By JUSTIN RAINS
What began as a simple, fun way to stay in shape has turned into a bit of a specialty for one Palestine resident.
In fact, to call it a specialty may be a bit of an undersell.
That’s because, with her play earlier this month at the USTA Super Senior Nationals, Palestine’s own Scarlet Drane proved that she’s one of the best senior tennis players in the country.
Drane, along with her partner Lee Ann Pittard, of Tyler, won the doubles’ title at the national tournament, held in Surprise, Ariz.
“It means we’re the best senior women’s double team at our level in the entire country,” Drane said
Her win helped clinch the overall club title for her team, based out of Tyler’s Holly Tree Country Club. The team, which advanced to nationals after winning the Texas sectional in New Braunfels, went a perfect six-for-six at the national tournament.
The victory didn’t come without its challenges.
Things like an oppressive Arizona heat placed a strain on the event competitors, including forcing some to retire from matches early.
But, not the Texans.
“At my age, how many old ladies do you know that play tennis in the 120-degree heat?” Drane asked. “It was amazing. I could not believe that we were actually that good.”
The team based out of Holly Tree only began competitive play last year, when they were bounced at the local level.
For many of the women — Drane and Piettard are joined on the squad by Jerrilyne M. Roberson, Johnetta Thompson, Karen Cook and Kathy Cox — playing tennis began as a sort of social event.
Drane and her husband Charles became members at Holly Tree when they moved to Palestine in 2006, when Drane began to play with her new teammates.
“We did it for fun, we did it for exercise, we did it to have lunch after,” Scarlet said. “(It was) that sort of fun.”
It’s still a sort of social event, though with more competition.
Drane said she’s made “so many really good friends” through tennis, and that included on the recent trip to Arizona.
“We met women from all over the country and everyone of them was so nice,” she said, adding that “the facilities were amazing, beautiful and well-attended to.”
Drane said she’s played tennis for years, beginning in her 40s when she and Charles lived in Tampa, Fla. She continued the sport even when they moved to North Carolina.
But, it was never a competitive thing. In fact, it wasn’t even her full-time sport.
“I’ve played a little bit, then I’d play golf awhile, then I’d go back to playing tennis again,” she said.
She said she didn’t start “really playing seriously” until the move to Texas.
Now, that seriousness and hard work has paid off, turning Drane into a national champion.
“I’m still pinching myself,” she said. “I can hardly believe that we did this. It’s just amazing, at my age, to do something like that.
“When you put your mind to it, you eat right and take care of yourself, you can do anything.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com