Local tennis great facing his greatest opponent: Cancer

Nearly 120 friends and supporters rallied to support local tennis pro Jim Ault at a benefit golf tournament last Friday. Ault, who is Pacific Athletic Club’s pro, is facing a hard recovery from throat and tonsil cancer.

Ault, 45, is well known in the tennis community, having coached at the San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club, Barnes Tennis Center and served as the pro at the Hotel Del Coronado before coming to Carmel Valley.

Ault is also the co-owner of a new Del Mar shop called The Wine Room set to open in August in the old Fumar space.

Ault’s many friends participated in a friendly golf tournament (winners were drawn at random) at Sail Ho Golf Course in Point Loma, organized by friend Greg Caledonia and his fiance Christianna Wolf.

Friend Terry Klumpenaar said Ault had always been there for everyone, to better their lobs and backhands, and she thought it was great that everyone was there for him now.

Wolf said Ault watched as she went through the planning process, seeing how many people signed up or donated auction items.

“I asked him if he knew he had so many friends that care about him and he didn’t,” Wolf said. “I know he was moved by it.”

On Friday, Ault had been expected to come to the tournament but he was not feeling well. Wolf said he just completed seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy and cannot speak. The doctors have given him an 85 percent chance of surviving and seeing no more signs of the cancer, she said.

“I just want to let Jim know we love him,” said friend Laurie Preece, tearing up.

“He is great with kids and so funny,” said Suzie Brubaker, whose daughters took lessons from Ault.

She said he would draw smiley faces on their tennis balls and make them feel comfortable on the court.

“He’s just such a great guy and we would do anything to help him,” Brubaker said.

A famous face at the tournament was Michael Chang, the youngest male to ever win a Grand Slam title when he won the French Open in 1989 at age 17. He came from Orange County with wife Amber, a San Diego native who took lessons from Ault.

“He is always growing and keeps on broadening his knowledge which I think is a really great aspect in a coach,” Amber Chang said. “His passion is amazing.”

Amber Chang said there is one lesson Ault taught her that she has used on and off the court and she and hopes Ault remembers it during his recovery process: “He taught me never to give up,” she said.

“We just hope he gets well soon,” friend Bart O’Rourke said.