Serving up 30 years of tennis tradition July 2012
Ron Eggert, left, and Dwaine Glasenapp look out over one of the tennis courts at Hastings High School, where they play once a week. They have been playing in the Rivertown Days tennis tournament for nearly 30 years - almost as long as the tournament has been part of the annual summer festival.
There was an easy lightheartedness between Ron Eggert and Dwight Glasenapp as the two long-time friends looked over a vacant tennis court at Hastings High School and recounted tales of their tennis life.
Eggert, a Hastings resident, and Glasenapp, a former Hastings resident now living in St. Paul, are the oldest competitors in the Rivertown Days tennis tournament. Both men turned 75 this year. Eggert and Glasenapp met right around 1967, when Glasenapp moved into a house around the corner from Eggert's home, then near Pioneer Park.
"It turned out that we had similar interests, particularly in the sporting areas," Glasenapp said. They joined several sports together - softball, volleyball, tennis and running, primarily. In 1977, the two celebrated their 40th birthdays by running 40 miles in one week. They played tennis in a rainstorm once, too, they said. As they aged, naturally, they left some sports behind. But they didn't give up all their activity.
They still play in the Rivertown Days tennis tournament every year as a doubles team, and get together to play golf as well. It's a matter of staying active, Glasenapp said. It doesn't matter what a person does, as long as he or she finds something to enjoy and engage in every day, he said. Glasenapp and Eggert have been playing in the annual tournament nearly since its beginning 34 years ago.
While early on they played tennis enthusiasts around the age of their children, these days they find themselves playing people in the same age category of their grandchildren. There's only one time Eggert can remember playing an older doubles team - and that was 20 years ago. Eggert laughed when asked how the younger players react to them on the court. "If they're really young, they may be feeling sorry for us," he said. "They really don't take you seriously," Glasenapp added. It doesn't really matter, though, who they see across the net. They're just there to play. "As long as we can stay upright and remember whose turn it is to serve and remember the score, we don't care who we play," Glasenapp said. No matter how their younger opponents look at them, Eggert and Glasenapp compete as best they can and try to enjoy the company of their opponents, they said.
The tournament to them is more about tradition than trying to win. "Our interest is greater than our competitiveness," Glasenapp said. They've tried to participate every year, although some years they were unable to due to scheduling conflicts.
Their games always draw a crowd. "For the tournament they usually have a decent size group of fans in lawn chairs watching," said Rachel Simec, president of the Hastings Womens Tennis League. "I personally love seeing Ron and Dwaine play every year," Simec said. " It really shows that tennis is a lifelong sport."
Neither Eggert nor Glasenapp claim to be especially good at tennis. "When we play, sometimes the net just gets in the way," Glasenapp said. And while Glasenapp plays fairly regularly, Eggert rarely practiced. "Until this year, it was the only tennis that I played," he said of the Rivertown Days tournament. This year, they met another doubles pair around the same age and have been playing about once a week since February, so this year he's not likely to be quite as "rusty" as he's been in previous years. They don't have any intention of quitting any time soon, either. As long as they can still physically get out on the courts, they'll probably be taking part in the tournament, Eggert said. "We might get to the point where we ask people to hit the ball right to us," Glasenapp joked.
Stories With so many years of experience behind them, Eggert and Glasenapp have plenty of stories. One year, they played a couple of high-school-aged boys who consistently let their feet step inside the court boundary while serving. Glasenapp started calling them on the fault, and soon found himself dodging balls. "A couple of shots came back really hard at him," Eggert said, chuckling. Another time, a team from Red Wing called them out on the rules of the game. Rather than letting an obviously long shot go, Glasenapp caught the ball in his hand. Because he had touched the ball, however, the Red Wing team demanded the point, even though it was clearly out of bounds. A few years ago, Eggert watched his teammate play in a singles match. Glasenapp explained that he generally tries to hit to his opponent's backhand, because it's usually the weaker side. It wasn't until partway through the match that Eggert pointed out that Glasenapp's opponent was left-handed, and that Glasenapp was consistently hitting the ball to his stronger forehand. "I can't help it," Glasenapp had replied. "That's where the ball wants to go!" They're both hoping that the weather this year is a little more cooperative than in past years. The tournament falls in what are consistently the hottest weeks of the year. Last year, instead of playing the usual 10 pro sets, the Hastings Women's Tennis League, which hosts the event every year, cut it back to eight pro sets to keep players from risking any health problems due to the heat. Glasenapp noted how well the league manages the event each year. "Hats off to them for doing this the entire length of time," he said.