The upcoming U.S. Open may grab most of the tennis headlines but right now there is a tournament going on in Cincinnati that serves as a warm-up for the Open and is considered by many top professionals as their favorite stop on the ATP circuit. The Western & Southern Open, held each year in Mason, has become a huge success, thanks mostly to the hard work of one local man who volunteered his time to the tourney for 38 years.
Paul Flory, a 1940 graduate of Higginsport High School, signed on as the director of the tournament in 1975 and the rest as they say, “is history.” Through the tireless volunteer efforts of Flory, the W & S Open has grown to one of the country’s top tennis events, attracting most of the world’s top 10 men’s and women’s players and crowds nearing 175,000 for the week-long affair.
In 2010, a 52,000 square foot building was constructed on the site and named the Paul Flory Tennis Center, in honor of the tournament chairman who passed away in 2013 at the age of 90.
Last Sunday, Aug. 10, Flory was remembered once more as a statue in his honor was dedicated just beyond the entrance to the tennis venue, with his finger pointing towards what is known as the Paul Flory Volunteer Garden. In his 38 years with the tournament, Flory never accepted one penny of payment and his volunteer spirit lives on in a tourney that thrives with the help of thousands of volunteers of all ages and gives millions of dollars to charity. The new statue is one of the first things that fans will see when they enter the facility’s main gate.
“This event, what it is today, wouldn’t be possible without Paul, the ultimate volunteer,” current tournament director Vince Cicero told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “His statue sets the right tone and it’s only right that Paul is there at the gate and acknowledging the volunteers that have done so much for so long.”
Flory, who attended Ohio University and graduated from Yale University, was awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award by the ATP in 1996, but never forgot his humble local roots. A plaque recognizing him as a member of the Ripley Academic Hall of Fame can be seen today just inside the front entrance to Ripley High School.