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Asheville theater honors tennis legend Carey

Asheville tennis legend Dave Carey was honored with the showing of "Gold Balls" on Thursday night at the Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Asheville. (Photo credit: Asheville Tennis Association)

Dave Carey isn't with us anymore, but his is spirit is alive and well.

Carey was honored with the showing of "Gold Balls" on Thursday night at the Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Asheville. The movie is a documentary about players older than 80 who are in pursuit of a national tennis title.

Carey, who died in February at 103, was a tennis fixture in the mountains.

Carey was known around Asheville as the man with the floppy hat and the big game. He won about 16 Gold Balls, which signify national championships recognized by the U.S. Tennis Association.

Tennis was a passion he took up full bore, finding the game again at the age of 65. It was a sport he played competitively into his late 90s.

"When he said tennis was a game for a lifetime, he took that very seriously," his son Peter Carey said.

Carey's son was instrumental in bringing the movie to Asheville to honor his dad and help give back to the Asheville tennis community. Money raised at the showing will go to the Asheville Tennis Association.

ATA president Jeff Joyce, also a driving force, saw Carey's love of tennis and competitiveness first hand because Carey was a longtime player in the Aston Park senior group.

"He would tell the guy who runs that group, 'Give me the best you got today. I want the best. I want the best.' And he was always after that," Joyce said.

Of course, in playing Carey, others were playing the best. Carey was world-ranked in seniors play and a fixture at the City of Asheville Open, winning numerous titles.

Court 6 at Aston Park is named after him. Out of all his honors, that was one that really touched him.

"He was so honored. One of the things about Dave is he was such a humble man, incredibly proud that Aston Park, the City of Asheville and the Tennis Association would support him in such a fashion, and he continuously gave back," Joyce said.

Carey, who was born in Malaysia in 1913 and lived all over the world, moved here in 1983 and never left. He truly loved his adopted hometown of Asheville.

"They loved the people here. Dad, of course, not a native, he felt like he belonged here," his son said.

And he belonged to tennis, playing the game with great grit and determination.

Carey was a wonderful man off the court, but a man who liked to win on it,often scouting opponents.

"He would sit there in the bleachers watching these guys competing, and he'd have a running commentary about this guy has a great backhand but doesn't have much of a forehand, this guy can't see the lines very well, so you have to be careful how he's calling the lines."

But the bottom line on Carey from those who knew him the best ...

"I think the thing that is most important to me about him was the fact that he enjoyed people so much, and he was always reaching out to people trying to make sure they were included."

And always positive.

"His motto was, 'the best is yet to come' and was always looking down the road."

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