Paddle tournament at Old Lyme Country Club celebrates centennial

Seventeen-year-old Ethan Fenton and Jack Soper, who will turn 93 this summer, recently won the Old Lyme Country Club’s Centennial Paddle Tournament.

The paddle tournament, one of a series of activities to celebrate a century of the Old Lyme Country Club, featured teams with ages that collectively needed to be over 100. Soper’s and Fenton’s names will be featured on the “Century Paddle Trophy” in the club’s paddle hut.

Not only was Soper on the winning team at the March 20 tournament, but he was also thanked by the other players for his contribution to the club’s paddle program.

“He was one of the people who really championed the program and was able to keep up membership and keep the program going through low times,” Fenton, a senior at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, said in a recent phone interview. “He was one of the main contributors responsible for the paddle program and what we have now.”

The country club’s Board of Governors decided recently in a unanimous vote to name the club’s paddle-tennis facilities: The Jack Soper Paddle Complex.

“He has done so much for [the paddle complex], for the kids, for the adults, for the members, and for the professionals, that we decided to name the complex after him,” said Robert F. Polito Jr., the club’s president.

“The Paddle Tennis courts were originally built in 1980 and moved to their new location in 2008,” Steven Wilson, communications governor for the club, wrote in an email. “The paddle hut was built in 2011 and dedicated to Jack Soper in 2016 for all his work on the complex, his dedication to fostering the sport at the club and contribution to making the project such a success.”

Soper, a longtime member of the club and former board member, said the paddle-tennis facilities used to be on a hill at the country club, but it could get windy there.

He was instrumental as one of the main contributors to efforts to move the paddle-tennis facilities from a hill at the country club to their current location on McCurdy Road, representatives of the club said. He had also helped rebuild the bottom of the courts when they were located on the hill.

Soper also made benches out of the lumber from the older facilities.

Fenton said that during the tournament Soper was “the rock of the team” with a serve that helped set Fenton up for his shot. Encouraging and supportive, Soper was nice both to his teammate and to his opponents, said Fenton. 

“He was very polite and a great competitor,” said Fenton.

Soper said his teammate was terrific.

“Ethan deserves 98.9 percent of that victory,” said Soper. “I was flattered that he asked.”

Soper said the club is about having a good time. He said he has played paddle-tennis for decades.

“I like the competition,” he said. “I think most people who play paddle like the competition.” 

As the Old Lyme Country Club celebrates its 100 year anniversary, the club is hosting a series of events, including sports tournaments, a gala in April that featured period dress, and an upcoming barbecue in September with fireworks.  

The club offers golf, tennis, swimming and paddle tennis with regular tournaments, as well as Bridge, Mahjong, and book clubs. The club also has a children’s swim team called The Stingrays. They also host junior programs in the summertime for children to participate in golf, tennis, and swimming.


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