© Juan Ocampo/USTA
© Juan Ocampo/USTA
Hippies And Hurricanes
Who would have thought that a friendship between Sam Hopkins and Burt Gabbert, spawned at the University of Texas in 1969, would be thriving and going strong on the tennis courts nearly four decades later at the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler 3.0 Senior National Championships…with a little hippy flair.
Hopkins and Gabbert met while both attended graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin. The two became instant tennis partners and have been playing together ever since. The thing that has carried over in their near half-century friendship is their love of tie-dye t-shirts. Gabbert, the true hippy, got it all started with his collection of psychedelic inspired shirts.
Back in 2000, the duo decided to break out the lively shirts for some matches and after finding much success, they made it a full-time accessory. They turned some heads in their east Texas town, as it was on the conservative side.
“The shirts put men off, but to the women they are chick magnets,” noted Hopkins.
Over the years, players have come and gone, but besides Hopkins and Gabbert the constant theme has always been the shirts.
Unfortunately, the duo and the rest of their team have had some bad luck run its course. The men from Tyler, ranging from 50- to 69-years-old, have had to suffer through two hurricanes, Rita and Ike.
“This year we only suffered wind damage, but we were without power for three days,” said Hopkins.
Luckily, a pattern formed after Rita ran its course in the Gulf Coast in 2005. The team managed to turn their weather misfortunes into success on the courts by appearing in its first national event in Tucson, Ariz. The storm did wreak havoc on the members travel, as some were able to catch flights to the event, while others had to make a 1,300-mile jaunt in cars.
The tie-dyes took on a greater significance in Tucson, as the rotation of the design looked similar to that of a hurricane.
Just like in 2005, the team suffered through Ike earlier this year, but found its way right back to the final leg of the tennis journey, this time in Las Vegas.
The team also picked up the title of winning the “Triple Crown of Texas”, as they were champions of the adults, senior and super-senior divisions.
This year’s team began with eight members, but one had to drop out as he was unable to travel and a second left due to promotion.
“The team that is here is actually a super-senior team. We still have sectionals to play and hopefully, we will be back in Tucson in the Spring of 2009.”
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