By Brian Biggane
BOYNTON BEACH — When longtime friend and colleague Chris Rubsamen was asked how to describe what John Ingles brought to teaching tennis, his answer was one word: passion.
“He was one of the most passionate people I’ve known,” Rubsamen said. “He was really good with junior players especially. He knew how to teach them, and teach them life lessons as well.”
Mr. Ingles, whose local stops included the Ocean Club, Rainberry Bay and a long association with St. Joseph’s Episcopal School in Boynton Beach, died of cancer Nov. 13. He was 70.
Born June 10, 1950, in Port Huron, Michigan, and raised in St. Clair, Mr. Ingles enlisted in the Navy in 1968 and served in Vietnam from 1968-71. While he rarely opened up about that experience, longtime friend Ron Pugliese said he was very proud of it.
“You’d hear about it after a few beers: ‘I went to the Vietnam War.’ He was proud about being a veteran, but that was about as much as you got.”
Near the end of his service, he was on the USS Okinawa when it recovered the Apollo 15 capsule in August 1971 in the Pacific Ocean.
Mr. Ingles earned a tennis scholarship and played under legendary coach Kent DeMars at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, then headed south to Tampa in 1977 to work at the Saddlebrook tennis academy under another legend, Harry Hopman.
Ian Laver, the brother of 11-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver, hired Mr. Ingles upon opening Laver’s International Resort in Delray Beach in 1979, and the two became best friends until Laver died in a plane crash in 1985. The day before, the two played in a doubles match that went long, forcing Laver to miss his flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas. The next day Delta Flight 191 crashed in Dallas; the youngest of the 27 survivors was Laver’s son Richard.
Pugliese met Mr. Ingles while working at Boca West in the ’80s, and the two worked on and off together for many years.
“I knew a lot about him because he’d worked with many guys I played against as a kid,” Pugliese said. “We moved his junior program into Broken Sound (in Boca Raton) for two or three years, then established an inner-city tennis foundation in Delray Beach, where we provided assistance for kids who didn’t have the means to pay.”
In the mid-’90s, Mr. Ingles struck up a relationship with St. Joseph’s, which has five tennis courts, working with children after school. That lasted until this year.
“He brought so much experience from his past as a professional player, and really helped our students advance their game,” athletic director Andrew Wideroff said. “His firm but loving approach will certainly be missed.”
Kathy Baffer had two daughters, Grace and Ava, who played for Mr. Ingles at St. Joseph’s and followed him to the Ocean Club.
“John was an excellent coach, so great with the kids,” Baffer said. “He taught them the importance of school, to have good grades. … He taught a lot of life lessons.”
Chet Maymon was general manager at the Ocean Club when Mr. Ingles worked there from 2015-18.
“He had a pretty gruff exterior, but once you got past that you found a pretty nice guy inside,” Maymon said.
“He worked with all the members, but as time went on his focus tended to be more on the kids. He really enjoyed them.”
Mr. Ingles left to open Beach Tennis, a shop on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, in 2018. He was diagnosed with rectal cancer in the summer of 2019 but kept the shop open until his condition deteriorated the past few months.
“He never even seemed like he had cancer,” said Rubsamen, who helped him in the shop. “He was just a strong, gnarly dude. He didn’t want people to know he was sick, to feel bad for him.”
Funeral arrangements are being handled by All County Funeral Home in Lake Worth, with plans for burial at the VA Cemetery, also in Lake Worth.
By Brian Biggane