The Coast News Group

Jay Paris: Rod Laver ready to present an ace of an event

The man with two Grand Slams has a grand idea: assist the Hospice of the North Coast.

“Hopefully we can help it out,’’ Rod Laver said.

Laver, the tennis legend and longtime Carlsbad resident, has played in countless tournaments. On March 5, he’s putting one on.

Laver invited some of his tennis buddies and they’re joining others in the first Mary Laver Memorial Tennis Event at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa.

“It’s an exciting thing that we can do,’’ Laver said. “Hopefully we can continue it year after year.

The Hospice of North Coast has a special place in Laver’s heart.

His late wife, Mary, was cared for with a love that Laver appreciates to this day.

So there’s a friendly pro-am competition in the afternoon.

Laver will oversee the proceedings, doing a clinic and putting his keen eye to each player’s game.

That’s followed by an evening reception, which will feature drinks and a tall tale or two.

Laver has plenty of those.

He’s the only person to twice win the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon in a calendar year. Laver just returned from the recent Australian Open, the one played in the Melbourne arena that bears his name.

Laver didn’t come home empty handed. He became only the third athlete to be awarded the country’s Companion of the Order of Australia, which is similar to the U.S. presidential freedom distinction.

Plus the Laver Cup was unveiled, which will feature Europe players battling the rest of the world in a format that will mimic the Ryder Cup.

A check of Laver’s suitcase revealed some goodies to be auctioned at the Mary Laver Memorial.

Novak Djokovic, who beat Andy Murray for the Australian Open title, signed and gave Laver the racket he used in the final.

Roger Federer, who routinely calls Laver his idol, also sent along a racket with his autograph.

“That was very nice of them,’’ Laver said.

Other signed items are from Rancho Santa Fe golfer Phil Mickelson, basketball’s Bill Walton and former Chargers great Dan Fouts.

“I’m so glad I’m able to help,’’ Fouts said.

Then there are ticket packages donated by the Padres and Dodgers.

All of this are people paying back Laver. As solid as the “Rocket” was on the court, he’s better off it.

“Rod is the best,’’ said Carlsbad’s Ken MacDonald, who is playing in the pro-am. “It’s a pleasure to be part of his event and to call him a friend.’’

Seven other amateurs, mostly local doctors, are paired with Laver’s mates. Among the pros participating are Encinitas’ Larry Stefanki, Bob Lutz, Brian Teacher and Phil Dent.

“It will be interesting to see what flies,’’ Laver said, with a chuckle. “I think it will turn out well. These guys have been through the mill a few times.’’

The chapters of Laver’s life will soon be on display. “Rod Laver: A Memoir” has its American release next month at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

But first up is Laver and friends having laughs at La Costa. The ticket cost of $10 is a bargain.

If plucking down $75, you see the tennis and get to listen to the stories and mingle at the reception.

More information is available at

The best part is the dough will help fund the Pacifica House, North County’s only inpatient hospice house.

“It is the highest compliment to have a grateful family member support the work we do,’’ said Shelly Dew of the HNC. “To have Rod Laver, an icon, lend his name and reputation to Hospice of the North Coast means the world.  We are excited to celebrate and honor the life of his late wife Mary while promoting hospice care in our community.’’

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.