George Wilkinson, Third From Left
I didn’t grow up going to a beach club, or playing tennis for that matter, so the first time I saw a classically handsome and dapper Englishman, dressed in what looked like white safari gear in the middle of the summer on the Manursing Island Club tennis courts, he garnered my attention. Holding court, the man in white held a megaphone and a clip board and, as children ran amok and parents hovered, he kept the chaos under control. This was a typical day in the life of George Wilkinson, former head tennis pro at Manursing Island Club, who died February 24, 2022, while driving back from a paddle match.
Seeing how much my wife and children enjoyed racquet sports, I started to play. I vividly remember walking into the pro shop and saying to George: “If you really want to see great tennis, check out what I’ll be doing on Court 3 in ten minutes.” After realizing I was kidding, a friendship was born.
Whether it was talking about the latest news or the World Cup or exchanging travel ideas for the end of the summer, George was someone with whom you wanted to have a conversation with. He possessed effusive energy, quick wit, and loved being a tennis pro as well as one of the guys.
Growing up, he was a top junior tennis player, and he went on to become one of the top 10 paddle tennis players in the world. When you saw him on the Manursing courts, be it at the Richardson Tournament or hitting with college players 15 years his junior, you realized there was a completely different person at work. Because of years of training and his innate intensity, he made hitting a tennis or paddle tennis ball perfectly look easy.
A child at heart, amongst those who will miss George most are the children he taught. Although he got them to work hard, he gave them ice pops, made them laugh, let them throw him into the pool at the end of the season, and danced with them at sports dinners.
The last time my wife Lia and I hung out with George and his good friend and fellow pro Enrique, he was, as always, entertaining the crowd at L’Escale. He was exuberantly discussing his plans to “dive with tiger sharks” while pulling up stock images on his phone and yelling, “Look at this mate, it’s a ******* tiger shark.”
On February 24, while driving back from a paddle match, George died in a car crash. He died as he lived, full throttle, no time to waste, on to the next adventure.
While it is very difficult to say goodbye, I leave you with this. The next time you have a racquet in your hand, reach deep down and swing as hard as you can; that’s the way George would want it.
— Eric Pepper