Rich Pugh of Riverside Middle School
Photo by Jim BlaylockRich Pugh doesn't like to talk about himself. He prefers to let his racket do that for him.
Rich, 14, has made a name for himself by being the standout tennis player on the Riverside Middle School squad. During his career at Riverside, Rich never lost a singles match. This past season, he dropped only one game.
The humble young man, who will be a freshman at Lakeside High School this fall, is not just a court star in Columbia County. The United States Tennis Association junior program ranks Rich in the top 50 nationally and the top 20 in the South for his age bracket.
"I like tennis because it's a sport that I play by myself," he said. "If I play well I know that I did it, and if I play not so well I've got one else to blame but me."
Rich, a member of the Petersburg Racquet Club, first picked up a racket at age 7. In addition to the sense of self accomplishment he gets from the sport, he said he also enjoys the opportunities it has given him to see the country.
"I've traveled as far away as San Francisco," Rich said. "My favorite place that I've been to would probably be Fort Lauderdale."
Outside of school tennis, Rich finished second in the Top 16 Southeast Tournament in March and won the Family Circle Magazine National Tournament in Charleston, S.C., that same month.
As a result of the Family Circle tournament, Rich was recognized on national television during the Family Circle Woman's Pro Tournament held in April.
"Rich has a lot of impressive qualities, but one of his best ones is that he doesn't like to talk himself up," said Riverside tennis coach John Eckenroth. "He is a very modest young man that lets his tennis do the talking."
Eckenroth also calls Rich a true scholar-athlete.
"He's so incredible," Eckenroth said. "Not only is he a great tennis player, but he's also very, very bright. He is on the honor roll every year and he has an overall average of 92."
Rich said he is looking forward to playing for Lakeside tennis team next year and hopes to one day play tennis for either the University of Texas, Virginia Tech or University of Georgia. He said he has considered going pro one day.
"Tennis is a fun sport and I love to play," he said. "Hopefully, I can make some money at it one day."
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