Long Reach's Melville keeps serving up tennis victories

July 19, 1992|By Tom Worgo | Tom Worgo,Contributing Writer

The pictures, trophies, plaques, medals and certificates that crowd three shelves in the living room of James Melville's Long Reach Village home boast his athletic achievements.

The honors include a silver medal from the 1990 Maryland senior Olympics, a certificate for his role on the No. 3 U.S. senior doubles squash team in 1982, and numerous trophies from tennis tournaments he has won.

Melville, a 65-year-old active senior tennis player who displays the enthusiasm and competitiveness of a person one-third his age, moved to Columbia two years ago from Pittsburgh, and has made a name for himself with the Maryland tennis community.

He is ranked sixth in Maryland for men's 60s seniors, and 10th by the Middle States Tennis Association for men's 60s seniors.

But he can put tennis aside for a moment. He first talks about the two photos of his 1948 and 1949 Dartmouth football team.

"Football was such a major event back then," Melville said. "As a college player, it was the most important thing at the time."

Eight players in the 1948 photo were drafted by the National Football League, and three to four played in the league for a year. The Philadelphia Eagles invited Melville to their training camp in the summer of 1950.

"I don't think I could have made it in the NFL," said Melville. "If I had made the Eagles, I would have been paid $300 a month. I went to work for considerably more at that time."

Football was big for Melville, who played linebacker at Dartmouth from 1947-1950. But tennis is big for Melville now.

After college, Melville dropped competitive sports for seven years, playing golf, softball and touch football. He then decided to take up several sports for a lifetime.

"As an athlete, the college football days are over," Melville said. "I played golf and then I took tennis and squash up when I was 28 years old. Then I improved as a player until I became ranked."

"He is tournament tough," said Dennis Cochran, head pro and manager at Wilde Lake tennis club. "He plays guys that are considerably younger than him -- 10, 15 years -- and he just beats them. When he said that he was 65, I was amazed that he was that quick."

Last month Melville lost to Franz Huber in the finals of the Maryland State Senior Outdoor Championships in Prince George's County. Melville, however, upset the No. 1 seed Larry McDonnell in the tournament. "He [Huber] is ranked as one of the top senior players in the Eastern United States," said Melville, who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. At New Rochelle high, he played football, basketball, hockey and baseball.

"I played that guy in the semifinals for three hours. If you don't have a total commitment to physical fitness, you will not be able to win in this division.

"These are experienced tournament players. These are not guys out of the neighborhood. I am a very experienced match player. I have played in national tennis tournaments for about the last 20 years."

In August, Melville will compete in the Middle Atlantic Senior Outdoor Championships in Lutherville. And in October, he will play in the Maryland State Indoor Men's Championships.

In October 1990, Melville won a silver medal at the Maryland Senior Olympics in Towson, advancing him to the National Senior Olympics in Syracuse, N.Y. last summer.

"It [National Senior Olympics] was senior athletes with all the different sports," Melville said. "There was 5,000 people there and it was just like the regular Olympics."

Melville exceled as a tennis player in Pittsburgh -- he ranked No. ++ 1 or No. 2 in senior 45 and 55 singles and doubles for about 10 years in Western Pennsylvania.

He also plays squash competitively, participating in about 10 national tournaments in the last 30 years, he said. But his interest in the sport has waned since he moved from Pittsburgh because it is not that popular in Maryland, he said.

"I haven't played that much the last four to five years," Melville said. "But I play tennis year round."

Melville, married and a father of four, worked as president and founder of the Melville Equipment Company Inc., a forklift truck company from 1959-1987, then started another business, the Melville group, a small publishing company in Baltimore in 1987.

In addition, Melville had been active with administrative positions in the past, working as a Dartmouth volunteer recruiter of students and athletes (1956-1978), and for several regional and national tennis organizations.

Melville was president of the Western Pennsylvania Tennis Association (1964-1969), Middle States Tennis Association from 1969-77 and regional vice president from 1977-1982 of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), a organization that sponsors the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup.

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