Camille BenjaminSchermerhorn Highland High graduate rose to the top of the tennis world at a young age
Parlaying her natural athletic ability and intelligence with hard work and dedication, Cami Benjamin rose to the top of the tennis world at a young age. Before she was old enough to get a driver’s license, Benjamin turned professional and was playing and beating some of the best players of her era. Armed with an infectious laugh and bubbly personality, the devoutly religious Benjamin always tried to represent her Christian faith in a positive light. Due to her immense success on the tennis court and friendly nature, Benjamin’s legacy is secure as one of the best and most well-liked athletes to ever hail from Bakersfield.
Camille BenjaminSchermerhorn facts Born June 22, 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio Family moved to Bakersfield in 1968. Began playing tennis at age 6 under the tutelage of her father, Carl Benjamin, a former tennis player at Central State College in Xenia, Ohio. Played in her first tournament at age 9 and turned pro at 15. Won three spelling bees in junior high.
Photo by John Harte
By Stephen Lynch
Camille Benjamin with coach Andy Davidson at the Bakersfield Racquet Club in 1984. At age 17, she became the first African American woman to reach the semifinals of one of the four major tennis championships since Althea Gibson in 1958 when she made it to the semis of the 1984 French Open.
Seriously injured in a traffic accident in 2005 when a tractor ran a red light and plowed into her car. The incident left her with a concussion, torn shoulder ligament and six broken ribs.
Racked up one WTA Tour singles title, one WTA Tour doubles title and ITF Women’s Circuit singles title during a 14-year pro career in which she earned $663,698 in prize money.
Inducted into the Bob Elias Hall of Fame in 2006.
Finished pro career with won-loss records of 262-298 (singles) and 147-246 (doubles) against competition that included Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf and Helena Sukova.
Graduated from Highland High School in 1984 with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. Played just one tennis match for the Scots.
After retiring from tennis, she received a full scholarship to attend UCLA where she graduated in 2001 summa cum laude with a degree in psychology and communications.
Was the Unites States’ top-ranked junior girl in the 16-and-under age group in 1981. Prior to that she was two different times ranked No. 6 in the national rankings among her age group.
She followed that up by receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to study sports psychology in Germany. Ended up earning a master’s degree in psychology from a German university.
Speaks German fluently. Now lives in Veneta, Ore., with her husband, Aaron Schermerhorn, and three stepchildren. Currently holds two jobs: One as a family and child psychotherapist. The other as a tennis instructor at the Eugene (Ore.) Family YMCA. Her father was a longtime Bakersfield College math professor until retiring earlier this year. Her grandparents moved from Panama to Jamaica to work on the construction of the Panama Canal. Is featured in the book “Blacks at the Net: Black Achievement in the History of Tennis, Volume One” by Sundiata Djata.
Bakersfield Life Magazine July 2011