By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Roger Mark, a tennis coach, and Byron, his younger brother and business partner, started playing tennis when they were 9 years old. At the time, tennis was considered a rich white man’s sport and Asian American players playing at private clubs was unheard of. However, Roger and Byron Mark recently gained ownership of their own tennis club.Tennis runs in their blood. They come from a Chinese American family of tennis players. Their older brother, David, is a former University of Washington tennis player. Their uncles are Danny and Winfred Lim, local tennis superstars who played at the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University, respectively. Their mentor is local tennis legend Amy Yee.
The Mark brothers were surrounded by influential people. Yee’s two sons Gary and Gordy played on the UW and SPU teams, respectively.
“These were the people that helped me get into the profession, and we were lucky to have them as mentors to point us in the right direction,” Roger Mark said of the Yee brothers.
The Mark brothers learned to love the sport from Amy Yee. Their parents also played a huge role in their lives and have inspired them as well. Byron hopes to be like his 80-year-old father Albert when he is older.
“Dad plays three to four times a week. It’s incredible,” Byron said.
With his passion for tennis, Roger wanted to inspire others by opening the tennis club.
“We want to promote tennis, it’s really important that we’re able to get tennis to the masses. Get it out to people who have the love of the game. … We want people to duplicate the passion for the game by giving back to the community,” Byron said.
Before coaching, Roger had played on local teams. He has been coaching tennis for the past 34 years in which several of his teams have won national championships. He is a former assistant coach for the Huskies. He has always dreamed of having his own tennis club by the age of 45. When he realized that he couldn’t make that goal, he decided to extend the goal to the age of 50.
Two months ago, with Byron’s help, Roger was finally able to meet his goal — before 50 — after a year of negotiating with the former owners of the Mill Creek Tennis Club.
“I was very fortunate to [be able to] help him plant the seeds for the club and to fulfill his dream,” Byron said.
The grand opening of the tennis club will be marked by hosting the 28th Annual Pac-Asian Tennis Tournament, which had always been held at UW in previous years.
Roger is also the founder of the Avanti Sports chain stores located in Seattle, Redmond, and Mill Creek. Simply put, Avanti means quick in Italian. The word can also mean to be cutting-edge and avant garde, which describes what Roger is trying to achieve with his store and tennis club.
“We strive to be ahead of the curve,” he said.
The store’s inventory is comprehensive, making it one of the major tennis retailers in the Pacific Northwest.
Despite larger athletic stores closing due to the ailing economy, Roger said that they aren’t going anywhere and that they’re here to stay.
“We plan on being around for a long time,” he said.
Aside from the Amy Yee Tennis Center, being the only public facility named after an Asian American woman, Roger thinks that their tennis club may be the only Asian-owned tennis facility in the United States.
Byron said that his brother probably spends about 95 percent of his time on the tennis courts. “Roger is the hardest working man in tennis, no one else comes close to what he does,” Byron said of his brother.
But despite working hard, Roger says that he is blessed to be able to make a living out of tennis by dedicating his career to teaching and coaching others.
“I try to instill the love of the game to students just the way Amy did it with us,” he said.
He also keeps in touch with all of his former students, 11 of whom have won state titles and more than 40 have played at the collegiate level.
Roger is the tennis director and Byron is in charge of facilities as he is a full-time industrial engineer consultant. The Mark brothers have rejuvenated their tennis facility by resurfacing the outdoor courts and improving the light system. With the grand opening coming up soon, they hope to draw in older and newer players to experience the “heartbeat of tennis” in Seattle. ♦
For more information about the Mill Creek Tennis Club, visit www.avantisports.com.
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.