It doesn’t take long at all for Mark Troutman to recount a few little characteristics of Edward Dwight, his late longtime friend.
“He was a very principled man — very much a black-and-white person, you know? There wasn’t a lot of gray with Edward,” said Troutman, a tennis pro of more than 30 years said, with a laugh. “He had a tremendous sense of humor. A dry sense of humor, if you knew him well.
“The type of person you could trust with anything. ... As an individual and a tennis pro, too. Obviously, he had always wanted the best for people and his pupils.”
Troutman, 61, who has been the director of tennis at Westwood Swim and Tennis Club since 2012, gets a yearly reminder of Edward’s traits that made him a beloved figure — even as recent as Oct. 5. Troutman started a charity event that bears a signature phrase of his friend and, at one point, co-worker.
Buddy Up Open — the Edward Dwight Memorial Tennis Tournament, a day-long event held at Westwood, finished its fourth straight edition over the weekend. It’s a charity tournament Troutman started in remembrance of Dwight, who committed suicide in May 2014 after a long battle with anxiety and depression. It was a struggle that Dwight likely dealt with since childhood, according to his younger brother, David Dwight.
Edward Dwight was just 53 when he died, having been a tennis pro for more than a decade. Troutman, who first met his late friend when they played on the tennis team at North Carolina in the fall of 1978, has made the Buddy Up Open an event to raise awareness for mental health. Since the tournament began in 2016, it has elicited a strong response — and plenty of donations.
According to Troutman, the tournament racked up $12,000 in its inaugural year. The proceeds benefited the mental health associations in Forsyth County and High Point then. That number grew every fall — $18,000 the next year, $22,000 in its third installment.
Over the weekend, the tournament even topped that. Troutman said $27,000 was raised this year with 48 players participating in matches at Westwood. The tournament included a morning tennis clinic and dinner in the evening.
And it all benefited the Mental Health Association in Forsyth County under the neon green banner with a Buddy Up slogan. It was a common phrase Dwight called everyone — even family.
“Edward used to always say, “Hey buddy,” said Troutman. “Whether it was me or whether it was some kid he was teaching, ‘Hey buddy, let’s work on that forehand.’
“Whatever it was, he used that phrase a lot. And, of course, we buddy up because it’s a team event. ... And then we’re buddying up with the MHA of Forsyth County.”
Troutman first met Dwight back when Troutman was a junior at Carolina. Dwight, who grew up in New Jersey, was a freshman at the time. That friendship carried on well after their time in Chapel Hill.
Dwight was a tennis pro at High Point Country Club for about 12 years with Troutman, who was the director of tennis at the club from 1990 to 2003. Dwight worked a year with Troutman at Westwood in 2011.
But even at Carolina, there were indications of Dwight’s struggles. He was absent from UNC during Troutman’s senior year. He returned, though, and graduated with his brother, David, in 1985.
“Twice he left school because he just needed a break because of various depression and anxiety difficulties that made it too difficult for him to stay in school,” said David, 56, who was a walk-on at Carolina as well. “But, in classic Edward fashion, he re-enrolled and came back and persevered.”
But Edward’s depression and anxiety appeared to compound going into his 40s, according to David. He said it was similar to watching a cancer slowly progress. During his final year, Edward ultimately moved from High Point to Richmond, Va. — where David and his wife, Elisabeth, live — to be near family.
The tournament keeps Edward’s memory alive. David has even been approached by people, who were either taught by his brother or had friends coached by him.
Jodie Stevenson, the older sister of the three siblings, attends the Buddy Up Open yearly, along with David. They assemble a team to compete. And it only makes sense — the Dwights were always a tennis family. Jodie, 62, played Division III tennis as well at Colby College.
Jodie thought Edward’s story has made an impact. In 2018, the Buddy Up Open was named charity event of the year by the USPTA Southern Division. It won the same award with the USTA in North Carolina as well.
That year, Westwood played host to a round robin one morning during the Winston-Salem Open. The ATP 250 event dubbed it Mental Health Awareness Day.
“You know, when I talk to people at the tournament, the thing I love about it is that there’s no kind of cocktail party fakeness,” said Jodie, who lives in Massachusetts. “It’s all about real life. ... I think that people are becoming a little more open and willing to discuss the kind of mental health struggles.
“And, if the tournament and Edward’s struggles can help to take the stigma away from mental illness and make it OK to share, I think that’s a really great blessing for a lot of people.