Denise Lott and Sandy Casale
Recently, Earl Schalin, a Sun Lakes veteran senior tennis player at age 86, along with his partner, Vern Larson, age 87, from Tacoma, Washington, entered the National Senior Indoor Tournament in Vancouver, Washington. They reached the finals and after a very close match, took home the silver ball award for second place.
To understand this achievement, Earl explained that each year the USTA holds four adult National Tournaments as well as numerous Regional Categories One, Two and Three tournaments for every five age divisions. The further a player gets in each tournament (like quarters, semis and finals) the more points the player earns. National Tournaments award the most points. What counts for ranking purposes is how far you get in a tournament, not whom you beat.
What made this award even more remarkable is that Earl had to take off from tournaments for the last five years due to medical conditions. This was his first tournament match after those five years.
As a senior player, he was nationally and/or regionally ranked almost every year until this past five-year hiatus. His best national ranking was No. 4 in doubles and No. 10 in singles. Regionally (southwest region) he had been ranked No. 1 in singles, doubles and mixed (with Beverly, his wife) many times. One year Jim Norman, also a Sun Lakes resident, and he obtained a National ranking of No. 6 in senior doubles.
During these past few years, while dealing with herniated discs, Earl took up Pickleball where he could do an underhand serve. He found that Pickleball did not take away anything from his tennis game. Actually, Pickleball improved his watching of the ball, which later improved his watching of the tennis ball. Pickleball also helped him regain his muscle memory for tennis.
Pickleball was so exciting for Earl that he decided to play some tournaments. Since it is very easy to incorporate tennis experience into Pickleball, he immediately had considerable success. Within three years, he won the National 85 singles and 80 doubles championships. The National Pickleball Tournament this year had over 600 entries in all the age divisions combined.