Column: Players who inspire are in our backyard
We have three individuals from the Prescott area who have a passion for pushing their tennis skills to the max in state, southwest and national tournaments as well as USTA League play: Dick McGaw, Jan Hasse and Fay Matsumoto.
They happen to do most of their training right in our own backyard and can be found on a daily basis practicing, drilling and playing at the Roughrider tennis facility, which is part of the Yavapai College campus in Prescott.
Fay plays in the 60 and over group, Jan just this year qualifies for the 65's, and Dick at 71 competes in the 70's division - unless they're playing down, which isn't unusual for any of them.
Dick got his start at the age of 5 and just happened to live across the street from his city's tennis center in Fort Wayne, Ind. It didn't hurt that his mother was the city champion.
Jan, who grew up in Redlands, Calif., learned the game from the age of 10 when her parents enrolled her in a kids tennis program sponsored by the local Optimists club. And Fay, a farm kid from Hawaii, didn't get introduced to the game until she went to college at Fullerton Junior College in California, mainly because she saw so many others playing tennis and she now had the time to give it a try herself. She learned by hitting against outdoor handball courts there.
So where does the motivation to still get out there and put it all on the line, not only with mental and physical skills, but the investment in time and money come from?
"Tournaments provide an opportunity to test my skills under pressure," Dick said. "They reveal my true strengths and weaknesses and what I need to improve. In tournaments I play fully focused with maximum effort. I experience levels of play and highs (and lows) not achievable in daily practice matches."
Fay wants a gold ball, which you receive if and when you win a USTA national tournament. And last year at the Fiesta Bowl, she beat the No. 1 seeded player, which really opened her eyes to that potential possibility.
Jan kind of laughed when asked that question. "The motivation has to be Fay's gold ball obsession, but in reality it's been fun connecting with folks I haven't seen in 35 years I used to play against," she said. Jan recently won the 60's division in singles at the Babolot tournament in Palm Springs.
Dick is averaging about one tournament a month, while Jan and Fay are gearing for about four to six nationals this year, mostly in the Southwest and western part of the country in singles and doubles.
And what have been their best moments in the game of tennis? "My last year of college, my doubles partner and I won the Ojai collegiate doubles, at that time all the four-year colleges played in the same event," Hasse stated. "If they had had national rankings at that time I figure we would have been No. 2."
Fay is a bit more relaxed in her thoughts it seems. "I just love playing tennis," she said. "Every day I get to play, it's a great day and especially with Jan, Rick (Giardini) and all the other people I come in contact with in this game."
McGaw has had many memorable results, including as a junior winning Indiana's 15 and under boys championships and later the 18 and under title. As a senior he won enough titles and points to be ranked No. 1 in the Southwest three or four times. But his greatest thrill was "winning my first state tournament as a 14-year-old."
Dick had some very good advice for anyone who might like to give the tournament trail a shot. "View a tournament as an opportunity to play against new opponents, to learn how to play better, to have fun challenging yourself and meeting new people. Don't overreact to losing. Only one person wins the tournament, but with the right attitude, everyone can win in playing in tournaments."
And when they aren't spending time keeping their strokes tuned up you'll find Jan playing golf, with her dogs or reading; Fay enjoying her computer games; and Dick practicing on the guitar, reading history or watching the Tennis Channel - that's if his wife doesn't have him somewhere abroad.
It's people like this that help make our sport one of the best, and we're lucky to have them in our community.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.