USTA Pacific Northwest | February 1, 2020
Tom (71) and Barb Hickey (74) have been happily married for over 46 years. What is their secret? Tennis! Tom and Barb are known to play tennis regularly. They are avid league players who participate in several Southwest Washington (and sometimes Northwest Washington) adult and mixed leagues, no matter the age level. "Tennis is a lifetime and family sport," Barb says.
The couple both owe their tennis start at young ages to their mothers. Tom’s mom started teaching him the ropes at about 7 years of age. His mom played well into her nineties, his dad played for Princeton University, and his whole family, including a pro and several 5.0 players, currently play in USTA leagues. Barb’s mom, although not a player herself, decided Barb was too “bookish” and needed to get out more. She and her friend were given racquets by their mothers at age 13 (Barb still has that wood Slazenger) and a membership to a local clay court club to get out and play. ADVERTISEMENT Barb remembers the first time she played -- it was a weekend Club Round Robin populated by players much older than her-- who kindly included her in their match. Barb remembers thinking, “hey, I am pretty good at this!"—and the lifetime passion began.
Tom and Barb met in San Diego, where Barb was in graduate school for her PHD in the Physics of Oceanography and Tom was serving in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam War. Barb was a member of the Airplane Glider Club and Tom was into Photography, on a mission to take pictures of the gliders that fateful day. They hit it off immediately and have now been married for 46 years. They moved to Seattle following Barb obtaining a Professorship in Coastal Oceanography at the University of Washington, subsequently moving to a farm in Enumclaw, where they raised their two girls. Barb’s 40-year-long career highlights include becoming a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union as well as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. Barb was responsible for most of the studies of ocean currents offshore of the WA coast until she retired. Tom entered the UW Engineering School after moving to Seattle, pursuing a 20-year career with the City of Seattle, and later with the City of Enumclaw.
Barbara Wyatt, who nominated them for this Player Spotlight, said, "When they face opponents...Tom and Barb pull out the strategies and wisdom gained from playing as tennis partners (and married) for over 45 years...It is their love of life expressed on the tennis court that makes Tom and Barb so remarkable. If an opponent hits a solid shot past Barb, perhaps down the alley, she will nod her head, and say, 'That was a great shot.' If an opponent hits a solid lob over Tom, he will burst out laughing and shout, 'Well done, my friend.' If you want to play against solid opponents with enough experience to give you a great match and most likely win, add Tom and Barb to your list of favorite players. You'll have great tennis matches and enjoy outstanding sportsmanship."
The couple have maintained an extremely active lifestyle, including mountaineering, white water kayaking, flat water week-long Canadian canoe trips, horse-related activities such as wagon trains, ploughing demonstrations and parades (with their draft horse teams), trail riding, 4-H horse related activities with their two girls, scuba diving, sailing, jogging, and of course tennis several times a week.
Their best advice to tennis friends: Keep the strings dry and never stop moving!
*This story was written in combination by USTA PNW staff, Barb Hickey and Tom Stumpf
Do you have a story about a tennis captain, player, volunteer, team, etc. within your PNW community that you want to share with us? Tell us about it here, and we may share it in our future PNW E-Newsletter. Click HERE or fill out the form below to let us know