For these Riverhead seniors, tennis never gets old

03/25/2016 6:00 AM |

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Around 25 years ago, the Sandy Pond Tennis Association became so popular that matches were played with an unconventional three players per side to ensure members spent more time playing than they did sitting. 

Today, the group has dwindled to six members: five men and a woman. But they still play triples matches — more so out of necessity than anything else. After all, their oldest player is 93.

“It cuts down on the running a lot so older senior citizens can keep playing and enjoying tennis,” said Bob DeCandido of Riverhead, 80, who been playing with the group for at least a decade.

Bob Jones, the club’s most senior member, help found the association more than 40 years ago with Harold Goodale, Pierre Lundberg, Howard Finkelstein and Avery Young.

“A lot of guys wanted to play tennis in the afternoon rather than just on the weekends,” said Mr. Jones, who is 93 and lives in Riverhead. “And some people had jobs that they could do that.”

Sandy Pond’s remaining members hope to reinject some energy into the group by recruiting new players. Mr. DeCandido, who recently began hanging fliers at local libraries and senior centers, said three-on-three games work well but fall apart if someone can’t attend a match.

“We’re looking to increase so that we can have more continuous play and also to insert some new blood in the outfit because we’re losing members,” he said.

Ed Bucholz, 92, of Riverhead, said the camaraderie is his favorite part of belonging to the Sandy Pond Tennis Association.

“I enjoy the guys who play with me and I enjoy playing tennis,” he said. “That’s about it.”

Members play at the Westhampton Tennis Bubble during the winter months, but plan to be back at the Sandy Pond tennis court in Riverhead by mid-April, Mr. DeCandido said. The group plays Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:30 p.m.

Players don’t need to be advanced to join, but an understanding of the rules of tennis is required.

Mr. DeCandido began playing in high school and continued to do so intermittently until he became a member of Sandy Pond. He said one of his favorite aspects of the sport is the exercise, which he considers more enjoyable than being “bored to death” peddling a stationary bike.

Mr. Jones said he began playing as a child in the 1930s, but had to stop once he got a full-time job and served in World War II. Despite this, he never lost his love of the game.

“If [someone has] played tennis and feels they’ve outgrown it, don’t be fooled,” he said. “You don’t outgrow it.”

Anyone interested in joining the Sandy Pond Tennis Association can reach out to Mr. DeCandido by calling 631-722-8037 or emailing [email protected].

Photo Caption: Senior tennis players (from left) Bob Jones, 93; Ed Bucholz, 92; and Bob DeCandido, 79, at Sandy Pond Golf Course in Riverhead last year. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

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