Cougar of the Week: 03/26/2015

Spencer Pinkney | Photo: Clark Athletics
Spencer Pinkney | Photo: Clark Athletics

Clark Men’s Tennis star Spencer Pinkney (’17) does not talk about his tennis prowess often. Many of his friends and acquaintances do not know that he is the number two singles player on the men’s tennis team. He is more likely to drum up a conversation about Game of Thrones, historical novels, or Japanese cartoons than about his most recent match or Roger Federer’s decline. He spent some time with The Scarlet to talk about adjusting to playing number two singles, dealing with snow, and mini golfing.

Scarlet: The team hasn’t been able to use the courts yet. How are you dealing with that?
Pinkney: At this point I’m getting a little stir crazy, to be honest. I mean, like, obviously it’s good that we have a gym that we can work out in, but when you go two months, especially after you go to California, where we kind of got a brief window where we were playing outside, and now it’s like, “All right, back inside.” And it’s been pretty crappy just not getting outside. It gets everyone a little stir crazy, me especially.

Scarlet: Especially after getting a chance to play at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where the BNP Paribas tournament is played. What was that like?
Pinkney: They were the most gorgeous courts I’ve played on in my entire life. They were obviously immaculately kept.

Scarlet: Did you pretend that there were people in the stands watching you?
Pinkney: No.

Scarlet: You didn’t say, “And the crowd goes wild for Spencer!”
Pinkney: Nah, actually when we were there, we were [mostly] watching Claremont-Scripps play San Diego, and they were phenomenal.

Scarlet: I understand the team has a tradition of playing mini golf during the spring break trip.
Pinkney: Yeah. We have yearly mini golf championships. Our coach is a very, very competitive mini-golfer, and so is our captain, Dan Stein (’14). He took the gold this year, so he’s current defending champion. I myself had a good game. I got fourth overall which puts me in the top bracket for next year. So yeah, mini golf is just as important to us as tennis. I’d almost say more so.

Scarlet: Well you have an advantage, wouldn’t you say? You grew up in Cape Cod which is pretty much the capital of mini golf.
Pinkney: What?! [Laughs] No it’s not. What are you talking about?

Scarlet: People play mini golf in Cape Cod. There’s a lot of mini golf places.
Pinkney: The courses suck on the Cape.

Scarlet: Maybe where you live.
Pinkney: I mean, there’s one: Pirate’s Cove. That’s up in Yarmouth. It’s a sick course, but all the other ones are pretty shit.

Scarlet: That one must get a lot of business, though. I think it was once in elementary school, my friend was telling me about a mini-golf course in Cape Cod, and that’s probably why I was under the impression that Cape Cod had good mini golf courses.
Pinkney: [Laughs] Okay.

Scarlet: So growing up in Cape Cod, the capital of mini golf, how did you ending up getting into tennis?
Pinkney: I started playing tennis when I was nine. My mom actually taught me how to play, and so she basically just took me down the courts. I mean, there’s a lot of tennis courts in the Cape, I don’t know about mini golf courses, but a lot of tennis courts. I actually hated tennis at first because the first lessons I took were in a group of all girls, and I was like, “This is a girl’s sport,” and being nine-year-old me, I didn’t want to play a girl’s sport, so I hated it. But I ended up sticking with it, and I still play today, so…

Scarlet: When did you start to like tennis?
Pinkney: Actually the reason I started liking tennis was that I had played for a few months, and I played with this kid, who’s actually older, named Sawyer. He was way better than me, but he would hit with me, so he was the first boy around my age that I got to hit with and he got me really into it, and always kicked my ass, so I was motivated to get better because I wanted to beat him. So after playing with him a lot, I really got into it and started playing tournaments.

Scarlet: You’ve moved up from playing number three singles to number two. How different is it?
Pinkney: Yeah, I went through most of last year playing number three singles. And this year, with Antoine [Martin (’16)] abroad, I got bumped up a spot. Two singles is definitely a learning process. I mean, just in general, all the players at two are for the most part more consistent, and just better players.

Scarlet: I’m sure they’re older too.
Pinkney: You definitely get a lot of older kids too. So it’s been a learning process, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I mean, it’s definitely a fun experience. I’ve always loved playing kids that can push me to my limits and I can push them to their limits. That’s what makes tennis fun: when you get two people with equal skill pushing each other.

Scarlet: You must be eager to play against NEWMAC teams. It seems like most the teams you’ve played so far are significantly better or worse than inner-conference teams, so you’re not sure where you measure in comparison to the rest of the conference.
Pinkney: I mean, I will say this. This year, just from talking to some of the older guys, this is the toughest schedule we’ve ever had. Especially with the California teams, one is the number two Division III team in the country. So it’s a tough schedule on top of us not being at our full strength, so when you put all that together it’s been a hard season, but I think it’s been a great learning process. And you’re right. NEWMAC is kind of smack dab in the middle of those two extremes. We’ve played so many tough teams, and sure we’ve gotten our asses kicked a few time, but I think it will help for when we play teams like Coast Guard, MIT, Babson, who so far are having very good seasons.