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Citizen Kern - Hank Pfister

Hank Pfister

Personal Stats:

Name: Hank Pfister, Age: 57

Birthplace: Bakersfield, CA

Title: Director of Tennis and Fitness, Stockdale Country Club

How he got started: Born into a family of tennis players, Pfister picked up his racket early and never looked back. “I really had no aspirations to be a professional tennis player,” Pfister said, laughing. “When you find you’re good at something, you tend to enjoy it—it was just something I had fun doing.” After undefeated seasons at BHS and BC, Pfister was given a scholarship to San Jose State and didn’t lose a match his entire first year. “I honestly still thought I was going to be a P.E. teacher.” That didn’t stop him from training with (and beating) John McEnroe during McEnroe’s early years.

Career highlights: You wouldn’t think anything could top competing with tennis greats Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, and Arthur Ashe (and beating them), being a US Open Doubles finalist, reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the Australian Open three times, or being a two-time French Open Doubles Champion, but Pfister was rubbing elbows with Hollywood’s rich and famous. One “player party” had him on a couch between Kirk Douglas and Lloyd Bridges.

His heroes: Tennis pro Brian Gottfried, a friend, who happens to have been ranked #3 in the world in ‘77, makes the cut. But, for Pfister, tennis legend Stan Smith takes the cake. “I grew up watching Smith when I was in high school and college, when Smith was winning Wimbledon. To find myself playing him in front of 10,000 people later in life was surreal,” Pfister explained. Pfister would go on to beat Smith.

His favorite part of the industry: Who can pick just one thing? Not only is tennis a sport that “can be played forever, it’s also great exercise.” Plus, as a teacher, Pfister is able to watch people improve at their game and play with them at tournaments. The travel is a big part, though, playing in France, England, Australia, and across the entire US. “I was even invited to a fundraiser in Warsaw, Poland,” he said. “And we wound up dining with the Vice Prime Minister of Russia.”

What he’d still like to accomplish: While he still plays in tournaments to this day (including the Barber Honda City Tennis Championships), Pfister has been looking forward to developing a Community Tennis Center through the Kern Community Tennis Association. “We finally got some land next to BHS,” he added. Pfister, for all his accomplishments, is being inducted into the Bakersfield City School District Hall of Fame this year.

Article appeared in our 28-1 Issue - April 2011