After hearing that 95-year-old tennis player Babette Hay had decided to take a step back from the court, her fellow club members threw a party in her honour.
Although long-serving tennis ace Babette is not completely hanging up her racket just yet, she will no longer be a regular at Leadenham Tennis Club’s weekly senior session. She is also well-known for playing matches through all weathers, but won’t be returning to the court this winter.
Babette who lives on Manthorpe Road in Grantham has been playing tennis for over 80 years. Her passion for the sport started when she was among a small group of children from her school selected to have a lesson with the legendery tennis star and commentator Dan Maskell.
She has been with Leadenham Tennis Club for 20 years, and previously played for many clubs around the county, including Grantham where her name was recently added to a mosaic outside. She enjoyed many years of competitive success, including an unbeaten season as part of Grantham Tennis Club’s ladies team in the 50s which enabled them to win South Lincolnshire LTAs Division Two.
In more recent years it has become more of a social pursuit, and Babette is by far the oldest member of Leadenham Tennis Club, which has no other members in their 80s, let alone their 90s.
Last week the club served up a buffet lunch in Babette’s honour at the The George Hotel in Leadenham. Fellow club member Hugh Dibley said: “Whenever you say to Babette would you like to play forehand or backhand, she always says I don’t mind I can play equally badly from each side. She has of course kept incredibly fit and we wish her very well for the future.”
Babette is described as an ‘inspiration’ by fellow senior members Jennifer Harvey, Fiona Dibley and Betty Cade. “It makes us realise that we can play for many more years too!” added Jennifer.
After being presented with flowers from Karen Clatworthy of Leadenham post office and being toasted by club members, Babette said: “I feel very honoured to have been in the company of these people.”