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The Old Gang Overcomes Obstacles to Reach Semifinals

By Melissa Pampulov, USTA.com

Indian Wells, Calif., -- Every team at the USTA League 4.0 Senior National Championships has had to overcome obstacles to get here. 

However, the Texas section men’s team, which is known as, “The Old Gang,” overcame more than their share of obstacles, to reach Sunday’s semifinals.

On May 30, 1998, team member Frank Carpenter of Dallas was severly hurt in a work-related accident when he caught his shoe in a Ditch Witch trenching machine. 

“I was sucked under the machine and just as the blades made their first pass over my legs a co-worker stopped the machine in a nick of time,” said Carpenter. 

The industrial machine ended up tearing off the skin and muscle on his upper thighs and was a inch away from the major artery in his left leg. 

He spent 23 days in the hospital where he had to have extnesive skin grafts and muscle repair done.  Since he was in such good shape from tennis, Carpenter was back on the court after three months of rehab and fully playing the sport he loved again.

“The accident changed my perspective on life completely,” said Carpenter. “Every day is a happy day because I’m alive for one more.  I should have died that day and didn’t.  Life is good.”

An avid swing and country dancer before the accident, it took Carpenter a little longer to make it back on the dance floor. But after almost exactly six months, he made it back to the dance floor.

“I wore tennis shoes that night, took ity bity steps and inched along on the dance floor to make sure I wouldn’t fall,”  said Carpenter, who is an active proponent in developing ‘Shuffle Slide Dancing.’ 

“Don’t let those legs fool you,” commented his wife Brenda, “those are also the most wonderful dancing legs ever.” Since that night on the dance floor, Carpenter and his wife  have danced every weekend .

“Tennis is still my most passionate hobby and dance is my second.  The way things have developed, I’m probably a better dancer than a tennis player,” Carpenter said. “I enjoy life so much more because of tennis.  It’s such a wonderful lifetime sport.”

Besides the obstacles Carpenter has had to face, the rest of the Texas section men’s team has also had other ailments to deal with.

Team Captain Bud Thames had kidney cancer two years ago and had to have part of his kidney removed.  He is now cancer-free. 

Stephen Osbourne went through an emergeny proceedure just over a month ago to fix two stents in his conerary artery.  The following week he was on the tennis court with his team competing in state sectionals. 

Mike Fincher, who has severe psoriasis, wears gloves when he plays tennis to prevent damage to his hands. 

Bill Stetzer has a chronic back spasams and severe arthritis in his left knee, while Jeff Moore donated his kidney to a friend and plays with one kidney.

The Texas section senior men’s 4.0 team will play their semifinal match at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.

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