Scriven. Her best performances in women's doubles at the U.S. Championships were in 1936, 1937, and 1938 when she reached the semifinals and in 1939 when she reached the final. In the 1936 semifinal, she and partner Marble were defeated by Jacobs and Sarah Palfrey Cooke 6–2, 21–19. In the 1939 final, she and partner Hammersley lost to Marble and Cooke 6–1, 6–2.

Stammers' physical appearance ensured that she attracted more than the usual interest from the press[4] and public. In 1936, for example, an article in Time magazine described her (somewhat patronisingly) as "pretty Kay Stammers, whom English critics like to describe as the 'typical' British girl tennist, and who likes lacrosse, cricket, lump sugar and planters' punches."[6] Stammers' tennis clothes were much detailed in the newspapers. She designed her own shorts in uncrushable linen cut full to four inches above the knee and wore them with an open-necked shirt.[3] While playing on the west coast of the United States, Stammers visited Hollywood studios and had a screen test.[3] She dated John F. Kennedy and was photographed with him at the Kennedy family's Hyannis Port compound.[3] She said that JFK was "spoilt by women. I think he could snap his fingers and they’d come running. And of course he was terribly attractive and rich and unmarried — a terrific catch really ... I thought he was divine."[3]

In 1939, Stammers married Michael Menzies, then in the Welsh Guards.[3] During World War II, Stammers played exhibition matches on behalf of the Red Cross and served as an ambulance driver.[4] When the war ended, she captained Britain's Wightman Cup team for a couple of years.[4] In 1949, she and her husband moved to South Africa, where Menzies set up Hill Samuel's South African operation.[4] They remained there for nearly 20 years, until he was transferred to New York City to head the office there.[4] She had two sons and a daughter with him.[4]

After her divorce from Menzies in 1974, she married lawyer Thomas Walker Bullitt, whom she had met on the American tennis circuit.[3] Bullitt had been educated in England, came from one of Kentucky's oldest families, and had been an aide to Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery during World War II.[3] The couple lived at Oxmoor Farm, near Louisville, Kentucky, which had been in the Bullitt family for ten generations.[3] Stammers laid out and maintained an English garden and indulged her passion for racehorses.[3] She helped run the annual steeplechases on the estate course in aid of a children's charity and, under the Oxmoor Charities Corporation, helped to plan schooling for event riders and summer concerts.[3]

Stammers continued to be interested in tennis throughout her life and attended Wimbledon annually until late in her life when she was no longer able to travel.[4] She died at her home in Louisville and was buried in the family cemetery on 28 December 2005.

Grand Slam singles tournament timeline

Tournament 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 - 1944 1945 19461 19471 Career SR
Australia A A A A A A A A A A NH NH A A 0 / 0
France A A 3R QF 1R A A A A NH R A A A 0 / 3
Wimbledon 2R 4R 4R 3R QF QF 4R QF F NH NH NH QF QF 0 / 11
United States A A A QF SF SF QF QF SF A A A 3R A 0 / 7
SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 2 0 / 3 0 / 3 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 2 0 / 1 0 / 21

NH = tournament not held.

R = tournament restricted to French nationals and held under German occupation.

A = did not participate in the tournament.

SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played.

1In 1946 and 1947, the French Championships were held after Wimbledon.

See also

References

  1. ^ Birthday
  2. ^ Obituary
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kay Stammers obituary
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kay Stammers obituary
  5. ^ Collins, Bud (2008). The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New York, N.Y: New Chapter Press. pp. 695, 702. ISBN 0-942257-41-3.  
  6. ^ Favorite at Forest Hills
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