By David Aaro
Coming all the way from Down Under, Ken Veney joins Sawgrass Country Club as their new director of tennis and first-ever pro from Australia.
Veney moved to the U.S. in 1989 with his brother and they both attended Oklahoma City University. Veney had a world ranking at the time and after college he started touring as a pro and coach. He continued playing and coaching in the states and before he knew it 25 years had gone by.
A few years ago Veney got a call about an opening at The Royal Sydney Golf Club, essentially the Wimbledon of Australia. He worked there for the last couple years, although it was hard moving the family overseas and he decided it wasn’t the right fit for his family. It was at that point that he got an opportunity at Sawgrass Country Club and he hasn’t looked back. Veney lives in Ponte Vedra with his wife Missy and two children.
What got you interested in tennis?
It’s a funny story. I can easily have never played tennis as no one in my family has ever played the sport. While in Australia my friend’s mom said he wanted to play tennis one afternoon. I remember my response was “I dunno.” I eventually ended up going, and while my friend hated it, the pro said I had a natural ability. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of my career.
How do you like Ponte Vedra Beach?
You gotta love it, it’s beautiful. It’s nice because it has its own community here. I also love the people here; they’ve been very warm and welcoming. It also doesn’t hurt to switch from one beach in Australia to another here.
What’s it like working at Sawgrass Country Club?
I really enjoy it. I felt it was a real opportunity here at Sawgrass. I remember my family saying they wanted to leave Royal Sydney Golf club, which was a crushing blow because of all that we went through moving and getting the job there. After that dream job I didn’t want to settle for anything. This club hasn’t had a director of tennis is many years, so I wanted to make a difference and improve tennis here at Sawgrass. The people here have been great, and they’ve given feedback about how many activities there are now compared to the years in the past.
What’s the hardest thing to teach in tennis?
There are fundamental core things I teach, which break down into four areas: the technical, tactical, psychological and physical. The hardest part however is teaching attitude and the mental side of the game. Tennis is 80 percent mental and it’s toughest because in tennis you either win or you lose. You are going to lose a lot in tennis so the key is to focus more on performance and positive attitude rather than winning. You can teach anyone strokes, but having the right attitude to deal with adversity is key.
Have you ever played or taught anyone famous?
I got to play with Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe in the past. Playing with Borg was a dream come true; I was just in awe. Afterwards I had him sign a poster on which he wrote “To Ken, you played great — Bjorn Borg.” I also played with John McEnroe and he’s everything you think he is. He’s just an angry man. I tried to get a photo of him after, but it was like pulling teeth.
Photo courtesy David Aaro