They are school teachers and executives, authors and UPS drivers, but more than anything, the 40- and 50-somethings who gather three days a week at the Eckerd College gym never stopped being basketball players.
Ever since high school and beyond, guys such as Roy Sachse, Dave Bastian, John Johnson and Jim Sweeney have remained competitive in a sport that favors younger legs.
Those four and teammates James Henderson, Anthony Iciafano, Carl Jordan, Greg Wolf, Jeff Seeley and Jim Grandholm competed in the U.S. Masters Basketball Championship on May 11-17 in Coral Springs. The team, sponsored by Roto Rooter of Cincinnati, won the 45-49 age group national championship. It qualified for the Federation of International Masters Basketball Association World Championships in 2009 in Prague.
"I was tired and sore," said Bastian, 47, a CPA in Tampa. "It took me a number of days before I felt normal again. But it sure was fun."
To win, the team had to play five games during the tournament. It defeated Roy's Sports Bar of Margate 85-78 in the championship. Winning the tournament wasn't a fluke. Despite their increasing years, most of the players still play pickup games regularly. And in their prime, most were highly competitive.
Sachse, 48, is 6-6 and played at Eastern Illinois. He is known as "Big Roy" and is the unofficial captain of the pickup games at Eckerd College on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
"Roy is one of those guys, he doesn't score a lot of points, but he does the things that make you win," Bastian said. "I call him 'The Hub.' He sets picks, passes well, rebounds well."
Sachse, who teaches middle school physical education, survived a scare in 1990 when he was diagnosed with a low heartbeat. He has worn a pacemaker ever since to keep his heart rate steady.
"I was told by my doctor that I could resume doing what I've been doing," Sachse said. "The problem was when I was resting. Once I get my heart rate up, it's no problem."
Bastian played at USF in 1980-84 and is a former World Hoop-It-Up champion. He is the new coach at Wharton High in Tampa. Johnson, 49, played at Michigan, with the Boston Celtics and played in Europe for 10 years. He lives in Palm Harbor.
Sweeney, 50, played at Boston College and now lives in Clearwater. Grandholm, 48, is a former center at USF and spent time in the NBA and in Europe. He now lives in Michigan. And Henderson, 49, was an All-American at Division II Birmingham Southern and now lives in Gainesville.
The other players on the team live in the Midwest and are flown to Coral Springs every year for the national tournament by Roto Rooter.
"It's the love of the game that keeps us going," Sweeney said. "We're just aging guys who still love to play."
Sweeney pulled double duty in the tournament. He played on a 50-and-older team as well.
"I did the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life and tried to play in two divisions at the same time," Sweeney said. "I could barely walk by the end of the week."
Sweeney said most of the team is on board for the trip to Prague. Their sponsor, Roto Rooter, will pay for the trip. Until then, they will gather at Eckerd College for friendly pickup games and try to stay in shape.
"We play regularly, but for guys our age group, we're very fortunate that we're still healthy," Sweeney said. "We have a certain degree of competitiveness remaining."
Shipwatch Yacht and Tennis Club held a one-on-one doubles tournament May 31. Donna Roberts won the women's open championship. Dick Armstrong was the men's 3.5 title, and Wendall Walker won the men's 4.0 title.
The County Golf Association held a tournament Monday at Crescent Oaks. Ernie Muschner won the regular gross championship with 75. Chris Gamble was the net champion with 65. Bobby Kilgore (72) was the senior gross champion. George Leone (67) was the senior net champ.
Holes-in-One: Largo's Millie Hohenforst aced the 75-yard 11th hole at Largo Municipal Golf Course on May 26 using a 7-iron. Clearwater's Vincent Majhut aced the 115-yard 17th hole on May 26 using a 9-iron. Hope Dogli aced the par-3 16th hole at the Bayou Club with a 7-iron. It was her first hole-in-one. If you would like to report a hole-in-one, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
The Galactics Football Club in Clearwater has qualified for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which begins Tuesday in Charlotte. The team faces the Charlotte Eagles of the USL second division. The Galactics were the U.S. Adult Soccer Association's national champion this season. The U.S. Open Cup is open to all soccer clubs in the nation. It is contested all summer, with the final scheduled for Aug. 26.
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)