Ex-Touring Pro Has Juniors Playing Sharp

In Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the top players in the world are vying for the U.S. Open title, the last major event of the professional tennis season. In Prince George's County, the top junior players in the county concluded their summer season last weekend.

And yes, there is a connection. His name is Jesse Holt.

Holt, 43, is a Hyattsville resident who formerly played on the ATP Tour. He played U.S. Open qualifiers, spent time on the satellite tours and was coached by the legendary Bobby Johnson.

Holt, with help from Brenda Gilmore of the United States Tennis Association, volunteers as coach for the Greater Prince George's Tennis Foundation. In his sixth year as coach, he estimates that he coached eight to 10 kids this summer, ages 12 to 17, on two hard courts in Largo, behind the Steeplechase apartment complex. They practice three to five times a week.

The digs aren't fancy, but the games are looking sharp.

"We have some kids who really have shown me something, who really have a chance to go a long way with their games," said Holt, who teaches physical education at Northwestern.

Among them:

* Michelle Lang, 14. A junior at Fairmont Heights, Lang won the Bare Hills USTA event in Baltimore last weekend and was a finalist at the Army-Navy tournament earlier this month. Holt "discovered" her hitting a few years ago on a court in Seat Pleasant.

"She's got so much ability and she's incredibly bright," said Holt, noting that Lang owns a 3.94 grade point average. "She just needs to believe in her talent, because she has a lot of it."

* Ian Young, 15. A junior at Eleanor Roosevelt. He won the Annapolis Open Aug. 8 and has posted some big wins at the Georgetown Boys Invitational and the Maryland State Boys Tournament at McDonough High in Baltimore. According to Holt, Young just kills the ball.

"He could be a world-beater," Holt said.

Other county players whom Holt said had strong summers were Largo seniors Cynthia Craig and Kathy Kinzer, both 17.

As the summer season comes to a close, Holt said his students will move from the courts at Steeplechase to Watkins Mills Park in the winter, where they will try to improve their USTA rankings when next year's summer circuit starts. He's not the only one, however, who believes in this talented crop of players.

"Last week I took Bobby [Johnson] out to see the kids hit," Holt said. "He was impressed. I think the kids were a little intimidated by him, but Bobby saw how good they were right away. He said to me, 'I've never seen so many kids hitting so well. Not a lot wimpy strokes, nice and solid, control and accuracy.' "

Johnson was Holt's first coach, back when Holt was at McKinley High in the District in the early 1970's. That was not long after Johnson, who used to coach tennis at Howard University, helped another young player work on his strokes. That player turned out to pretty good. So good, in fact, that for the next 12 days at the U.S. Open in New York the world's top players will be playing in a stadium named for him.

Arthur Ashe Stadium.

High School Volleyball Gets Earlier Start

High school volleyball games this fall will start at 5:30 p.m., a change from allowing schools to set their own game times, said Owen Johnson, the county's supervisor of athletics.

Johnson said the change was discussed by the chief educational administrators and athletic directors at each school. It was proposed so that student-athletes will miss less class time and because it will be easier to schedule transportation after school buses have made their afternoon rounds.

"It makes educational sense, because young people don't have to miss class; it is an indoor sport so you don't have any daylight concerns," Johnson said. "And it frees up buses to get soccer and cross-country teams to games, which we haven't been able to do."

Johnson said he hopes an added benefit of the change is that more parents can attend games because they will be done with work before the later starting time.

The season opens Sept. 9.

Girls Basketball Fall League

Central girls basketball coach Eugene Couser is organizing the Beltway Sunday Fall League for area high school girls teams. Games will be played at the Run and Shoot facility in Forestville. The two-month league begins Sept. 12.

Couser said he has received commitments from 12 teams to play in the league, and that he is hoping to add a few more.

"We've had [a league] in the past, but it hasn't been as organized as what we're trying to do now," Couser said. "We're trying to really put something together. They've done it in Virginia for a number of years. We're trying to put something together so kids can really be prepared once the season starts."

CAPTION: Marriage with a big diamond: Columbia's Rose Clark and Joseph G. Kaub are regaled by Bowie players after tying the knot at home plate Saturday at Prince George's Stadium.