At Play: Geoffrey Grant
Technology incubator director doubles as a top-ranked senior tennis player
For most home buyers, it’s the number of bedrooms or a house’s amenities that cinch the sale. For Geoffrey Grant, the deciding factor was whether the back yard could hold a tennis court.
“When we looked at houses, we’d say, ‘Nope, the back yard’s not big enough.’ That was the whole premise,” says the director of the Arlington Technology Incubator, who also happens to be an accomplished tennis player.
Dr. Grant, 62, one of the world’s best senior players, says it was easy to transform a section of his Fort Worth property into a grass court. “While I was at work, my wife built it.”
The two-month project required 22 tons of sand and is designed like a golf green with layers of gravel and sand beneath the surface and turf on top. The court was featured in the July 2001 issue of Tennis magazine.
The only drawback? You have to cut it every time before you play.
Grant arrived in Texas five years ago from California and for the past two years has been a member of the United States Tennis Association national senior team. In 2003, it won a bronze medal in the team championships in Turkey. In 2002 in Austria, Grant won the world individual championships in men’s doubles in the over-60 category.
As a singles player, he was a semifinalist in the 2001 International Federation World Championships on grass in Perth, Australia (proving the value of having a grass court in his back yard). Since turning 50, he has been a six-time national champion, an eight-time national championship finalist and an 11-time national championship semifinalist.
Although Grant has competed in tournaments around the world, he did not grow up playing or following tennis. He embraced the sport after his first year of college because he could play all year.
“After my master’s degree in British Columbia, I decided—on the basis of tennis—that I needed to go somewhere warm, where it was different. And if academically it was good, too, so much the better,” he recalls. “So I went to the University of California at San Diego. And, of course, the school was good and the tennis was so good that even the ‘C’ players in San Diego used to beat me when I started.”
Over the years, his practice and competitive spirit have paid off.
“I played a lot, and we played a lot of tournaments—and we won our share. I didn’t consider myself a serious competitor until I had spent almost 10 years in the business world. Just before we turned seniors, my friend and I decided that if we got good, we should be able to win the national title by the time we were 65. It would just be a matter of attrition.”
The championship came much sooner.
“We won a national doubles title the very first time we played as 50-year-olds. At that point it was a big deal, but only big to us. There’s no money in tennis except at the professional level. But it’s really nice when I go off to tournaments now at resort locations, which I do a couple of times a year, because of all the respect you get from the good players.”
While tennis is his hobby, Grant is an experienced researcher. Early in his career as an assistant professor at the Salk Institute, he worked on the biochemistry of brain hormones that control reproduction, growth, the thyroid, stress responses and other hormones secreted by the pituitary gland. The work led to the director of that research team, Roger Guillemin, receiving the 1977 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
And as an aging jock, Grant has an intense interest in the root molecular cause of aging. On the tennis court, at least, he seems to have found the fountain of youth.
— Laura Hanna