“Getting There”: Arkansas Takes Third at Nationals

After four matches in two days, I asked Greg about his knee. “Getting there,” he said. Then he added: “that could be country song.” “We could end it in heaven,” I said. “We could write it right now in the kitchen.” We were already in Surprise, Arizona. We had qualified for the Sunday semifinals.

Johnny Johnson and Greg Fess in action. In a deciding match tiebreaker for the entire team against Florida, they came from behind 4-8 to win it and help Arkansas get to the semifinals.

Getting there from Arkansas and its cities: Bella Vista, Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Little Rock. Getting there from the childhoods and adulthoods of Guadalajara and Germany, of North Carolina and Northern California. Getting there driving over a thousand miles through the ice and sleet of early February, police searching the streets for abandoned cars. Flights were cancelled. A few lives, too.

Doug Stursma and David Linebarger celebrating after a match. They went 3-0 in matches and won a couple of key tiebreakers.

Getting there because we were not trapped inside one of our brothers’ nightmares: 11 months attached to a Covid ventilator.  Getting there because we could breathe. Getting there because we could walk and run and play in the sun. Getting there because we said yes when asked.

Victor Palafox (standing) and Bill Bodie share words and a smile while Chuck Henry, an old teammate of Victor’s from college, looks on. Victor put the team together and was a fantastic captain. Bill had a key win against Florida in the third match. Chuck traveled from Tucson to watch us play. Was great to have him there.

Getting there hell I mean heaven we were already there. The bright sun of Surprise, men and women at their pastoral games of play.  65-year-old children. Children of wisdom, prolonging childhood. Getting there, or were we already there.

The Arkansas 65 and over 9.0 team from Right to Left: Bill Ashley, John Bailey, Johnny Johnson, Greg Fess, Victor Palafox (captain), Doug Stursma, Bill Bodie, David Linebarger

Congrats to the team from Northern California who won the 65 and over 9.0 division. They were clearly the class of the field. For the story of how Arkansas won Southerns to get to Nationals, click here: Waffle House, Redemption, and a Shot of Bailey’s

All photos above taken from the fantastic USTA page of photographs from this event. There’s over 1,000 action photographs of participants here. For more on this event, click here: USTA League: 65 and Over USTA Invitational in Surprise, Arizona.

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7 replies on ““Getting There”: Arkansas Takes Third at Nationals”

Congratulations David. We tracked your success online each day after we finally got home from the ice-storm in Dallas. Keep it up. Your smile is brighter than your shoes!

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