Cranston’s Dick Ernst is the 2012 winner of the Gardner Chase Award, which is presented annually by the New England chapter of the United States Tennis Association. The award honors outstanding contributions to New England tennis. Ernst accepted the award on Saturday at the International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Newport.
During more than 50 years of service to New England tennis, Ernst – a former Rhode Island open and closed state champion – was a ranked player for 48 years, and was ranked 11 times in the men’s A division.
But his accomplishments went far beyond his playing career.
Ernst was the tournament director for the R.I. Metropolitan Tennis Championships, New England’s largest tournament for 43 years, and also organized and ran the New England 10-and-Under championships for ten years.
Ernst was tennis director for the Cranston Parks and Recreation Department summer program for 25 years. He served on several NELTA committees, is a former editor of the R.I. Tennis Yearbook and currently edits the New England Senior Tennis Foundation semi-annual Bulletin.
Ernst also coached 56 Rhode Island high school and college tennis teams, is a former Providence College coach and men’s and women’s Rhode Island College coach. His teams won four Little East Conference Men’s Championships and four Women’s titles.
As the head coach at Cranston East, Ernst led his teams to two state and New England titles, and sons Bob and Gordie were mainstays on those championship squads. Gordie is currently the men’s and women’s tennis coach at Georgetown University and also teaches the game to First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters at the White House.
Currently, Ernst can be found at North Kingstown in the fall, where he coaches the JV girls on the basics of the game. In his first season the team racked up a 14-0 record and won the JV state title. In the spring, Ernst coaches the boys at Barrington High. Four of the past five years those teams were runners-up in Division I to state champions South Kingstown.
The Ernst family was named the 2000 USTA New England Family of the Year, while Dick was inducted into the USTA New England Hall of Fame in 2005. Ernst is also a member of the R.I. Interscholastic League Hall of Fame.