© Joe Murphy
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – With the high-level of play during this weekend’s USTA League 4.0 Senior National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, you are certain to see players make nearly impossible saves on shots that look like sure winners, but for one member of the Southwest Section men’s team, the most important save he makes takes place off the tennis court.
Larry Hincha, a 56-year-old resident of Chandler, Ariz., is a volunteer member of the Pinal County Search and Rescue (SAR) Posse. Composed of a close-knit, versatile volunteer group, the unit provides highly-effective Man-Tracking, K9 Search and Rescue for Pinal County and the state of Arizona.
The SAR Posse volunteers are skilled in wilderness first aid, orienteering and land navigation, technical rescue and desert survival. The Posse has safely and efficiently searched for overdue hikers and hikers who encounter wilderness related problems.
"Last year we had 52 rescues with well over 100 people and this year we’re up to 27 people," said Hincha who has been a member of the SAR Posse for the last eight years. According to Hincha, more than 80 percent of this team’s rescues occur in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, a rough, rugged mountain range located east of the Phoenix Metro area.
"I was born and raised in the Superstition Mountains and have been hiking there for 45 years," Hincha said. "It’s a very popular hiking part of the country. We get lots of (rescue) action. I would say we probably have more action than any other search and rescue team in the state of Arizona."
Hincha, who is also an ordained minister, calls the Superstition Mountains a "beautiful and amazing place." But he also says it is a place filled with danger due to the rough terrain and the rattlesnakes that are found there.
The long hours of training that Hincha and the rest of the volunteers put in pay huge dividends every time they make a successful rescue and save someone’s life.
"It’s truly amazing when you walk upon somebody that knows the peril they were in," Hincha said. "They’ve seen and thought about death and look upon you as a Godsend. The look in their eyes is truly amazing and the feeling inside for our rescuers is really amazing."
Hincha added, "It’s a lot of hard work, but we all feel we’ll get paid our due reward in the afterlife…maybe on the tennis courts this weekend," he joked.
Hincha estimates that he has been involved in more than 250 rescues in the last eight years.
"There is nothing like your first rescue. Every time is a unique experience. You relive it. It’s a good feeling. I’m a lucky person," he said.
The men’s Southwest team, which is playing in Flight 6, opened the USTA League 4.0 Senior National Championships, with a 2-1 loss to the men’s Northern California team.