Tina Herman watched as her husband, Ken, competed in a doubles match during a game of racquetball at R.H. Johnson Recreation Center in Sun City West.
The Pleasanton, Calif., residents traveled from their home to participate in the Men of October Racquetball Tournament for players ages 75 and older.
“(Ken) doesn’t get to participate in many tournaments like this because he’s playing people who are sometimes 20 years younger than him,” said Herman. “And to be honest, I’m so amazed at the skill level of these players that are mostly well into their 80s. This is fantastic.”
Greg Steger, director of the tournament, said it’s the second year for the event, which had 12 players last year and more than doubled to 30 participants this year. There is a “junior division,” he said, featuring seven players ages 75-79.
The remaining 23 players are 80 and older, including one woman and a 96-year-old Texas man, Ben Marshall, who traveled to Sun City West to compete in the tournament, which runs through 5 this afternoon.
Steger also said many of the players are from Florida, New Jersey, Colorado and Illinois as well as the Sun Cities.
“Word of mouth spread last year, and it’s growing,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what it’s going to look like in the future.”
The winners of the tournament will receive a stained glass trophy, while the runners-up receive medals in singles and doubles competition.
Sun City West resident Lake Westphal, 90, is one of the oldest participants, and he competed in last year’s event.
Westphal, a former Recreation Centers of Sun City West governing board member, said he’s pleased with the growth of the event.
“I’m loving every last minute of it,” Westphal said. “This means a lot to so many people and shows if you remain active, then you can extend your life.”
And Westphal said he hopes the tournament can continue for many more years.
“You won’t find any couch potatoes here at all,” he said with a laugh.
Frank Zartler, 71, a Sun City West resident, sat in the bleachers and watched the racquetball matches for a few hours Thursday.
“I can’t participate yet, so I thought I would come and support,” he said.
Zartler said he plays racquetball with many of the men more than 80 years old in Sun City West.
“Their skill level is ridiculous, and they put some of the guys 20 years younger to shame,” he said. “And they’ve beaten the heck of out me a few times, too.”
In addition, Zartler said many of the men know “how to play smart.”
“They’re definitely smart in how they play the game, instead of constantly running around,” he said. “So age beats speed sometimes.”
Next year, Steger said he would like to increase the event to 40 players. But for now, he’s enjoyed the growth spurt of the tournament.
“The famous quote from the movie ‘The Field of Dreams’ applies here ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and that’s what we’re doing,” Steger said.
Mitchell Vantrease can be reached at 623-876-2526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.