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Pat O'Hara Wood

tennis player
Full name: Patrick Hector O'Hara Wood
Nickname: Pat
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Bio This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Hector (Pat) O'Hara Wood (1891-1961), international tennis player, was born on 30 April 1891 at St Kilda, Melbourne, son of John James O'Hara Wood, barrister, and his wife Catherine Compton, née Holroyd. His grandfather was Justice Sir Edward Holroyd. He was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, where he excelled at tennis, cricket, football, boxing and shooting. His father, an early Australian tennis enthusiast, had introduced Pat and his elder brother Arthur to tennis in the early 1900s. Arthur became a prominent player in many club, interstate and university events, winning in 1914 the Australian men's singles title. This promising career was terminated by World War I; he enlisted in the Royal Air Force and in October 1918 was shot down over St Quentin, France.

Pat had also shown his tennis potential by 1914. He had won the 1909 Victorian schoolboys' championship and, commencing law at the University of Melbourne, had played university 'A' grade pennant in 1911-14. By 18 he had represented Victoria. In January 1915 he enlisted in the 13th Light Horse, Australian Imperial Force, and in May embarked as second lieutenant. He served at Gallipoli and in France, where he became aide-de-camp to Major General (Sir) Nevill Smyth and to General Sir William Birdwood. Mentioned in dispatches in May 1918, he was promoted captain in July.

Returning to tennis that year as a winning member of the A.I.F.'s lawn tennis team, O'Hara Wood reached the peak of his achievements in the early 1920s. The highlights of his career included the Wimbledon doubles title of 1919 and the 1922 mixed doubles title with Suzanne Lenglen. Other titles included the Australian singles championships in 1920 and 1923, and the Australian doubles in 1919-20, 1923 and 1925. He represented Australia in the Davis Cup teams of 1920, 1922 and 1924. A 'smooth Eastern-style player' he was a 'model of unaffected orthodoxy and correct footwork'.

On 3 August 1923 at All Saints' Church, St Kilda, he married a widow Meryl Aitken Lister, née Waxman, also a prominent Victorian tennis player who had won many State and club titles and represented Australia overseas. She continued to play and in 1926-27 won the Australian doubles title. In 1926 Pat O'Hara Wood published The World's Tennis Stars and How to Play the Game.

Frustrated by lack of money, O'Hara Wood in 1930 turned professional. He became the official coach to the Lawn Tennis associations of Australia and Victoria and the (Royal) South Yarra Tennis Club, while running a sports store in Collins Street. The high regard the tennis fraternity held for the kindly, good-natured O'Hara Wood is indicated by the great success of the fund-raising dinners and exhibition matches organized in his honour. Small, 'with plenty of spring', regular features and compact figure, O'Hara Wood was perhaps the epitome of the Australian tennis-playing gentleman-sportsman.

Both Pat and Meryl O'Hara Wood continued to play tennis at the club level and served on Australian and club tennis committees. Predeceased by his wife, O'Hara Wood died childless, at Richmond on 3 December 1961 and was cremated. His death was scarcely noted by the Australian press which had earlier given so much space to his prowess; nevertheless there is little doubt that O'Hara Wood considerably helped to establish the character of Australian tennis.

by Virginia O'Farrell
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