Young by Name – Young at Heart

Devoted tennis player Henry Young, just seven months shy of his 100th birthday celebrations, has a cheeky grin when asked the secret to his longevity.

The Glenelg-born 99-year-old claims it is his stock answer when he responds: “wholesome thoughts and no fast women”, and then laughs as is his affable way.

Young is quick to add he and his wife of 73 years, Madge, drink four two-litre cartons of Iced Coffee each week.  “I find it extraordinary that I’m still playing at my age,” he said. “But I love tennis, it is a big part of my life in my retirement years.

“What are you going to do when you retire? You can vegetate, or you can enjoy yourself, and I love playing with all of my tennis friends at Memorial Drive.

“I’m incredibly lucky. As I keep telling everyone, I’m getting better and better because all my peers are dying round me.”

Young will become a centenarian in September, a month before he takes the court as the oldest competitor in the Australian Masters Games in Adelaide.

Tennis has been his passion since retiring at 70, recalling the day he drove past the Memorial Drive Tennis Club and responded to a billboard seeking “good tennis players”.

As a schoolboy he played the sport, and for 12 months while working in a bank. His racquets had to be cast aside, however, when he became a spitfire pilot with the British and Australian navies during and after World War II.

Then there were the demanding years on his farm near Keith when work was the sole focus because the “banks were on my back”. These days he is on the court four times a week and his enthusiasm refuses to wane.

“I’m a competitive person,” Young said. “I suppose that’s why I like tennis because every game is a battle. “It’s one of those nice battles where you can win or lose, and the ones you enjoy the most are the ones which are the hardest fought. I love that competitive aspect.

“When I first saw that billboard outside Memorial Drive Tennis Club, I bluffed my way in and tried my luck. The rest is history.”

Young has already been in the global tennis spotlight this year, having had the pleasure of playing the “Clash of the Centurions” at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Together with 98-year-old Ukraine champ Leonid Stanislafsky, they hit up with the world’s tennis greats on centre court at Rod Laver Arena  “As I walked out fifteen thousand people applauded,” this moment Young says, is etched on his memory forever.

“It is every tennis player’s dream to walk along that tunnel underneath the grandstand,” he said. “You have all the greats of tennis on both sides and it was an awesome experience.

Young considers himself a role model for longevity, a scenario in which he thrives. “I love my retirement years,” he says with conviction. “I retired at 70 and given my time again, I would retire at 65 because I love it so much.

“And I love my tennis.”

Story Warren Partland

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