JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
The room was filled with the taps of ping pong balls bouncing across the tables. Their speed increased and the rhythmic staccato lingered after a ball was returned with a swift, solid knock.
In the gymnasium of the USO of North Carolina-Jacksonville, a group of table tennis enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the 70th anniversary with a tournament.
The event, organized by Barb and Rob Sanchez, included participants of all ages and skill levels. The sole purpose was to foster a competitive environment and, more importantly, to raise money for the USO.
“Not only did we get to have fun ourselves, but we got to contribute to the USO’s anniversary,” said Aston Miller, a retired Marine who participated in the tournament. “It was beneficial for both of us.”
In a round robin-style tournament, eight tables and 13 participants were divided into intermediate and advanced categories. Participants competed against every member of their division and whoever won two out of three games won the round.
Daniel Leung, a local business owner, thrashed the competition. Using skills he gained from childhood, he was able to defeat all other advanced players. At the end he won the advanced division and walked away with a large trophy.
Though unbeknownst to his competition about his lifelong passion in the sport, he remained humble and welcomed anyone who challenged him.
“I just got lucky,” said Leung. “It’s all good fun. I’m always looking to get better, so I’ll play anyone.”
Leung urges others to come out to the club meetings so he can play them.
“There’s a lot of talent on base,” said Leung between rounds at the tournament. “Everyone should come out and support the USO because it’s for a great cause.”
George Miller, a retired Marine, won the intermediate tournament.
People came to play the game for many reasons. Mike Morley, who won second place in the advanced division of the tournament, suffers from a traumatic brain injury he sustained in 2004. Morley said that table tennis helped him on the road to recovery.
“It’s fun, and it’s creative,” said Morley. “There is a table tennis player in everybody. Your imagination gets captured by what you can do with the ball.”
The Camp Lejeune Ping Pong Club is sanctioned by the United States Table Tennis Association and is in the process of planning a sanctioned tournament for early next year.
The club meets twice a month for meetings. The Camp Lejeune Ping Pong Club is a nonprofit entity and all money raised in tournaments or by members goes to the USO or helps to maintain club equipment.
For more information visit http://www.meetup.com/Camp-Lejuene-Ping-Pong-Club/events/33135132 or call 389-4581.