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A great racquet to get into
4-16-2007
Rochester Democrat

Rochester, NY
Working in the family quarry business, Fritz Odenbach and his brothers were used to getting their hands dirty. But when the work was done, it was time to play. In the late 1970s, their dad, John M. Odenbach, a playful soul, got the ball rolling on construction of what would become Shadow Lake Golf and Racquet Club in Penfield, one the area's premier public facilities. It was there that the Odenbach clan worked hard and played harder.  full story




 

Rochester Democrat
reprinted from http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070401/SPORTS0103/704010331/1013

Working in the family quarry business, Fritz Odenbach and his brothers were used to getting their hands dirty.

But when the work was done, it was time to play.

Fritz Odenbach
CARLOS ORTIZ staff photographer
Fritz Odenbach of Webster, a top-ranked platform tennis player in the 45-and-older age group, serves in a game at Shadow Lake Golf & Racquet Club in Penfield. He says the sport is a great workout and fun to play in all kinds of weather.

In the late 1970s, their dad, John M. Odenbach, a playful soul, got the ball rolling on construction of what would become Shadow Lake Golf and Racquet Club in Penfield, one the area's premier public facilities. It was there that the Odenbach clan worked hard and played harder.

"My grandfather (John H.) and father, they were very creative and it was nice for us," Fritz said. "We were always in the quarry business, and it's not a pretty business, so to be able to get into recreation and sports, it was nice."

For Fritz, the eighth of nine children and a fine three-sport athlete at McQuaid Jesuit High School, his competitive juices were really stirred. A little golf. A little tennis. A lot of sailing.

And a whole lot of platform tennis.

As a player and as a pioneer, Odenbach's name in platform tennis circles is as solid as the concrete, stone and asphalt that his family's company, The Dolomite Group, has provided for roads and buildings.

Last year, the fit 51-year-old father of four won the 45-and-over open national title with partner Rusty Wright of Toronto. Recently he took home his eighth Rochester district championship with his seventh different partner, this time with Huy Nguyen.

Meanwhile, Odenbach has helped make Rochester a platform tennis hotbed. Twenty-eight years ago, he and his brother Gardner built the first permanent public courts at Shadow Lake, which will host the American Platform Tennis Association's national championships for a fourth time next March.

Yes, Fritz will be back as local chairman.

"He's been a great ambassador for the sport, and he's a very talented player," said friend John Topping, who runs the Rochester Interclub Paddle League. "There were guys before the Odenbachs who started paddle tennis in Rochester, but without them it would not have taken off like it has."

Originating in the New York City area in the 1920s, platform tennis (also called paddle tennis) is the only racquet sport played outdoors in cold weather, thanks to elevated courts enclosed by chicken wire and a heated playing surface that melts the snow and ice.

These aspects attract lovers of fresh air and competition, anti-couch potatoes delighted by the ability to play a ball sport while the snow is falling on a frigid winter night or during a rain or windstorm in the fall and spring.

In platform tennis, it's always match point against Mother Nature.

"It's just a great game because you can play in all climate conditions," Odenbach said. "It could be 10 degrees out, and you're down to a T-shirt. There are a lot of point exchanges, so it's a great workout. And with four people on a small court, it's a very social game. With our eight to nine months of winter in Rochester, it's a great game to take up."

A lot of people have. The interclub league has an all-time-high 800 players competing on courts maintained by various golf and racquet clubs. That's a fourfold increase in 20 years, attributed to the exposure the sport received when Shadow Lake hosted the nationals in 1988, 1996 and 2000.

Odenbach is a former APTA board member who is still on the promotional and ranking committees. That's him — a guy who can't say no.

He's been the director of so many local golf, sailing and paddle tennis events, big and small, many for charity, that people have lost count.

"I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess," he said. "People think I'm crazy for doing the nationals again, but I've just made so many good friends through the sport. The game has been wonderful to me, and (events like these) are great for our area."

As a player, Odenbach learned his lessons well from Gardner, a fine player until eight knee operations forced him to hang up his paddle. Fritz has gone on to pile up titles and once was ranked as high as No. 5 in the country. Last month, he and his wife, Sandra, were runners-up in the husband-wife national tournament in Chicago.

What Odenbach is most proud of, though, is that he and Gardner brought the game to the masses. After swinging a deal with a private club, the brothers sent the company trucks to Wellesley, Mass., to bring back two courts that are still in use at Shadow Lake.

"The only way to grow the game is through public facilities," Odenbach said. "That's my big thing."

It's his thing, too, to keep playing competitively for as long as he can. More ex-Division I college tennis players are picking up the game, raising the bar in the open classes.

"My secret is getting younger partners every year and knowing my role," he said with modesty. "It's more setting up and keep the ball in play than supply the offense like I used to."

Odenbach's dad was active until his death last year at age 91.

If his sons performed poorly in a sailing race, they could count on getting needled by their dad's boxing glove attached to a long pole when they returned to the dock.

"Talk about competitive," Fritz said, the memories fresh and warm. "He just loved to watch us race and he came to every paddle tennis match."

The Odenbachs sold Dolomite and its three golf courses (Shadow Lake, Shadow Pines and Greystone) in 2000 but still manage operations. Shadow Lake is a place still very dear to them, where the public can feel part of an upscale golf club, where platform tennis players — and those who want to be — are always welcome.

 


 
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