Tennis Is An Overhead Smash For Rim Country Players



To play for love is to play without wager, for nil, but local tennis players, who gather on the public courts at Rumsey Park, know it is never for nil.

"We play tennis for exercise, companionship and laughter," Paul Penning said. "I might tease my opponent, ‘Are you chopping wood or hitting a tennis ball?'" he said, then laughed.


"I love the exercise it gives me and mixing with other people," Dan Delcourt said.

He concedes "luck" is his biggest strength on the court.

"Sometimes you make a shot and tell yourself, close your eyes," he said.

Penning, 74, has enjoyed the game for nearly two decades.

He was in the hospital for a procedure and so his partners did not expect to see him for a few days, but two hours after his release, he was back on the courts, Stephanie Vogel said.

In fact, "he put one right by me the first serve," she said.

Vogel is part of a loose-knit group of 10 or so local players, but recently she got to show off for her brother, Dan Delcourt.

"I've been waiting two years to show Dan how much I've improved," she said.

Delcourt lives in Australia and tennis is his Saturday afternoon hobby.

"Payson has a wonderful climate to play tennis all year-round," said certified tennis coach Diane Jackson. "(Tennis) is a wonderful and fun sport that can be enjoyed throughout life."

Here, locals and Valley tourists vie for the four courts during the summer.

According to Penning, the regular players are just there to give the person across the net a ball they can return.

Jackson grew up in England with parents who were avid tennis players.

She normally teaches from the courts at her home, for private lessons or up to four students.

"I would advise anyone who thinks they would like to learn the game (or get back into it after a long hiatus) to take a few lessons so they can start out correctly, not develop bad habits and get a good understanding of the technique, scoring and etiquette of the game," she said.


Today's balls are hollow rubber, coated outside in fabric.

There are even high-altitude balls (they happen to be the only kind available in Payson) -- but they are "like rocks" and no fun to play with according to Penning.

He likes titanium all-court surface balls.

According to, the first tennis balls, made of wool stuffed with hair, were hard enough to cause serious injury or even kill.

It's hard to imagine tonsured, brown-robed monks tossing a crude handball across a rope strung across the green courtyard of an eleventh century monastery.

The origins of tennis are a source of historical debate.

While most historians place the origins of tennis in the eleventh or possibly twelfth century, still others believe it originated from the Roman game "harpastum."

A few credit the first players as Egyptians from the city of Tinnis.

Whatever the origins, in the mid-eighteenth century a racquet with a lopsided head, thick gut and longer handle than modern racquet was introduced.

From then on, a player was able to scoop the balls from the corners of play and put a spin on the ball headed back to their opponent.

Modern racquets are made of composites or aluminum.

"Buying a good, expensive racquet does not always improve your game," said Penning wryly. He bought an expensive racquet in the beginning.

Jackson echoed his sentiments, saying, practice, practice, and more practice will make the game fun.

Jackson is certified to teach tennis by the U.S. Professional Tennis Registry and may be contacted at (928) 474-0583.

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