Five Questions For… Linda Bucklin, Gold Ball winner

Linda and her mixed doubles partner, Charlie Hoeveler, after they won the finals of National 70 Mixed in January at Asics Tournament in Mission Hills.
Linda and her mixed doubles partner, Charlie Hoeveler, after they won the finals of National 70 Mixed in January at Asics Tournament in Mission Hills.

A fourth generation San Franciscan, Linda Bucklin worked in public relations and as a freelance writer.   Her articles have appeared in House & Garden, Journal of Commerce, and Nob Hill Gazette. She now lives in Mill Valley and feels blessed to be surrounded by her three grown sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. A nationally ranked tennis player, in 2006 Linda became #1 in the U.S. in 60 mixed doubles with her partner Charlie Hoeveler.  She now holds 6 national titles.   In addition to her family and friends, Linda’s passions include duplicate bridge, duck hunting, fly fishing and camping under the star-studded Montana sky.

With Mary Keil, she wrote COME RAIN OR COME SHINE (Adams Press, 1999), a book about women’s friendships.  In 2008, she wrote her memoir, BEYOND HIS CONTROL, Memoir of a Disobedient Daughter, dubbed by the New York Post as “a jolting new memoir”.  It went on to become a New York Times bestseller. Linda has a new book out entitled THE LOVE OF ANGELS, a collection of stories, including her own, about encounters with angels in our lives, reminding us of the power of love. 

Linda served as a trustee of Grace Cathedral and was a board member of The Magic Theatre that is dedicated to presenting new American playwrights.

1. When did you start playing tennis, and what motivated you to do so?
I joined the California Tennis Club at age 10 and spent most of my time there eating hamburgers and drinking milkshakes.  I had no friends who played tennis, but I took some lessons from Dick Stevens, the pro at the time. I did not play junior tennis, nor did I ever go to a tennis camp, much as I would have loved to have done that.  I used to hit balls against a wall across from our house in San Francisco, but was constantly interrupted by cars going by!  I had no mentors, and no one in my family particularly encouraged me. I spent eight years on the East Coast, for high school and college.  In college, my dorm looked out on 12 tennis courts, and I never went near them. 

However, when I returned to S.F., I started playing again at the Cal Club -- social tennis -- and then played NorCal singles, doubles and mixed.   I took lots of lessons.  Then I decided to play nationals. There are four national tournaments a year—one on grass, one hard court, one indoors, one clay. Since I was raising three sons, I would only play one a year, if that (and compete against women who played most or all four). It was sixteen years after my first national that I won my first ball: a bronze ball, third place in singles at the National Women’s 50 Indoors in Chicago.  I was thrilled! Then I won a silver ball (finalist) in 55 singles, but it was not until 2006 that I won my first gold ball with Charlie Hoeveler at the Seattle National Indoors.

2. What are the biggest benefits you get from playing competitive tennis?
Playing competitive tennis raises your game to a different level, challenges you to focus and do your best.  I will admit that there have been many times before I walk on the court in a national that I ask myself, “Linda, why are you putting yourself through this?".  I start to question myself, my ability, my lack of experience vs. other players, the clear possibility of “not winning”.  But I’ve learned how important it is for me to show up, do the best I can do, and then let go of the winning or losing. Tennis has been and always will be a challenge for me, and I like that.

3. Do you have a preference among singles, doubles and mixed doubles? Why?
I used to love singles, then mixed doubles, and then ladies’ doubles.  Now I don’t play much singles because I don’t have the stamina I used to. I‘ve been lucky over the years  to have great mixed doubles’  partners, and particularly lucky to have Charlie.

4. What was it like to compete and win a GOLD BALL?
Winning a gold ball was beyond exciting. One of my goals in life has been to win a gold ball.  For me it was the culmination of all the years I’ve spent practicing, taking lessons, and playing matches. Playing in the finals of a national is incredibly intense.

5. What are your future tennis goals?
Tennis has opened many doors for me.  I’ve met many wonderful people from all over the country. In January 2017 I played the National 70 Mixed Doubles Tournament in Mission Hills where I won my 6th gold ball with partner Frank Zebot from Laguna Beach.  My future tennis goals are to keep working on my game and hopefully compete in more nationals. And maybe try to get in shape to play singles again.