Table tennis has turned into lifelong love for Peters
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
He discovered the sport when he was 10 years old. Little did Ron Peters know then he would still be playing table tennis 55 years later.
"I started playing it as part of a church activity one day when I couldn't find anything else to do. I've been playing ever since," Peters said. "The great thing about table tennis is you can play it all your life."
Not many days have gone by since then that Peters has not picked up a paddle. During that time the Brewton resident and area dentist has made his skills among the best in the country. Peters is currently ranked 12th in the nation for men age 60 and over in singles competition.
"I'm slipping a little bit in my old age. Last year I was ranked seventh," Peters said.
That is not the case in doubles where Peters along with partner Homer Brown of Birmingham are ranked number one. In fact, Peters and Brown won the Senior Olympics national championship in 2001.
"I've been in and won a lot of tournaments. In fact, one year when I was in the army I won 41 tournaments. However, winning the national doubles championship is by far what I'm proud of the most," Peters said.
Peters said a player has to be compatible with his doubles partner.
"It's a lot like regular tennis. You have to work well with your partner and get a good feel of how he is going to react," Peters said. "I've been playing with Homer since 2001. Since he is in Birmingham, we don't get to play together a lot. However, I think we work well together when we do play."
Peters said his strength is defense.
"I'm by far a lot better defensive player than offensive player. If I try to get into an offensive battle with an opponent, I'll get in trouble," Peters said. "I usually use a paddle with long pips on it. That kind of paddle helps slow the ball down. I have to rely more on spin and placement, not velocity."
Most people may call table tennis ping pong, but Peters said there are some distinct differences between the two sports.
"In table tennis, you play by the rules. In ping pong, you play by house rules," Peters said. "Probably one of the biggest differences between the two sports is the serve. In table tennis, you have to throw the ball at least six inches above the paddle before you hit it. You can serve it however you want in ping pong."
One of the toughest things Peters has had to deal with in his sport is a lack of players.
"There just aren't a lot of people who play table tennis in this area. Perhaps people are scared to play me because of my reputation or they get intimidated by watching me play," Peters said. "A lot of the time I will have to travel a long way to play somebody or they will have to travel a long way to play me here."
Peters hosts the Lower Alabama Table Tennis Club at his Brewton residence and is always looking for members.
"If you want to play, you're a member. We're open as long as somebody wants to play. There is no charge to play. We've had players come from all over the country and all over the world," Peters said. "If somebody wants to play for the competition, that's fine with me. If somebody wants to come, learn the
game and play for fun, that's fine too.