LANCASTER - Wherever Ethan Lasure is going in tennis, Jim Baughman has probably already been there.
If there is one sport where a retiree and a high school student can coexist, it is tennis, a sport that Lasure got his start in just a couple of years ago and not long after Baughman restarted his game after a decades-long layoff.
“I hope I can move around like that when I’m 70,” Lasure said.
Baughman is actually 73, and he’s getting around just fine. He returned to tennis a few years ago after some 50 years away from the game.
“Tennis is advertised as being a sport for a lifetime, and it is,” Baughman said. “I turned 70 and I started playing again.”
Lasure may come to a better understanding of that in a few years or a few decades, but now he is very near the beginning of his tennis life. He has played for only about two years, though he said tennis has quickly become his favorite sport, and the tournament at Garrard Middle School was his first.
“It was close by, and I wanted to see if I could do anything,” said Lasure said.
Now in its seventh year, the tourney has become popular with players from this area and with others from central and eastern Kentucky who play the Mountain Tennis Circuit, where it is the fourth of 16 events on the summer schedule.
The tournament was started as a fundraiser for the Garrard County High School boys tennis team, but Will Stevens, a former Garrard player who runs the tournament with wife Joanna, said it can now generate money for both the Garrard boys and girls.
“We’re able to contribute to the boys and girls teams now because of it being so successful,” he said.
This year’s field had about 80 players and 120 entries — many played both singles and doubles — in 16 divisions.
Not surprisingly, Baughman didn’t have as much competition as Lasure. The only other player in the men’s 70 singles division was Tom Harper of Wilmore, a former Asbury College coach whom he defeated in straight sets for the championship. In contrast, Lasure was one of nine players in the boys 15 singles bracket.
“The younger divisions have a lot of people playing. At my age it becomes a survival of the fittest, and whomever can get out of his wheelchair quicker,” Baughman said.
The Baughman-Harper match lacked the power and speed that the younger players displayed, but the players weren’t lacking when it came to skilled shot-making or to the court savvy that comes with experience, such as the knowledge of how to deal with the stiff wind that was blowing.
“Experience adjusts to the wind, whereas the younger players have a tough time,” Baughman said.
Lasure, who will be a sophomore at Lincoln County High School, went 1-1 in his division, then headed to Lexington on Sunday to attend a University of Kentucky tennis camp.
He had already gotten some free advice from a former Kentucky player in Baughman, who played for the Wildcats from 1956-58. The first lesson came earlier this month when the two met for a match.
“He goes to my church, and he wanted to play with me for a long time,” Lasure said. “We played two weeks ago, and he gave me a lot of advice. He beat me pretty bad, but he kept giving me advice.”
Lasure said he won only one game in three sets with Baughman, but he was grateful for the chance to learn some things. He went out of his way to do some more studying Saturday, dropping in on Baughman’s match even though his own match was still a couple of hours away. And after Baughman finished his match, he stopped to talk and offer Lasure a little advice.
“He’s kind of a comer,” Baughman said.
Baughman remembers what that’s like. He played for Stanford High School in the 1950s — his father built the first tennis court in Stanford — winning several regional titles both in singles and in doubles with older brother Henry, even though his school didn’t have a team.
“We’d just see in the paper they were going to have a regional tournament and we went and played,” Baughman said.
Baughman said he usually plays doubles in tournaments with his brother, a member of the Kentucky Tennis and United States Tennis Association Southern Tennis halls of fame who was competing in Carmel, Ind., this weekend at the Midwest Clay Court Championships.
“I¿just try to keep it in flight until he puts it away,” Jim Baughman said. “I’m only doing singles (at Garrard), and I¿don’t do singles much.”
He said he typically plays about four tournaments a year and seldom plays in between them.
“You take ibuprofen when it’s over and spend a week recovering,”¿he said.