What was only a dream 30 years ago for Nick Bollettieri was celebrated high, wide and handsome the other night at the Ritz when a full house came out to congratulate the founder of Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, now IMG Academy.
In attendance and at the long head table in front of the stage were Nick's family, including his wife, Cindi, children Jimmy, Dani, Angel, Nicole and Alex, and grandchildren Willa Bay, Addie Skye and Hudson Nicholas.
Also in the room: Betsy Nagelsen, widow of Mark McCormack; Grand Slam winners Mary Pierce and Monica Seles; Pablo Arraya, who flew in from Peru for the party; Brian Gottfried, who has won 25 singles titles, 54 doubles titles, and was ranked No. 3 in the world in 1977; Carling Bassett; David Wheaton; Ron Hightower; Chip Hooper; USTA exec Martin Blackman; Max Miryni; IMGA directors Greg Breunich and Ted Meekma; Dick Vitale and his wife, Lorraine, and hundreds more.
Nick's secret to success?
According to Dick Vitale, "Nick surrounds himself with friends for life; he's an innovator and has the courage to dream. But in the long run, he's a teacher, no more, no less. A teacher who built his name, starting from a tomato patch."
From there, it was on to bigger and better for Nick, but as Greg Breunich said, "If he hadn't stumbled into The Colony and Murf Klauber, we wouldn't be here today."
"I wish my mom and dad could've been here tonight," Nick said, "My dad would be dancing and my mom would be saying, 'Eat your food! God is watching you.' Recently I talked at West Point and I told them that no one can do it by themselves, to always count on your support team."
It was one of those magical family nights in this town and already one of the best parties of the season.