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THESE GUYS ARE DEADLY

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Don't let age fool ya.

Those older men stepping onto the tennis court, the ones walking with the slight limp and rubbing their arms to wake up the muscles, aren't there for a rest.They're there to play tennis. True, youth may have speed and strength, but age has wisdom . . . and take placement and control over a booming return anytime. Ask the poor souls who've taken age to mean pushover, and lost horribly.

Ask some of Utah's top seniors. Tennis to them has deeper meaning now. It keeps them young, active and fit, and always, always looking forward to the next match.

Take Rick Warner, for example. The 71-year-old auto executive plays almost daily. Same with Linn Rockwood or Lee Hammel, both 73. And even the younger seniors, like Joe Cowley, 55, or Leon Peterson, 56, play regularly.

These seniors, too, are proof that tennis is, indeed, a lifetime sport.

Warner and Rockwood, for example, began playing against each other as juniors.

"We figured it out one time and we played each other 31 times over the years, but never, during that time, were we ever on the same side of the court. Five years ago, for the first time, we decided to play together in the Senior Games. We've won it, now, four times."

About 20 years ago, the older members of the group started playing regularly. A few years ago, the younger ones moved into the rotation, albeit somewhat humbly. Age was no advantage, one way or the other.

Now its developed into a league of their own. Anyone's welcome. Requirements are you play hard, give no quarters and be willing to play five good, hard sets.

The group usually play at lunch time.

"Instead of sitting down to a big, heavy lunch, we play tennis. You go back to work and instead of feeling bloated, you're fresh and feel like it's a whole new day," says Warner.

It also took a little different approach to the game. They all, to a player, thrive on pressure points. So . . .

"We play a little different format in order to get to the pressure points sooner," says Warner. "We play five sets instead of three, but we start each set at 2-all. We end up playing a lot of tie breakers and a lot of matches have been lost in a 5th-set tie breaker," he says.

Hammel, who has won two national doubles titles, says he plays six times a week. A few years back he was ranked No. 3 in the country in the men's 65.

Rockwood, who has undergone two hip transplants and suffered a heart attack a few years ago, plays at least four times a week and admits tennis is the "thing that motivates me . . . It's the only exercise I get, and it keeps me feeling young."

Last year he played in a 60s division in one tournament, and went through to the championships without losing a single set.

Both Cowley and Peterson, called the "pups" of the group, say tennis not only helps them stay fit but gives them something to look forward to each week.

Also, in Warner's case, eight of the nine Warner children have counted on their father's experience to win tournament championships over the years.

Fitness. Good heath. Friendship. Memories. Tennis, the lifetime game, makes it all possible. Just ask any of Utah's corp of seniors. And if every you happen to face one of the master, be prepared to face more shots than you imagined possible of a tennis racket.