| By Steve Haar

Who says tennis is a young man's game? As the saying goes, “Tennis is a lifetime sport,” and Charlie Hurme of Huntington Station N.Y. is living proof. Charlie will be 97 in November and still plays three or four times a week. His accomplishments on the court over the past 77 years are remarkable, and he is still going strong.

Charlie grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where tennis was not the most popular kid’s sport. Street games like stickball and stoop ball ruled the day. All of his friends excelled in other sports, so Charlie took up tennis so that none of his friends could compete with him. Although Charlie never took a lesson, he eventually taught kids and adults for many years.
Charlie married a girl who became a travel agent, so he would travel with her, playing in local matches. Moving from Brooklyn to New Jersey to Long Island in 1960, Charlie could always find a game.
As a late bloomer (he first picked up a racquet at the age of 20), Charlie didn't begin playing in tournaments until he was in his 60s. His initial results were less than favorable, earning the nickname of “Consolation Charlie.” After two years, he moved up in finishes and at about the age of 70, began a long period of great winning accomplishments that lasted for more than 20 years.
His best year was in 2003 when he won the national title in 90s singles and 90s doubles and was ranked number two nationally in singles in the 90s and in the top 10 in the 90s for many years. He also won the 95s in doubles.
As with all of us tennis players, we hopefully learn from our victories as well as our defeats and Charlie’s matches with Gardiner Malloy improved the pace and depth of his serve. He is also very proud of being listed along with great champions of the past, having won the senior 80s doubles in 1994 at Longwood Cricket Club in Boston.
As we all know, injuries are part of the game and Charlie’s last injury was, in some ways, helpful to his game. Six years ago (yes at the age of 91), Charlie was windsurfing at Club Med and a gust of wind caused a rotator cuff shoulder injury. Charlie’s serve went underhand for a year during his recovery and was so effective that it is still part of his serve game today.
These days, finding a singles game in his age group (he stopped playing singles at 95) is almost impossible, so Charlie plays lots of doubles. His love for the game after 77 years is so apparent and he still gets a kick out of making non-returnable shots. Charlie’s advice to us “youngsters” is to, “Play in your age group, enjoy the game, and stay healthy.” The best parts of his game according to Charlie … “Keeping the ball in play, hand-switching, volleying, court movement and a killer drop shot.”
Most recently, Charlie received an invitation to sit in the President's Box at the U.S. Open, three years in a row. Wouldn't it be wonderful to invite him back for his 100th?
 
Steve Haar

<p>Steven Haar is a member of the United States Tennis Association/Long Island Region Board and PTR teaching professional. He may be reached by e-mail at steveoncourt@aol.com.</p>