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Some kind of racket

Local men prove tennis has no age limit

Posted: December 29, 2009 9:22 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Ed Jace, 88, left, and Thor Jorgensen, 86, in red hat, celebrated their birthdays surrounded by their tennis buddies at Valencia Glen Park on Tuesday. The group meets five days a week to play tennis.

 
On his 88th birthday on Tuesday, Ed “The Legend” Jace played tennis with surprising speed and stamina.

“He’s playing like he’s 80,” 46-year-old Rolo Lopez said with a laugh.

Wearing a black hat that reads “Caution slow moving senior,” Jace jogged around the court. On the front of his hat was a red light reflector. On the side, a black horn that he honks every time he scores a point.

“I want to win,” said his opponent Thor Jorgensen, who turned 86 on Monday.

For the last decade, the two World War II veterans and several others have regularly played at the Valencia Glen tennis courts. On Jace’s special day, the 15 tennis devotees pitched in for a big birthday cake and champagne for both of the octogenarians.

Five days a week, the same group gathers at the courts to play a few sets. Some are lawyers, some are dentists and others are retired.

The group’s average age is about 65, said Jim “Scrub” Brush, who has been playing with the guys since 1972.

The games on the court aren’t always as important as the light-hearted heckling that takes place on the sidelines.

Each player has a nickname — “Spin doctor,” “Haus” and “The Roadrunner,” to name a few.

Their age is a constant source of entertainment.

“We argue all the time over the ball. Is it in or out?” Juan “Jubbie” Aria said. “It’s not because we want to cheat; it’s because we can’t see.”    

The group popped bottles of champagne that spilled onto the courts and ate a cake that was blanketed with 30 candles.

“If we had any more, we would have started a bonfire,” Brush said.

The birthday boys joked that blowing out so many candles took a physical toll.

“We blew out the candles in one breath,” Jorgensen said. “Now I’m going to pass out.”

Jorgensen, who retired about 20 years ago, has been playing tennis for most of his life. His friends call him the “Viking god of tennis.”

To maintain his speed and power, Jorgensen said he eats salmon every day. Before he goes to sleep, he does 25 pushups, pull-ups and lunges.

He demonstrated his lunge technique on the tennis court: He bent his legs into a near-crouch and bobbed up and down.

Jace has been playing tennis since his early 20s, he said.

He joined the group around 1983 when he moved to Santa Clarita from Chicago.

Bad weather has never deterred him from playing his favorite game, he said. If he wanted to play tennis on his birthday in the Midwest, he would have to shovel snow off the tennis court, he said.

“We’re all gung-ho here,” Jace said. “Playing in bad weather is when tennis is most fun.”

On Tuesday, however, the weather was fine. And Jace defeated his opponent twice.

Lopez, the youngest member of the group, was impressed with how physical the games were.

“(For them) to still be running and hitting the ball around is amazing,” Lopez said. “They’ve got a lot of spunk.”

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