Seven decades of playing and never a lessonBy NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 11, 2002
Seventy-seven years ago, Bill Parsons went to a camp in the Pocono Mountains. Among the activities for the 8-year-old was tennis.
Since that time in 1925, the Pennsylvanian has competed in tennis as a lifetime sport.
"I've never taken a lesson, but have played all my life," said Parsons, 85. "If you can run and move and have some quickness, you can play."
And Parsons can play. He owns three national singles titles, five European championships and has been atop world rankings.
In 1936, Parsons wonhis first of 38 consecutive Blair County Championships in his home state. As a high school senior, he beat in the tournament his older brother, Tom, then Duke's captain. Parsons' love of the game motivated the Realtor to build the Blair Racquet Club, an indoor facility, in 1972 so the Pennsylvania winters wouldn't restrict his tennis.
During his days at Duke,Parsons was captain of the basketball and tennis teams. He competed in badminton singles until he was 27 and in doubles until he turned 47.
"Badminton is really tough on your body," Parsons said. "I'm not talking about the kind you might play in your back yard, but real competitive badminton. In the '60s, I tore a cartilage and finally had to give it up."
Parsons wouldn't quit tennis. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame. In 1990, the 73-year-old was No. 1 in the International Tennis Federation's division for players 70-and-older.
Returning to competition this summer after a five-year absence following double knee replacements in 1997 and last year, Parsons won the 85 singles crown in the Senior Open Tournament in Wheeling, W.Va. A runner-up finish followed in the 80 class of the Midwest Open Senior Championships in Farmington, Mich.
"The guy I lost to in Michigan I had beaten at least 30 consecutive times," Parsons said. "Since my knees went out, I just can't move as well as I would like."
Parsons and his wife, Marge, recently arrived at their winter home in Gulfport. It took but a week for Parsons to get his tennis schedule organized. He plays six days a week, taking Sundays off.
Parsons doesn't, however, take any days off from exercise. Every morning, his 11/2-hour workout regime includes 200 pushups.
"He's very dedicated to taking care of himself," said Parsons' wife Marge, 82.
ALL CHILDREN'S BENEFIT: The 19th annual Raymond James Charity Pro-Am Tournament at Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club in October netted $41,500 for All Children's Hospital. FRENCHY'S RESULTS: Five teams of mixed doubles, four women's and four men's were winners in the Gumbo Classic. The tournament benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County. Trang Kim Nguyen and Stephen Phillips captured the mixed 5.0 title, Rachel Sanchez and John Noeske 4.5, Mary Beth Whiteleather and Jerry Kelly 4.0, Linda Cope and John Colaneri 3.5 and Sandy Dunning and Jack Faber 3.0. Ahn Thu Burks and Nguyen took the women's open crown, Janie Griffith and Dixie Francy 3.5 and Lisa Taylor and Vicky Tyler 4.0. Cindy Spoto and Peggy Barnett-Walos won 3.0 by default. Kevin Manning and Scott Chambers won the men's 4.5, as did Todd Whittington and Bill Phillips in 4.0, Allen Smith and Joe Bulone in 3.5 and Mark Evans and Allen Sanchez in 3.0.
JUNIOR TOURNEY: Treasure Island Golf and Tennis Center played host to the Suncoast Foundation's Rookie Grand Prix Circuit last weekend. Among the winners were St. Petersburg's Julia Sikorski (girls 10-and-under), Jordan Balcer (boys 14) and Zach Hotz and Edward Coty (boys 12). Treasure Island's Brett Apter won the boys 16, Tierra Verde's Melissa Smith the girls 12 and Seminole's Nichole Ashley girls 16. SENIOR DOUBLES: Seminole Lakes Racquet Club notched its third straight victory in the Men's 4.0 South with a 3-0 decision over Feather Sound Country Club last weekend. Winning were Larry Daum and Jim McCook, Jim Johnson and John Beda and Red Garry and John Leavengood. In the 4.0 North, Benjamin Godwin and Scott Stewart and Don Campagna and Paul Tomey scored the pivotal points for the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg against McMullen II. Shipwatch Tennis Club won its second straight 3-0 match with a decision over Renaissance Vinoy. Shipwatch winners were Leslie Spang and Henry VanDrunen, Tom Rinehart and Pete Mosher and Peter Walsh and John Dodson.
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