It's no surprise that when Nicolet tennis player Jennifer Winston walks up to the Nielsen Center in Madison for state tournament events, she pauses for a moment and lets a warm feeling of kinship and welcome wash over her.
Because it's almost like going home as the center is named in honor of University of Wisconsin great Art Nielsen, who knew well another Wisconsin tennis standout, a certain Sherwood W. Gorens, later Dr. Sherwood W. Gorens, grandfather of Winston and five other past and present Nicolet players.
"He never got to see me play, but he was such a huge influence on the way we all play," Winston said of Gorens after she finished fourth in the WIAA State Individual Tournament on Oct. 17 and then led the Knights into the WIAA State Team semifinals last weekend.
It was the first trip to the state team tournament for the Knights since 2000 and it's a fact that would have probably warmed the heart of Gorens, who passed away in 2001 at the age of 80 after a long and distinguished medical career.
Gorens spread his love of tennis far and wide. It most notably went to his daughter Linda, an aunt of the Winstons, who was a state doubles champion in 1977 while at Nicolet. It has reached down to a series of grandchildren, most of whom have swung a racket for the Knights.
They include Jennifer's now graduated older sister, Danielle, and her younger brother, David. It also includes their cousins Jacob and Ben Levey and Sari Edelman. Edelman was a doubles player for Nicolet this fall.
His reach has deep roots, too, as coach Jackie Egelhoff of the now two-time state champion Homestead team (which beat the Knights in the semifinals) recalls how her father, the late, great tennis pro Rollie Egelhoff and Gorens were friends and neighbors growing up in Milwaukee.
"And, as I remember, dad told me that the Gorens were the people who gave him his first (tennis) racket," Jackie said.
So that explains a great deal why "papa," as he was called by the grandchildren, is still very much missed. A touching e-mail Danielle Winston sent out to the Journal Sentinel story line earlier this fall puts a more personal touch on Gorens' influence.
"My papa became very sick when I was young, sixth grade," she said. "Though he was sick, he cheered on my various sports victories, but more importantly, stuck by me when I lost. He passed away when I was in the seventh grade, before he got to see any of his grandchildren continue and carry on his love for the game,"
Danielle has further reason to honor his memory and though tennis was a big part of Gorens' life, it was far from the only thing. He was a captain of his team at Wisconsin and was active in student government. A bit of a Renaissance man, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in economics and philosophy in 1942.
He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical Center in 1945, served in the US Navy Medical Corps 1946-48, and did a residency at Harvard. He trained in anesthesiology at Marquette, later becoming head of its residency training program and served in administrative posts at the VA Hospital, Milwaukee Lutheran Hospital and Milwaukee County Hospital before finishing out his career at Doyne in 1990.
In his retirement, Gorens continued to play golf and tennis as long as he could. He also took classes in Middle Eastern history and enjoyed the symphony. He followed his grandchildren's activities diligently.
And maybe, just maybe, in some form, he still is, as his family's bond with tennis continues to grow deeper and have greater meaning with each passing year.
"We have grown up more as siblings than as cousins," Danielle wrote in her e-mail. "We are best friends."
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