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Tom Fitzwater

Los Gatos Athletic Club
Inducted as a Player in 2008

by Pat Bowen

 

Tom, a resident of Cupertino since 1992, has been a premier right side handball player, albeit under most people’s radar, for many years in Northern California. Tom was born in Southern California and many players still consider him a Southern California player even though he has lived here 16 years and the large portion of his accomplishments occurred right here. 

He was born in Alhambra, Ca. which is very near Pasadena. Handball came into his life while a student at Tustin High School, where handball was a required sports element. After four years of high school play, he caught handball fever just like the rest of us. His tournament career began at Orange Coast and Santa Ana Colleges where he got his first taste of 4-wall handball. In fact, he had never seen a 4-wall court until college, as his high school years were spent playing 3-wall. As the years went on he honed his skills in a tough Southern California environment playing many tournaments against, and with, players like Morones, Chamberlin, Duarte, Vandenbos, Carrillo, and Haynes, just to name a few.

By the time Tom moved to NorCal he already had a nice handball career going. He won his first USHA title in 1989 with Mike Bock and followed it up with a World Title in 1991. He was inducted into the Southern California Hall of Fame as a contributor, being instrumental in running the SCHA newsletter. But as a player, the best was still yet to come. Over the next 16 years he won six more USHA titles and three more world titles as a NorCal resident, leaving him three titles short of USHA grand master status. As for the NorCal handball scene, he has won most all of the 4-wall local tournaments at one time or another. Attesting to his right side prowess, he accomplished this with a number of different partners. Even more amazing is the fact that he has won about a dozen tournaments playing with Pat Bowen, that being a chore in itself. He has had a few stumbles along the way like the rest of us, such as losing to Rick Christian more than once, even though Rick was well over the legal limit and losing with Pat Bowen to Don Chamberlin when Chamby showed up at the court using a walker (true story). In his less than storied singles career, he even took David Chapman to a tiebreaker before losing. Chapman was 14!!

All kidding aside, Tom was, and is, a great right side partner. He ranks up there with Mike Conners and Mike Dunne, Sr. and Jr., in ability. Being a good right side player requires the discipline to allow the correct balls to go through to your partner while serving well, digging and making few errors. Basically he has to do what the left side player doesn’t want to do. Tom excels in all these areas. He has what looks like a nothing serve but it always seems to crack out or run down the wall at opportune times. His Jerry Schiffman-like left pancake shot always seems to die in the corners even though you think you have it covered. He digs well but looks so slow, yet always gets there. And he returns serve with the best of them while making very few hand errors. Tom is one of the finest right side players Northern California has seen. He just never seems to get much credit for it. Well now he has…. Tom … welcome to the NCHA Hall of Fame, you earned your way in!