Tennis to Linda Wolf Is, Literally and Figuratively, a Platform to Spring Her Toward a Sexier Business
When I was young, I wanted to be a jockey," says Linda Wolf, 23, "but when I hit six feet, I had to forget about it." That may have been the last time she gave up on anything.
This spring Wolf and partner Yvonne Hackenberg won the women's national platform tennis doubles championship. And though the first prize money, $6,600, was paltry by pro sports standards, Wolf is vigorously trying to parlay her fashion model good looks into a second, more lucrative career as a personality, sports or otherwise. Once a week she drives from her southern Connecticut home into Manhattan for lessons from speech coach Joe Rice. And she has also signed with the Ford Management sports modeling agency, which handles Chris Evert and golfer Jan Stephenson. "I don't like to waste time," says Linda. "Everything I do is competitive."
To stay in shape (the platform season resumes in October), Wolf is working out every day. She starts with a series of 440-and 100-yard wind sprints in the morning, then plays three hours of racquetball (handball with a racquet). Finally she lifts weights at Ken Johnson's Health Club in nearby Darien. That regimen will also be helpful if, as expected, she's invited to compete in the ABC Superstars competition next January; it could mean $40,000. Trainer Johnson, himself a nationally ranked javelin thrower, says encouragingly, "I know a physical winner when I see one."
Born in Corona, Calif., Linda grew up in Texas until her family settled in Connecticut in 1969. At Norwalk High School she got mostly A's and, as first-seeded player on the boys' tennis team, had some scholarship offers. Instead, she borrowed $2,000 from her dad (an IBM executive) and opened a little Mexican restaurant, with sister Judy's help. They turned a profit before selling the place a year later.
But Linda also stayed active in platform and won her first doubles title with Wendy Chase in 1976 at age 20. "When we won the nationals, everyone was in a state of shock," she laughs. "I brought a tennis-style game to platform that wasn't very well received."
Home for Linda is still her family's rambling brown-shingle house, although she also rents a room in a house in nearby New Canaan with friends. "They keep me from getting a big head," she says of her close-knit, athletic family. (Older brother Larry is a tennis pro.) "My father loves what I'm doing," she says, "but my mother sometimes has her doubts. When I wear shorts she'll look at my legs and say, 'You're looking a little muscular, dear. Maybe you ought not to work so hard with the weights.' "
Mrs. Wolf also sighs, "I'd like her to get married." But Linda says, "I don't even want to think about having kids or getting married now." She categorizes herself as "not serious about anyone right now," and says she turned down a recent proposal from a famous actor several years (and one still-extant marriage) up on her. "I've always been attracted to older men," she admits. "Men have always been my best friends."
In the meantime she's having no trouble supporting herself. A New Canaan restaurateur has sponsored her on the platform tennis tour. And coming up are endorsements for clothes, shoes, a sports bra ("It's kind of funny because I've never worn one") and a line of platform tennis rackets that will use a wolf's head as an insignia. In addition, voice coach Rice says, "She's got the raw talent and enthusiasm to make TV audiences forget who Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy were." And trainer Johnson finds no one else comparable. "The thing I like about Linda," he says, "is she'll do anything to win."
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