Great Falls Tribune Sports, August 27, 2009
Selstad aces as he ages
It’s not unusual for Tom Selstad to shine as an athlete.
He has been a contender for titles throughout his life playing basketball, and football; won many handball matches, and hits the golf course twice a week.
Now, at age 82, he is a “come lately” tennis champ.
Recently, Selstad won the silver medal in the 80-84 Mens Tennis Singles at the Summer National Senior Games held on the Stanford University campus.
Selstad played seven matches (singles and doubles) in five days to reach the singles finals against Dr. Eyup Tanman, of Maryland.
Though he lost in two sets, getting that far in the competition was a high point in his life.
“It was really a thrill, I didn’t think that I would make it that far,” said Selstad, who had to extend his plane and hotel reservation for the final match.
A showcase for senior athletes, the Summer National Senior Games brings together thousands of 50 + men and women. This year, from August 1 – 15, over 10,000 participants, competing in twenty-five events, descended on Palo Alto, outside of San Francisco, for the competition.
To participate, men and women must first qualify at state and regional meets, also known as the Senior Olympics, by taking one of the top three spots in their event or by meeting minimum performance standards.
Selstad qualified a year ago at the state meet in Butte, for the national event.
Truth be known, it was Selstad’s fifth National Senior Games. He has qualified and played in the biennial event since 1997, reaching the quarterfinals twice.
Though the Selstad name is well known in tennis circles, it has been Tom’s son, Scott, and granddaughter, Samantha, who are usually in the spotlight.
Scott has been, and is, a Meadow Lark champion, and holds many state indoor and outdoor titles. Daughter, Samantha, a former local high school standout, played tennis on this year’s MSU Billings women’s team that for the first time ever qualified for the national competition in Division II.
Tom, toted Scott to tennis meets from the time he was eight years old, and even built a clay court for him to practice on.
According to Scott, he would hit with his dad, now and then.
However, Tom didn’t start playing tennis seriously until twenty years ago, at age 62.
When he decided to hit the courts, Scott gave him some advice on how to learn to play the game.
“You’re too old to have lessons, just have fun,” he said.
With that in mind, Tom watched what other people did on the court, and through the years, friends played the game with him. He does admit to a couple of instruction sessions, but doesn’t play with his son.
“Scott’s too good for me,” he laughs.
Tom Selstad graduated from Great Falls High School in 1945 with athletic scholarships to both MSU and UM. He went on to play basketball and football for UM lettering four years in basketball and three years in football. He has owned, and continues to operate, the Selstad Sod Farm, for fifty-five years.
A mild mannered, soft spoken, gentleman, the only big stick he carries is his WEED tennis racquet. He’s a vegetarian, takes no medication, and weighs five pounds less than he did in college.
His secret to longevity and athleticism is his stamina. He usually can outlast his opponent, yet, he admits, “I don’t heal up as fast as I used to.”
The “horrendous part” of his recent victory was some pulled quad muscles early in the competition.
Nevertheless, he just iced up, and continued playing.
Going over that final match where he lost the gold medal, Selstad describes his opponent’s winning drop shot, masterfully done.
“But he didn’t hit hard, and I handled the ball well.”
That defeat won’t stop him from playing in the next National Senior Games in Houston.
“I’ll be 84 then, those old jocks are so tough,” he said, “but, I’ll be back.”