Kicking Old Age's Butt

You're never too old to exercise: Octogenarian tennis trio defies numbers in Houston tourney

You're never too old to exercise: Octogenarian tennis trio defies numbers in Houston tourney

News_Elizabeth Bennett_Marion Tyrell_tennis_March 2010
Marion Tyrell

Lovie Beard plays tennis almost every day.

Singles tennis. And before she plays matches, Beard exercises every morning. She starts at 4:45 a.m. and goes for 30 minutes - doing sit-ups and push-ups and lifting 10-pound weights.

Lovie Beard is 87 years young.

Beard will compete in the United States Tennis Association National Senior Women’s Clay Court Championships this week at the Houston Racquet Club.

And Lovie’s hardly alone.

Catherine Hall turns 85 on July 4th. She’ll be Beard’s toughest competitor in the women’s 85s singles division. Seeded No. 1, Hall plays tennis four or five times a week, often with men, and thinks any additional workouts are crazy.

"I can play tennis all day, but exercise is a dirty word!" Hall jokes.

Marion Tyrell, 86, will be competing in the same division. Seeded second, Tyrell won the doubles title with her partner last year in Houston and she's back to play singles this year.

Like Beard, she exercises every morning for half an hour, but skips the weights. And like many of the other senior women, she is a widow who used to play tennis with her husband. They won many husband and wife championships together.

You’re never too old to play tennis, as these three spirited women are proving.

The three are in excellent health, despite their age. They don’t rely on medicine to feel good either.

As Tyrell puts it: "I don’t take diddly squat."

This tough trio is part of more than 200 top-ranked players competing in six age divisions, from the 35s to the 85s. The 40th-annual event began today and runs through Sunday..

Hall and Tyrell are both from California, and Beard is one of a number of Houstonians who will be playing. Seeded No. 4 in the 45s doubles are locals Ann Hopper and Emily Schaefer. Another local, Susan Bramlette, is seeded fifth in both the 55 singles and doubles. Houston’s Jane Strnadel and Sugar Land’s Connie Weinholtz are also competing in 55s doubles.

There isn’t a lot of prize money. This is a love of the game thing.

Winners in each division get $300. Doubles winners share that amount. In addition, all first-place winners are awarded gold tennis balls while those placing second and third win silver and bronze balls.

But it’s not the money or trophies that keep these seniors competing in Houston and other USTA tournaments held all over the country.

They’ve found a sport they can play and enjoy as long as they live. Beard – who’s been hitting tennis balls for more than half a century – explains it simply.

"It's my love,” she says.

Admittance to the tournament is free. For the schedule, check http://www.usta.com.