Dave "KOZ" Kozlowski

by Dave "KOZ" Kozlowski
(Birmingham, AL)

Ken Wagstaff will always be remembered as one of the most unique guys that I have met.

I first met Wag back in the early 70s when I was visiting my in-laws. I was familiar with the name and knew that he was starting his own club. So I stopped by to see him. Within moments I could sense that this man had dedicated his life to the sport. His passion for his personal play and coaching was un-paralleled.

In the early 90s we had a chance to locate to Sarasota to launch the new tennis community at Laurel Oak. One of the first commitments we made as a family was to get into the Sarasota tennis scene. Joining the Bath & Racquet club and participating in the programs was a simple decision. This is when a relationship with Wag began. I was honored to get on his black appointment book for weekly singles matches. We played every Saturday when possible at noon and Sunday at 10 at B & R. The real honor came when Ken put me on a home & away basis and would come out to Laurel Oak on an every other week arrangement. He realized for those 2 hours he could free up his mind, concentrate on his tennis and feel that he was getting a break. Believe me it was an extreme distinction to have broken the barrier and have Wag play at a sparring partner’s site.

Wag was my senior by 16 years. In the earlier stages of our matches, unequivocally I could see why he was ranked in the top 5 in Florida in 3 different age groups in the same year. Our games were similar –we were both more privileged on the backhand. The rallies would last incessantly long. My best shot was his best shot - the backhand drop shot. It took me years to discover why Wag’s backhand drop was more effective. I was hitting more top off my backhand and Wag could easily counter my top with his drop. Conversely Wag would always deliver his backhand with underspin which was a much tougher shot for me to drop back. That is not the only thing that I learned from Wag. I was influenced by this no nonsense approach to business and tennis along with his commitment to excellence in competition and coaching.

I only wish that I had the tape of Ken’s appearance on my local TV tennis talk show. He was our 4th guest following Monica Seles, Jimmy Arias, and Bud Collins and handled it as well as the stars. I sensed that he was gratified to share his background and tennis philosophy with the audience.

When I talked to anyone across the country about Florida or senior tennis, Ken Wagstaff’s name always came up. The indelible stories that I had about Ken Wagstaff’s idiosyncrasies were shared everywhere. Few people in the industry didn’t know of Wag. It was fun to share his habits regarding the gloves, regimented schedule of matches, dining hours, and weekend matinee movies, etc.

Several times while driving with him in his big old Cadillac after finishing our practice matches at Greenlefe he would decide to “dry out the gloves” by placing them on the front dashboard. Needless to say with the direct Florida blindingly reflecting off the gloves and the old Caddie cruising at 90 plus it was an adventurous drive out of hell. What I enjoyed most about it was Wag’s complacent obliviousness to it all.

Ken Wagstaff has left an impact on all of us and for that we will always be indebted.

Wag, as you & I often discussed many times, in tennis scoring love means nothing but love of the game means everything. Your legacy will continue in helping us to keep our love of the game alive. I’ll say it for all of us….We will always “Love You Ken Wagstaff.....your friend Dave "KOZ" Kozlowski

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