RANCHO SANTA FE — Patricia Canning Todd is set to be inducted into the San Diego Tennis Club’s Hall of Fame at 4 p.m. Aug. 28 at the at Balboa Tennis Club, 2221 Morley Field Drive, San Diego.
A longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident and a fixture at the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club, she said she is humbled by the honor and looks forward to attending the ceremony escorted by her son and daughter-in-law Whitney and Elizabeth Todd.
Todd, 88, is a local treasure who has been active at the tennis club for at least 45 years — longer than many of the club’s members have been alive. She said she stopped playing tennis about five years ago, but still comes to the club every day, where she pulls her chair into a strategic position that is perfect for “seeing people coming and going,” she said.
“I’m not one to sit at home,” she said. “I don’t care too much about reading. I like to be with people, so they put up with me here.”
Tennis club members are glad to “put up” with her. They stop to visit and joke with her as they pass. She follows all the major tournaments, and knows all the pro players and their statistics.
Born in San Francisco in 1922, Todd started playing tennis at age 8 when she picked up a tennis racquet for the first time.
“My parents played golf,” she said. Next to the golf course in Alameda, there were public tennis courts.
“I just hit the ball,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do the world (turn professional) at 10.”
She said that 10 is not a particularly young age to discover talent.
“All the best players are good at that age,” she said.
Also at the age of 10 she was given an honorary membership into the Berkley Tennis Club, where she got noticed and was then sent on the Vancouver/Portland/Tacoma/Seattle circuit where she played and won against much older girls. Todd won in every division she entered — juniors and women’s.
By age 16, she was playing national tournaments on the East Coast and was becoming well-known in tennis circles.
She said she never had formal lessons, but she did have one coach named George Hudson.
“I think he was our chaperone or something,” she said with a chuckle.
In 1946, her family moved to La Jolla where she rose to be one of the top 10 players in the country thanks to William Kellogg, owner of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, who sponsored her in national tournaments.
World War II stopped play and Todd did not start playing again until the late 1940s when she went on an international tour to such places as India and Egypt, she said.
She remained an amateur her whole career, never accepting money for her efforts, but what was just as good as money to her is that she and her colleagues were treated like royalty, staying in the best hotels and even some palaces, and being chauffered around in limousines.
“We had fun,” she said. “Today they train so hard, they are tired.”
She fell in love at 19 and married Richard Todd. She got to know him because he ran the U.S. Open Tennis Tournaments.
“I told him that tennis would always come first and you’re second,” she said, quickly adding she had only been kidding and that he knew it.
Todd was ranked in the top 10 in the world from 1946 through 1952 (no rankings were issued from 1940 through 1945), reaching a career high of World No. 4 in those rankings in 1950. Todd was included in the year-end top 10 rankings issued by the United States Lawn Tennis Association in 1942 and from 1944 through 1952, reaching a career high ranking of fourth in 1947 and 1949, tennis professional Dophie Poiset said in a press release.
“You go to win, you don’t go to lose,” Todd said during the recent interview.
Todd was nominated for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005, but did not make the cut.
She retired from tournament play in 1953, but continued to play daily at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, and then at Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club when the family moved to the Ranch in 1952.
Todd became a teaching pro at La Costa Resort & Spa in 1965, and continued in the position until 1985. At La Costa, Todd taught notables like John Wayne, Barbra Streisand, Burt Bacharach, Clint Eastwood and Johnny Carson. Carson was heard to give a hearty laugh when Todd told him she did not follow celebrities, had never seen him on TV, and was not all that impressed with his tennis.