Evonne Goolagong Cawley - the Sunshine Supergirl

Everyone wants or needs a roll model…..my tennis roll model was Evonne Goolagong, the first Australian Aboriginal woman to achieve international fame in tennis.

In 1967, three years before eighteen year old Evonne Goolagong played at Wimbleton for the first time in 1970, I was stricken with a stroke. Tennis was my physical therapy and playing like the gutsy little dark-skinned girl from Australia was my goal. No, I would never come close to her talent and skill, but I was a determined 30 year old mother of 3 and I was her fan for life.

Evonne, born July 31, 1951 in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia is one of eight children from an Australian aboriginal family. She grew up in the small country town of Barellan. When her father, an auto mechanic and sheep shearer, found some old tennis balls in the back of a used car he'd bought, the young Evonne found her calling.

Although Aboriginal people faced widespread discrimination in rural Australia at this time, Evonne was able to play tennis in Barellan from childhood thanks to a kindly resident, who saw her peering through the fence at the local courts and encouraged her to come in and play.

She had excellent physical attributes for a tennis player. She was light, fast, and long-limbed, with lightning reflexes and the ability to cover the court with great agility. At her peak, she was regarded as one of the most graceful and subtle exponents of the women's game ever seen. She relied more on skill and speed than strength.

She was frequently faulted, however, for lapses of concentration that cost her several titles. In the Australian press, this was referred to as "Evonne going walkabout” – an Aboriginal term meaning to wander off into the bush.
Evonne retired in 1983. Over the course of her career, she won 43 singles titles and 9 doubles titles. Her career prize-money totalled U.S. $1,399,431 – compare that to what pro tennis players make now!!!

In 1975 she married British tennis player Roger Cawley and they settled in Naples, Florida. After living in the United States for 8 years, they bought a home in Noosa Heads, Queensland where they settled with their two children, daughter Kelly, born 1977 and son Morgan, born 1981

The spritely Australian teenager nicknamed "Sunshine Supergirl" with the awesome ground strokes astounded the world in 1971 by winning the women's championship at Wimbledon as a 19-year-old. She did it again in 1980 with a second Wimbledon title as the mother of a three-year-old girl.

I admire Evonne Goolagong so very much. She is always on my mind when I play tennis, either in tournaments or with friends….and, when I find myself having lapses of concentration (my own version of a “walkabout”) I think of Evonne sitting on my shoulder saying, “concentrate on what you’re doing”…..or when I’m really in trouble, I whisper to myself, “Come on Evonne, help me do this”

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