A lesson in fun on the court|Senior state tennis championships hailed for camaraderie

Published 12:27 am Friday, June 5, 2009

Staff Writer

Take a tip from the 50 and over tennis crowd — it’s all about having a good time between the chalk lines.
That was the vibe emanating from the Washington Racquet Club on Thursday afternoon, as men 50-and-older from across the state took turns taking to the tennis courts and cheering each other on, even in defeat.
The hullabaloo was all part of the North Carolina USTA League Senior State Championships, which are being held Thursday through Sunday in the area with the Washington Racquet Club as one of the host sites. The finals will be played in Greenville on Sunday.
The matches are doubles only, and feature two skill levels — men’s 3.5 and 4.0. The 4.0 skill level is one of the highest obtainable under the U.S. Tennis Association.
To get to the state championships, teams, usually comprised of six members, which make up three doubles pairs, have to win their N.C. USTA league tournament.
The New Bern Golf &Country Club team won the Down East tournament to make the state championship at the 3.5 men’s skill level.
They took two of their first three matches against the Cary 3.5 team on Thursday to move on in the tournament, but the guys seemed genuinely happy just to be playing tennis on a breezy summer afternoon.
“We enjoy the camaraderie and traveling together,” Ed Mitchell of the New Bern team, said.
“We got out of school today,” chimed in teammate Gordon White.
The teammates said they look forward to the rest of the tournament and weekend, but if they don’t win the championship, no big deal.
“I enjoy it all. We like to win, but it’s not everything,” Mitchell said.
The competition is a little more heated in the men’s 4.0 tournament, but Dan Brown, a member of the Match Point Racquet Club team out of Greenville, said it’s still all about the times had and friendships made.
“I really like playing these tournaments. I have a lot of fun being in the social atmosphere, as well as getting a good workout,” he said.
Brown said he started playing tennis when he was 22 years old, and hasn’t stopped since. Brown, who just turned 50 to become eligible for the senior state championships, has been to two state tournaments before.
While he loves catching up with old tennis enthusiasts from across the state, he said he would really love for his team to advance to the national championships in Birmingham, Ala.
“I look forward to hopefully winning and going on further to Birmingham. Of course, that’s our goal,” Brown said about his team.
Dale Peele, organizer of the three-day tournament at the Washington Racquet Club, said everyone’s goal should be to hit the court and stay in shape, using the players in the state championships as the backbone for her assertion.
“Tennis is a sport for life,” she said. “These are senior men, and they’re playing great tennis and, physically, are in great shape.”