Originally Published: November 14, 2016 10:56 p.m.
One of the Prescott area’s tennis players, Dick McGaw, recently won a national title in the 75 men’s doubles in Las Vegas, which is a quite the feat.
Dick has been involved with the game of tennis since the age of 5 and benefited his whole life from what it’s been for him. The following question-and-answer session gives an outline of that journey.
Q: You just won the National Las Vegas Senior Open in the 75 men’s doubles with partner Frank Seaberg in three sets; tell us what that means to you at this point in your life.
A: Since this is my first and only national title, it means a lot to me. I’ve won state titles in Indiana, played on the tennis team at Indiana University, and won a number of Arizona and Southwest titles. But this is my first national title. It means that if you train, try to improve your game, and are motivated, you can still test yourself at higher levels of the game, even though you are 75 years old. In addition, in doubles you can share this experience with your partner, who sometimes also becomes a good friend.
Q: How much work and effort do you put into the training to play in national and sanctioned Southwest tournaments?
A: I play nearly every day of the week - singles, doubles, practices, and hitting lessons with local pros. I supplement tennis with cardio, weightlifting, and core and stretching exercises about three times a week.
Q: You started playing the game of tennis at what age and where - and still at the age of 75 seem to enjoy what it has to offer; what’s the challenge from your younger years to today?
A: I started playing when I was 5 years old in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Only my head extended over the net, but I still won the 8-and-under “midget” division. It was fun beating taller and older boys. The challenges of being an older player are patience with yourself, persistence to play and train, and a positive attitude. For those who have competed their whole life, it’s easy to be too self-critical and lose the sense of having fun. Be positive and forgiving of yourself and others, and you will have more fun playing tennis.
Q: When you were in the working world, what did you do and did you find the things you’ve learned playing tennis helped the things you accomplished in life and work?
A: I was a professor and chair of political science and director of the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University for 32 years. I think tennis taught me the importance of maintaining integrity, fair play, and calmness under the pressure. These qualities helped me be a better faculty leader and teacher.
Q: How do you pick the tournaments you decide to compete in and how many do you enter each year?
A: I like to play tournaments in Arizona, California, and Washington. I play 10 to 12 tournaments outside Prescott a year.
Q: Which do you enjoy more, singles or doubles and why?
A: When younger, I enjoyed singles more because of the athletic challenge and the fun of doing it on your own. Now that I’m older, I enjoy doubles more because of its complexity and the fellowship on and off the court. Besides that, when I lose, I can blame it on my partner.
Q: Who were your mentors in the game and what caused you to latch on to it in such a manner?
A: I had three influences: a high school tennis coach who took me under his wing and acted as a surrogate dad after my parents divorced; a pro who was a protege of Bill Tilden; and a pro who was the father of Nancy and Cliff Richey, who were No. 1 American players in the ’60s and ’70s.
Q: Your best tennis moment - and your not so best, what were they?
A: My best moment was winning the Indiana 18-and-under when I was 15. My worst moment was losing a state championship with a high forehand volley into the net. I’ll never forget that.
Q: Parting thoughts you might like to add for the folks?
A: Tennis is a game for life. You can play singles, doubles, mixed, against a wall or with a pro, in a wheel chair, against a ball machine, or serving a bucket of balls by yourself. So get out there and do it.
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.