Friday, June 7th, 2019
Preston, Fanning ready for Senior Games
By Colin Foster
Bud Preston, left, and Ron Fanning celebrate after scoring a point against Jack. . .
Willis "Bud" Preston and Ron Fanning sat together in the same hospital while their wives were in labor March 13, 1963.
"Our friendship really started when my wife and his wife were in labor in the same room at Gibbons Hospital," Fanning recalled. "They were fighting over the delivery room. His son and my son were born a few minutes apart. That's how we got to know each other real well."
On that day, Mary Ann Preston and Jenine Fanning gave birth to Todd Preston and Tony Fanning. Also born was a dad's tennis doubles duo that has spent a quarter-century together and is still kicking well into their senior years.
Father time has caught up to Bud Preston, 90, and Ron Fanning, 84, a little bit, but they still make time for tennis.
On June 15, the duo will begin play in the doubles tournament at the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"I had hopes (we'd still be playing this long)," Fanning said. "Bud is amazing. At his age, he plays like he's in his 60s."
To take part in the National Senior Games, participants must be at least 50 years old and qualify the year before through the NSGA-sanctioned state qualifying games. Athletes qualify by placing in the top three of their age divisions.
Last summer, Preston and Fanning won the 80s doubles division (by default) at the Ohio Games in Westerville. With no players opposite them in the division, they played a pair of 65-year-olds at the tournament and won in straight sets. Preston also won gold medals in singles tennis and pickleball in Westerville.
"I expect to have stiffer competition, but there will be opportunity to play more," Preston said after qualifying last summer. "There wasn't a lot of opportunity to play very much in Westerville because there wasn't a lot of people in my age division. We played three days, but still, there wasn't that much. I expect it to be a lot tougher."
Preston and Fanning will be one of 12 teams in their division to take the court at Jerry Cline Tennis Center. Preston is up against seven other competitors in the 90s division of singles tennis, and he will bypass pickelball to focus on tennis.
They began playing together at the former racquet club and went on to join the United States Tennis Association Midwest Section seniors tour (formerly the Western), climbing all the way to No. 3 in the doubles rankings. They played tournaments all over the region for roughly 10 years, Fanning said.
The teammates played against each other in singles tournaments a few times, too.
"We probably had a dozen or so tournaments when we played each other in the finals, and he'd end up winning it," Fanning said. "But it was always a long, drawn-out affair.
"I think I could hold my own with him now since he's gotten so much older," Fanning added.
Fanning, who co-founded Fanning Howie, eventually became worn out with work and tennis. So he decided to put down his racquet on weekends.
"I was running like 80 hours a week and then playing on weekends. I finally got to a point where I said 'Bud, I'm getting worn out,' " Fanning said.
After retiring from his post as West Elementary Principal, Preston spent several additional years touring USTA tournaments around the country with new partner Roger Wall, and the duo was ranked sixth in the nation.
"It really has been a lot of fun playing tennis and meeting guys from all over the country, real good players," Preston said.
The Celina graduates still lead busy lives.
Preston, a 1946 grad, is a triple-threat as an athlete, actor and singer. He is a member of Minster Crescent Player Community Theatre Group - recently playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a production of "Annie" - and sings with the Grand Lake Sound Waves Barbershop Chorus. But Preston's lady friend, Barb Washburn, said tennis is his greatest talent.
"He won trophies for tennis, not for acting," Barb said.
"I did so!" Bud said, pointing to an Oscar on his mantle for his portrayal of Scrooge.
The former Air Force member, teacher and coach is well known around Otterbein, too.
"I'm pretty well known, probably more as a comedian than an athlete," Preston said.
Fanning, who graduated high school in 1953, is "semi-retired" but still goes into work on a regular basis.
Preston and Fanning have continued to play tennis weekly with former Marion Local Boys Basketball Coach Jack Albers and former Celina teacher John Roth for the last 10 years.
"We've lost to them, but we beat them too," Fanning said. "They've got 20 years on us."
Their sons, Todd Preston and Tony Fanning, became Celina High School's top tennis players, helping the Bulldogs win the 1981 Western Buckeye League championship.
Fifty-six years after the birth of their sons, Bud Preston and Ron Fanning are looking to become senior champions.
"It was qualification you can say by default, but we feel like we'll be competitive based on what we've done in past in the Western," Fanning said.
"I expect to do well," Preston added. "I have confidence, but I realize that it's going to be tough. I just hope I play well. If you get beat and play well, you can't complain too much about that if someone's better than you."