Five Questions For… Peanut Louie Harper

Peanut grew up the youngest of five kids in San Francisco. All of the Louie siblings grew up playing at Golden Gate Park and were competitive tennis players. Peanut and her sister Marcie became pros while her two other sisters, Cici and Marisa, and her brother Ronnie were top college players on the University of San Francisco’s tennis teams.

Peanut won 14 junior national titles and was the top ranked 16-and-under tennis player in the United States in 1976. She reached the finals of the Wimbledon junior tournament in 1977 and the semifinals in 1978. In her 19-year career, she won four singles title and reached her highest ranking of No. 19 in 1985. Her best results at the Grand Slams was the third round, which she achieved several times. Among her best wins were victories over Gabriela Sabatini and Zina Garrison. After she retired, Peanut and her husband Tim Harper launched the non-profit Harper For Kids, which aims to teach children about important life skills. She also co-authored the book Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success with basketball coach John Wooden. She was inducted into the USTA Northern California Hall of Fame in 2000, and the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame in 2010.

1. You and your four siblings grew up playing tennis in Golden Gate Park. What was the tennis scene there like in those days?

It was a great tennis scene for our family as there were so many other tennis playing families there. We all became one big tennis family and all of us have so many great memories from our childhood playing at GGP. There were so many good tennis players that you could play all day long. Everyone was at the park every day and you’d see players young and old playing together. The family potlucks held in the clubhouse are some of my favorite memories.

2. What were three highlights from your professional tennis career?

Being able to travel around the world and enjoy a lot of great friendships, reaching a career high singles ranking of #19 in the world and being awarded with the WTA Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award.

3. How has the professional tennis circuit changed since your time as a pro?

Back when I played, we didn’t have entourages of people traveling with us. A few had a coach travel with them but mostly, it was just the players traveling by themselves. Although we competed against each other, players were friends with each other, roomed together, practiced together, went shopping and had dinner together. Being able to have those friendships is something many of my fellow former pro friends feel fortunate about and we’ll always say how glad we are to have played in that era.

4. What was your motivation for launching the Harper for Kids program?

The motivation comes from being big fans of legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden’s life lessons and wanting to teach as many kids as we can about his definition of success and his Pyramid of Success. It’s important to us to help kids learn a healthy and positive way to define success for themselves . . . to be able to recognize and believe that when they make the effort to do their best, they are a success. It’s something that can help them throughout their lives. Through our program and helping so many schools incorporate it into their character education, we’re able to team up with so many amazing principals and teachers who truly value his life lessons for their students and that’s constant motivation for us.

5. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I get to enjoy playing a couple times a week just so I can get some exercise. I also enjoy cooking and baking when I have time.