ST. GEORGE - As the first week of the 2012 Huntsman World Senior Games gets underway, the eyes of local tennis fans will be drawn to Earl Morgan and Ron Boone as they seek to defend their gold in men’s 75-79 doubles.
By anyone’s standards, Morgan is a remarkably active 77-year-old. He rises at dawn on a typical weekday to make breakfast for his teenage sons, Jonathan and Matthew. Once they are off to school, he seldom has a moment to catch his breath in between errands, appointments and chores at his Santa Clara Heights home. And whenever he can, he puts in some time on the tennis court to hone the skills that have won him 15 Huntsman World Senior Games medals.
Morgan first heard about the Games through friends in 1997 and decided to enter. Since then, he has earned 3 gold, 6 silver and 6 bronze medals in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. He is the defending champion in men’s 75-79 doubles, along with partner Ron Boone.
A resident of Hurricane, 82-year-old Boone played baseball for a semi-professional team in California before taking up tennis. With nearly three decades of experience under his belt, he has showed himself to be a fierce competitor in both singles and doubles, with four gold medals total.
Morgan and Boone first met at a morning clinic at Tonaquint Tennis Center. Both were quick to identify the other as potential partner material.
“He still moves around pretty good, like myself,” Boone said. “And I knew he had experience (in the Games.)”
“Even though (he’s) older than most of our group, he’s one of the better players,” Morgan said.
Morgan was searching for a new partner after Ben Madsen, his former partner, succumbed to cancer in April 2011. They had played together for five years and won two golds; Madsen’s sudden diagnosis and passing came as a shock, as he had competed in the Games just months before.
Once they grew acquainted, Morgan and Boone played against each other in singles to spot mutual strengths and weaknesses. It didn’t take long for them to make the decision to partner up.
At the 2011 Games, the pair charged through their early matches, but faced heavy competition in the finals against the top-seeded Colorado team of John Doidge and Chuck Vidal. They weathered a tense third set, eventually emerging with the victory; Boone also scored a bronze medal in the 80-84 singles.
“I was really proud that we beat them,” he said. “When you beat a great team it gives you confidence.”
Though pleased by their hard-earned win, the taste of gold was bittersweet for Morgan. He had stood atop the podium with Madsen only a year before, fully expecting that they would both return. There is a valuable lesson, he said, that can be learned from his partner’s sudden passing.
“We always get news that someone won’t be coming due to health issues or even worse, that they are not with us anymore,” he said. “(I myself) am now only in one event due to injuries, but (being able to participate in the Games) means that I’m staying relatively healthy and hopefully will live a few more years. It’s more than just another tennis event to me.”
Morgan and Boone were in fine form at their first matches on Monday. Boone defeated his singles competition 6-2, 6-2, then joined his partner that afternoon for a quick 6-1, 6-1 victory. They will keep battling it out for the rest of the week, aiming to reach the Thursday and Friday finals.
Morgan will be chasing a gold three-peat, his second with Boone. Both agree that having last year’s win under their belts provides a boost of confidence, but they can’t let it distract them.
“I don’t dare lose,” Morgan said. “He gets cranky.”
Regardless of the outcome, however, Boone said that he just wants to enjoy his time on the court and Morgan’s company.
“It’s hard to find a good partner and we’ve built a nice friendship,” he said. “The Games are good for seniors to continue making friends and enjoying sports.”
For a detailed schedules on tennis and other sports, visit the official website of the Games.
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Copyright St. George News, 2012, all rights reserved.