udy Bochenski played in her first U.S. Open when she was 11. At the 1969 San Francisco U.S. Open, she won her first major--the Girls U-13--by defeating her perennial rival Angelita Rosal.
A few months later, at the Toronto CNE, Judy's later acclaimed flat forehand is still something of an awkward slap, but it was good enough to let her win her first Canadian major--the Girls U-15--over Michigan's Sue Hildebrandt.
It was either for this CNE or the next that back home in Eugene, Oregon Judy first started to hustle up some sponsorship. "It was easier than I thought it would be," she said. "My dad and I went downtown to the larger stores, the chain stores, went out to the shopping centers. We talked to managers, offered them exhibitions, and many were really interested. Bon Marche, a clothes store, gave me the stand-by plane fare."
In the fall of 1970, the USTTA Selection Committee, charged with picking a U.S. Team to the '71 Nagoya World's, took a close look at play at the Detroit USOTC's. Judy's record there was an unexceptional 15-8 overall and, considering that she'd just turned 15, she'd also posted a not unexpected 3-5 result in the International Team Squad Matches.
But she got what would turn out to be a tremendous career-turning opportunity, and considerably more than 15 minutes of fame, when she was named 2nd Alternate on our Women's Team. Ordinarily Alternates, always hopeful, are doomed to disappointment. But when U.S. #1 Irene Ogus, and U.S. #2, Patty Martinez Cash, and U.S. #4, Alice Green, for have-to-pay-your-own-way or other reasons decided they weren't going to Japan for this World's, it was suddenly possible for 1st Alternate Olga Soltesz and Judy to take the trip. And what an unforeseen, unimaginable trip of a lifetime it would be!
Never mind that in the Opening Day Parade at the Aichi Stadium, N.Y. player Irv Wasserman, a non-Team member, a non-Team official, absurdly brought up the rear of our parade line in a borrowed raincoat. Never mind that when it came to actually playing matches our Team didn't look too great either. What mattered on that otherwise uneventful Finals Day was the surprise Invitation to China.
"I'LL go! I'LL go!" 15-year-old Judy screamed with delight. Team Captain Jack Howard was appropriately paternal--the girls would have to call home, get parental permission. Of course Judy can go, said her father, Lou. He'd been a schoolteacher for some years and thought the trip would be a great educational experience for Judy and a chance to help build world peace.
As we all know, Judy's gotten great support over her long table tennis career from her dad Lou, her older brother Gary, and her younger brother Mike, all trophy winners themselves in their prime, either earlier in Phoenix, AZ or later in first Eugene, then Portland, OR. It was in Portland, in 1974, that Lou, continuing to try to make a living in table tennis, risked opening a spacious club, a lobber's delight, aptly named by local Oregonian Jim Scott, the Paddle Palace.
From the beginning of that '71 Easter trip that would take (including Leah Neuberger traveling with the Canadians) 16 Americans to the heretofore forbidden border of China and beyond, the Hong Kong photographers had a field day with Judy. They continually hounded her for what they called "natural" pictures. When she accidentally spilled a coke, they were beside themselves (and her) with delight. I myself was very impressed with Judy--for, despite her youth, she was quickly learning the language of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy." "The Chinese," she said, "will show us the good side of things there. And I'll try to show them the good side of the United States."
But soon a newspaperman asked Judy if she was going to wear her mini-skirts in China. She said, "Yes," but looked at him as if she'd never thought about that before. And then he asked her if she was scared.
At the Hong Kong train station, Judy was offered some little rice cakes by a strange Chinese woman, but refused them. She said privately that she thought they might be poisoned. But Jairie Resek, Men's Team member Errol's wife, took them, and ate a good many, and afterwards kept joking about them. "Hey," she'd say to Judy, "I took one 6 hours ago!"..."Hey, Judy, I ate one over 15 hours ago!"
But, though signs of hostility were sometimes to be seen--"People of the world unite and defeat the U.S. aggressors and all their running dogs"--Judy and all the other Americans couldn't have been better treated. How warm the warm-ups were. How evenly matched the "Friendship first, Competition Second" Friendship Matches.
Judy even got some presents from the Chinese--a pretty fan, and a jewelry box. And she would have liked to have had even a clarinet recording of all that Praise to Chairman Mao music she'd heard. That would be a perfect accompaniment to the five little red Mao books she'd be bringing home with her. "I'd love to see more of this country," she said. And though she didn't know it then, she would. For of course in 1997 42-year-old Judy and her husband and children were feted at a belated 25th "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" reunion in Beijing.
No sooner was Judy out of 1971 China than fronting her again were the ever-present photographers and instant fame.
Back in school, she laughed as she confided to a friend, "I bet I learned more about world studies than anyone in Mrs. Price's "Advanced World Studies" class." And she wasn't going to stop learning either. In fact, she remembered a few Chinese phrases, and thought that one day she might become an interpreter, or maybe, since she'd be doing an article for Seventeen, a writer. That is, unless now that she'd been chosen Grand Marshall for the Portland Rose Festival Parade and had her own special May 5 "Judy Bochenski Day," there'd be an opening in the Oregon State Legislature for her.
But maybe, Judy, it was better that politics weren't your metier (...Tell the Truth--yes, she'd done that too, had flown East to be on that program), for how would you respond to that unsigned letter with a New York City postmark? The one that said, "Did you ask your peaceloving Communist allies how many millions of people they'd murdered?"
That summer Judy saw quite a bit of many-sided America. Traveling all over by car, she, dad Lou, and brother Mike put on maybe 300 hours worth of exhibitions.
The red Chinese reciprocated, came to the U.S. in '72 for more Friendship Matches. And Judy and the others met them in their purest white--USTTA matching jacket and slacks street clothes. President Nixon, too, wished them well--in the Rose Garden--though he tried to pass our Team by. "Oh," he said on being indignantly called to by one of our players, "I didn't know you were here."
Judy, spurred on by all the attention, and perhaps even by some friendly serve and serve return tips from the Chinese, won the '71 U.S. Open U-15's from Angie. Two years later, she beat her again in the Open 17's.
At both the '71 and '72 CNE's Judy was a finalist to multi-time Canadian and U.S. Champ Violetta Nesukaitis. In a photo of this match, umpired by Canadian TTA President Art Barron, one can see how much improved Judy's forehand is from that awkward slap of two years earlier.
Playing with perhaps her favorite women's doubles partner, Patty Martinez Cash, Judy had Women's Doubles wins at both the '71 CNE and the '73 U.S. Open. Which, since evn the best lose, prompts me to say proudly that I myself lost three CNE Mixed Doubles finals--in '68 and '71 with Patty, and in '74 with Judy.
Judy always did love to travel. In the 70's she was in Kingston, Jamaica for a tournament, and that was different, was fun. From 1971 through 1977 she represented the U.S. in four consecutive World's--something few U.S. players have ever done. Photos show her in Nagoya (as a Japanese flower girl) in '71. In Sarajevo in '73 (ohh, she lost a couple of tough ones there). In far-off India, playing a match in Nagpur against the Czech Zizkova. And in Birmingham in '77, enjoying the camaraderie of the U.S. Team and its entourage.
The '76-'77 season was another eventful one for Judy. You can see her flanked by fellow celebrities--Pancho Gonzalez and Don Drysdale--not at the Paddle Palace but at Caesars Palace. And though Judy lost in our first U.S. Closed at Caesars, deuce in the 4th in the semi's to the eventual winner He-ja Lee, and with Patty lost in the final of the women's doubles to He-ja and Insook Bhushan, she was again lucky.
How so? Thanks to an 11th hour, unrelenting and so ultimately convincing argument on father Lou's part, the USTTA E.C. waived by a single vote its rule that players-have-to-accumulate-so-many tournament-points to be eligible to tryout for the U.S. Team. So Judy could give it a try after all. And again she was lucky.Though against Angie she almost blew her chances when, leading 1-0 and 20-16 match-point, she lost in 3, her final record of 7-4 in matches and 13-11 in games allowed her to win the last spot on the Birmingham Team by the slimmest of margins over Olga's 7-4 in matches and 14-12 in games.
At the '77 Hollywood U.S. Open, when severe dehydration sent Danny Seemiller's partner Insook to the hospital, Judy and the German International Jochen Leiss won the Mixed. It was Leiss who said, "Judy has a fine, aggressive, man's, hand-smash game. With Judy neither I nor any male player has to say, 'Just push the ball, please.' She hits better than I do."
In '78 Judy was on the move again--in South Korea playing International Matches. Then she might have been off to some exotic elsewhere--for rumors were flying that she was, or soon would be, on a Thai rice diet, and that she was trying to learn how to be a looper. I don't know which of the two speculations was sillier.
At any event, after she was on another winning USOTC team--this time with Insook and Kasia Dawidowicz--she suffered an unexpected disappointment at the '78 Closed. Losing the Mixed with Ray Guillen to Danny and Insook, she could get over. But how explain the carry-over loss to Louise Nieves that kept her from going to a 5th straight World's?
1979 wasn't a bad year either. In fact, did Judy EVER have a bad year? She won the National Intercollegiate Singles and with E. Jay Crystal the Mixed Doubles, and was in Puerto Rico for the Pan-Am Games. But at the Closed she lost a killer to Kasia--deuce in the 5th.
How take her mind off that?
Marry Dan, of course, eventually have kids, take them to tournaments.
Judy will play until '83 with some continued success. But her last big year is 1980. At the Closed, she does the hat trick--wears three, but can't keep any of them on come Final's time. She's runner-up in the Women's, the Women's Doubles, and the Mixed.
So, a great career comes finally to an end?
Not quite. A dozen years later, she's back....And guess what? Uh-huh. More National titles, more trophies--so that today she's dominating the Women's 40+ event.
Once a Champion...always a Champion--Judy Bochenski Hoarfrost.