Sport for a lifetime: Now 74, David Hamilton sees no end to his tennis playing

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 20, 2013 

Dave Hamilton, Bellingham

Dave Hamilton, 74, smashes a shot as he plays doubles matches at Bellingham Tennis Club, in Fairhaven, on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in Bellingham. Hamilton started playinjg tennis at the age of 14 and still plays three times a week.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Name: David Hamilton.

Age: 74.

Home: Originally from Massachusetts, Hamilton now lives in Bellingham.

Family: Wife Carolyn, two daughters and two grandchildren, with one more on the way.

Senior Olympian: As an avid traveler and fierce competitor, Hamilton knows how to have fun while staying active. He has a stack of medals - bronze, silver and gold - from competing in the Washington State Senior Games, a multi-sport Olympic style event held in the Olympia area.

His events of choice: high jump, standing long jump and his true love, tennis.

Low-key start: Hamilton began playing tennis when he was 14, but he didn't compete seriously in high school or while in college at Yale. After getting married and moving to California he began playing tennis outdoors.

He really became hooked on the sport when he moved next door to a tennis club on Mercer Island. After retiring from his job as an architect 12 years ago, Hamilton and his wife moved to Bellingham.

"When we were looking for a place we checked out the tennis club first," Hamilton says. "So I knew that was going to be a nice place to play."

Tennis and more tennis: Hamilton schedules double matches at Bellingham Tennis Club with friends every Monday and Wednesday, and tries to play a singles match at least once a week.

"The days I don't have a match I'm either kayaking or on the treadmill," he says. "I try and do something to stay active every day."

On weekends, Hamilton competes in the United States Tennis Association's league for seniors, where players compete in age levels of five-year increments. Hamilton says not a lot of people compete in USTA from Bellingham because of the distance necessary to travel to tournaments.

Rankings are established by points earned from winning matches. The more tournaments a player plays, the more opportunities he or she has to beat their opponents, meaning the more opportunities for points.

In 2011, Hamilton competed in several tournaments, playing a total of 10 matches. He was ranked eighth in his skill and age level for the Northwest, which covers Washington, Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia.

Hamilton has been captain of a 70-plus age team, which qualified for sectionals in Sun River, Ore., three times. Now he captains a 65-plus team, and also competes on a 40-plus team.

ANOTHER PASSION

Hamilton hasn't competed in tennis tournaments this year as much as before because of his new passion, a library in Sudden Valley.

After the project's head architect was unable to complete the plan to remodel Sudden Valley's retired horse barn, Hamilton took over the task. It has been a time-consuming process for him, learning new computer programs and familiarizing himself with updated building codes that have changed since he stopped practicing a dozen years ago.

Hamilton hasn't been afraid to get his hands dirty to help out, too. He has volunteered for the construction team, helping to dig ditches and to install insulation and wallboard.

"I feel like all of us involved are really contributing to the community," he says. "That's really satisfying."

ALWAYS TIME FOR TENNIS

Hamilton says tennis is a great way for seniors to stay active, even if they are new to the sport.

"For people in their 60s and 70s who have never played, it's not too late to start," he says. "You can still get into it and have a good time with it."

Properly learning the basics is the most important step when becoming a tennis player, he says, because starting out with bad habits can hinder a player's ability to improve.

Bellingham Tennis Club has players ranging from beginner to advanced, so people can compete against people with the same skill level.

Some of the players that Hamilton competes with and against have had their knees or hips replaced, and while Hamilton admits that it affects their ability to "scramble" a bit, they're still players to be reckoned with.

For himself, Hamilton gives no hint of quitting tennis anytime soon, noting that there are players at the club in their late 70s to early 80s who still play competitively.

"I want to stay healthy for as long as I can, and I think tennis is a great activity for that," Hamilton says. "It's a lifetime sport, that's why I love it."

Sara Welsh is a freelance writer in Bellingham.

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