Tennis pro Joan Manfredi-Carter has a strong, accurate first serve so she has had her share of aces. Those unreturned scoring serves helped her become the No. 2 player in the U.S. Tennis Association's Eastern region last year, No. 1 on Long Island.
Not one of those aces, though, made her friends as excited as the one she made in Boca Raton, Fla., in February.
That one, from 123 yards with a 7-iron, had her husband and two other playing partners reaching for their cell phone cameras. "They were saying, 'You have to get the ball, you have to get the scorecard signed,' " she said between lessons at her job as tennis teaching pro at Old Westbury Golf and Country Club.
Like always, it was a matter of keeping her eye on the ball and following through. It was testimony to her belief that golf and tennis, which might compete for people's time and recreational dollars, are not at odds with each other. She sees them as very compatible neighbors.
"I absolutely believe that," said the tennis pro and 15 handicap golfer who has shot as well as 82. "In the beginning I felt I couldn't do both, I could only do tennis. But now I find that they somehow help each other. They do coincide and work together."
Some of the golf members at Old Westbury come to her for tennis lessons and she talks about "the turn" and other phrases they understand. The same thing happens to her when she takes golf lessons. "They know I'm a pro and they'll say, 'It's like tennis. You have to go to your right side and transfer and get the follow through,' " she said. "There are similarities in the two sports. I think that's why we [tennis pros] take to it so well."
She pointed to Ivan Lendl, who played the celebrity golf tour and often tried to qualify for the U.S. Open in golf. Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras are serious about fairways and greens. "James Blake is a great golfer," she said the other day at Old Westbury. "And Andy Roddick plays here, with a member. He is very addicted now."
To be sure, tennis is her life and has been since she started playing on public courts as a kid in Queens. She was the No. 1 player for John Bowne High and Queens College. Last month, she won a women's open tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. On Monday, she coached her Bayside High girls varsity in the playoffs. Last night, she was scheduled to be honored at a banquet for her 2009 rankings. Next week, she plays in Florida.
But she has been an avid golfer for years, since Ruta Gerulaitis - sister of the late men's tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis (a reluctant but eventually enthusiastic golfer) - talked her into taking lessons. Manfredi-Carter does have a tennis court in her backyard in Brookville. "And my husband set up an 80-yard pitching area for me," she said, noting that she talked Michael, a builder, into playing golf. Their 14-year-old son, Brandon, plays on the Jericho High golf team.
"I think for tennis players, golf is a challenge," she said. "We know how difficult the game is and that makes it more enticing."
It is so enticing that she sometimes goes on her own for 18 holes at Bethpage Black or Eisenhower Red. She was star-struck when she met Annika Sorenstam hitting tennis balls on a side court during the Open.
In fact, when Manfredi-Carter finally achieved her dream of going to Wimbledon as a guest, she planned a side trip. "I said, 'You know what? We're going to St. Andrews,' " she said. "I got to play the Old Course."