About four decades ago, when George Zink was a youngster, he received his first paid tennis lesson on Court Three at Racquet Club West in East Hempfield Township. Giving the lesson was club owner Fred Steinman, who first opened the facility in 1971 with son, Kurt.
The price tag then of the brand new facility’s six indoor cushioned hard courts under a 240 foot by 120 foot structure, along with six red clay outdoor courts, was between $300,000 and $400,000, according to newspaper archives.
It was Lancaster’s first indoor tennis facility.
“I grew up at this club,” Zink said. “From 14 to 17 or 18, I worked here. I used to work at the desk, go out on Court Two, wait until everyone left, then hit against the ball machine. Kurt would let me stay until close. Honestly, I think it’s why I got decent in tennis.”
Zink, 52, went on to lead a distinguished tennis career. More on that in a bit. Because Zink is the new majority owner of Racquet Club West. It’s the first time ownership of the club has changed hands in its 49-year history.
“In 2012, I tried to buy it,” Zink said. “I don’t think Kurt was ready to sell it.”
Kurt Steinman, who declined comment for this story, had remained the owner of Racquet Club West after his father’s death in 1997 - Fred Steinman was posthumously inducted into the Lancaster County Tennis Hall of Fame in 2001.
“I would always email Kurt and ask him if it (selling the club) was something he wanted to do,” Zink said. “At the end of 2019, he was ready to sell. And then it was just a process.”
Zink and a pair of co-owners - wife Lauren Zink and nephew Ben Zink - purchased the club on July 15.
“This has been my dream,” Zink said. “I owned a fitness club and a kid’s gym, and a couple other businesses. But this has been my dream to own a tennis club and give back to the community what tennis has given me.”
Zink is a member of the Lancaster County Tennis Hall of Fame. His list of accomplishments in the sport is a story in itself. Here are some highlights: an All-American at Southern Illinois University and a runner-up at the D-II National championships, a winner of nine national championships, is among just a handful of players in history to be ranked No. 1 nationally in the men's 25s, 30s and 35s, won the Red Rose Tournament a record 13 consecutive times, he and fellow Hall of Famer Howe Atwater were voted the top players in Lancaster County history in a 1999 poll.
Zink and his wife, Lauren, have also won five national mixed doubles titles and four Husband-Wife national championships in platform tennis.
Lauren Zink (maiden name Nikolaus) was a three-time Lancaster-Lebanon League champion and won state titles at Lancaster Catholic in 1992 and 1993. She went on to become a four-time All-American at William & Mary and four-time national champion. She's a member of the William & Mary Athletics Hall of Fame, Lancaster County Tennis Hall of Fame and Platform Tennis Hall of Fame.
Ben Zink is an Elizabethtown native and a former N.C. State doubles player who has been a teaching pro since 2007.
“For me and Ben, we’ve been around the best coaches in the world,” George Zink said. “We know a little bit of everything that everyone has done.”
George Zink has coached six national champions including his wife, and Anne Nguyen, a former All-American at the University of Georgia. He also had coaching stints at Elizabethtown College and Franklin & College, and was the tennis director at Bent Creek Country Club from 2001 to 2008.
He and Lauren Zink are returning to Lancaster after having lived in Florida since 2012.
“I owned an Anytime Fitness gym (in Florida),” Zink said. “And I was a manager and tennis director at a club there in Sarasota, and also had a tennis consulting business.”
Among the Zinks' first orders of business at Racquet Club West are some renovations to the facility, which includes the addition of two outdoor courts. Beyond that, the Zinks hope to instill a passion for tennis in those around them.
“First, you have to get people loving tennis,” George Zink said. “Taking a lesson always feels like you’re taking something versus playing. What we do well is make tennis fun. But we also have a system to teach strokes, strategy and the gamut of tennis.”