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Despite growing up in basketball-playing Braintree, Mass., Richard Hough learned tennis when he was 8.
He has been in the sport 60-plus years and has no plans of stopping.
"Tennis is the best thing that ever happened to me," said Hough, of Tarpon Springs. "I've made more best friends."
Though he was raised during the Depression, his family was able to send Hough to summer camp. It was there he acquired the knowledge and developed the skills to play the game.
"Most everyone in our town played basketball, and there was a hoop on the telephone pole at the end of every dead-end street," Hough said. "But, when I wasn't playing basketball, I would play tennis."
It was about 1945 when, as a high school sophomore, Hough was inspired by Ed Serves, the No.1 player in New England.
"He wanted someone to hit with, and I was thrilled that someone with that much talent would hit with me," Hough said.
Hough earned a scholarship to Thayer Academy, a private secondary school in his hometown. He decided to try out for the baseball team, which won a state title the year before.
"As luck would have it, most of the team was returning and I was the last player cut from the team," he said. "That was when I joined the tennis team.
"I played No.1 my junior and senior years, was 15-1 and captain my senior year," Hough said.
Sports was not his only strong area of interset.
Since the age of 7, Hough had studied classical music and even practiced piano concertos with the Boston Pops.
"I was actually preparing to attend the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia, but the Korean War put an end to that," Hough said.
"I joined the Naval Reserve, and we were one of the first units called. That ended my music career, although I have kept it up as a hobby.
"I played a lot of good tennis, though, and at one point even won the singles and doubles at the Norfolk Naval Base," he said.
After the war, Hough took advantage of the GI bill and attended MIT to study chemical engineering. In addition, he played No.3 singles and No.1 doubles for the school's squad and was selected captain.
Harvard Business College followed, and in the summer Hough played tennis. In fact, wherever he lived -- Louisiana, New Jersey or Delaware -- Hough competed in the sport, entering U.S. Tennis Association tournaments. About 1987, he said, Hough was No.1 in Delaware.
From about 1990-95, however, he didn't play much. But since his retirement in 1995, Hough has begun making up for lost time on the courts.
"One year, I played as many as 22 tournaments," Hough said. "After I retired, I was determined to get back into playing.
"After a few setbacks, like cataract surgery and bone spurs, I'm playing a lot again. As a matter of fact, I've asked Phil Green at Safety Harbor Spa to overhaul my game."
Green is working on making Hough an all-court player who can maneuver comfortably from the baseline or net.
On top of playing in area singles tournaments, Hough is a member of doubles teams at Phil Green Tennis Academy at the Spa.
"My No.1 priority is the USTA tournaments," Hough said. "I plan to continue playing and play as much as I can. Tennis players are the best."
LEAGUE UPDATES: The Westin Innisbrook Resort 3.5 senior women's team clinched the division with a 3-0 victory over East Lake Woodlands. Scoring doubles wins were Debra McGinley and Maureen Sternberg, Shirl Ahrens and Judy Warner and Anne Hammond and Dale Slive. This weekend, Paradise Island and the Racquet Club of St.Petersburg compete in a playoff for the 4.0 senior women's championship.
Senior men's 4.0 playoff action began last weekend with McMullen beating Seminole 2-1 and East Lake defeating Vinoy 2-1. McMullen's Dave Bjorkman and Rich Bruer handed Larry Daum and John Beda their first loss. Doug Godinho and Wendall Walker posted McMullen's second point with a 6-4, 7-6 (9) score against Jim McCook and Tim Kahle. Seminole's Maura Rodriquez and Ron Klieve won a third-set tie-breaker over Ron Massey and Mike Carrigan. East Lake's Jim Curran and Will Vandermoer won in straight sets. Hans Look and Bob Telles were victorious in a third-set tie-breaker. This weekend, Seminole plays host to Vinoy, and McMullen is at East Lake.
Phil Green Tennis Academy defeated Innisbrook 2-1 in the super senior men's 3.5 division last week. PGTA's Woody Woodbury and Dick Lashley and John Kuhn and David Wisotsky produced the team's two points. Innisbrook's Dick Willets and Joe Robillard recorded a win. PGTA is 5-0, and Innisbrook is 1-3.
Monday's super senior women's competition included Innisbrook blanking Timber Pines Tennis Club 3-0 and McMullen beating East Lake 3-0. Innisbrook's straight-set winners were Ahrens and Sternberg, Gary and Kraemer and Luidens and Diane Galemmo. McMullen's winners were June Hammond and Dottie Frost, Nancy Haugen and Beverly Voreis and Pat Stefka and Helen Pugh (default).
NET SHOTS: Top-seeded Danielle Collins (girls 10-and-under), Morgan Basil (14) and Anthony Barrancotto (boys 10) scored singles victories in the TPA Winter Challenge in St.Petersburg. Third-seeded Christopher Kucharski defeated Juan Quiroz in the 14 division. Rebecca Bodine won four straight-set matches to capture the girls 12 championship. Brian Shim reached the 12 final. Semifinal qualifiers were Stephen Segura (18) and Philip Barlow (16).
The Member-Guest Tournament at Shipwatch Tennis Club resulted in Henry Van Drunen and Ernie Whalen and Laura Rustin and Liz Proctor winning the men's and women's doubles. In Sweetheart Mixed Doubles exhibition play Saturday, club teaching pro Drew Wager and his wife, Stephanie, won the pro-set match 8-4 over Mary Jane Evertz and Kevin Manning.
Largo's Austin Kondor took the boys 12-and-under consolation title in last weekend's Winter Wonders Championships in Clearwater. Other consolation winners were Jason Swenson (18) and Jana Sindelarova (14).
The American Cancer Society Tennis Classic surpassed the planning committee's goal of $30,000, netting more than $33,000.
Dunedin's Roger Gentilhomme and Lakeland's Samuel Goode joined forces to win the 85-89 doubles crown in the Polk Senior Games.
Bill Christensen defended his top seed to capture the 55-and-over title in the Super Seniors Designated Championships in St.Petersburg.
THIS WEEKEND: The Mixed Doubles Team Tennis Classic starts Friday at McMullen Tennis Center. Squads of three mixed pairs face one another throughout the three-day event, a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. For information, call 669-1919.
COMING UP: The Treasure Island Super Seniors event begins Monday at Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club. For information, call 367-5479. ... The Seminole Winter Classic, for junior players, is March 1-3 at Seminole Lakes Tennis Center. Call 394-1733.