For the last 25 years, Kelly Evernden has flashed his tennis skills while helping others elevate their games on the Mercer Island Country Club (MICC) courts.
The New Zealand native and MICC tennis pro in residence, who has lived on the Island with his family since 2004, has returned home for a spell to captain his country’s Davis Cup team in a match against Bulgaria on Feb. 4-5 (Bulgaria won, 3-1). He has served the squad in a non-playing, coaching role for the last 14 months.
Evernden contacted the Reporter through email from Christchurch, where he’ll captain the squad for the second time and get his first crack at leading the players in New Zealand, and noted that, “I am very honored to be asked to captain my country in the oldest international competition in the world. The Davis Cup is the only time that you really get to play for your country. It was my favorite event in all of tennis. Even greater than playing in the Olympics in Seoul (South Korea) 1988. It was not the same level of excitement for me.”
A year ago, Evernden, now age 60, captained his squad to victory against Uruguay in Las Vegas during the Davis Cup, which is regarded as the World Cup of professional tennis.
MICC’s instructor launched his pro career in 1985, competing for the New Zealand Davis Cup squad from ‘85-‘98 and putting his skills to the test in copious worldwide high-level tournaments over that time span. He powered the fuzzy green ball up and down the court for Yakima Valley Community College and the University of Arkansas on scholarship before the All-American honoree jumped into the pro realm.
“Tennis has changed my life and kept me alive through its discipline and necessary good habits,” said Evernden, noting that his family bounced around New Zealand and Australia during his childhood years. “The tennis has moved me from a poor man’s kid on welfare to an oasis of ease and opportunity. It has been kind to my family.”
Doug McLaughlin, MICC’s tennis director, said that Evernden is one of the club’s six pros and he provides solid tutelage to kids and adults, from beginners to those aiming to play on the tour.
“He’s a phenomenal player, so he brings that background to the club,” McLaughlin said. “He has a great sense of humor. At times a dry sense of humor, that people know what they get with Kelly. He pretty much tells it like it is.”
Evernden noted about the nationally recognized MICC and his instructing style: “We have a highly educated club that needs honest and consistent input, which builds trust.”
With a steady stream of successful juniors players and high school boys and girls teams, McLaughlin said that tennis is booming on the Island. Currently, MICC has a lengthy waiting list of players wanting a piece of the Island tennis action.
As Evernden prepared his Davis Cup team for its immense contest on the opposite side of the world, he volleyed some behind-the-scenes insight the Reporter’s way: “If I can instill the desire to play hard, no matter what, I have then moved the needle to a positive point. Humor is a large point of my communication style, guided by perspective and honesty.”