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Southwest Orange Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 5 years ago

Faith fuels Windermere tennis star

Tami Florin has won two national tennis championships, completed an Ironman and run the Boston Marathon. How does the 54-year-old do it? A lot of faith.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

WINDERMERE  Tami Florin was 53 years old when she completed a longtime goal of winning a United States Tennis Association National Championship.

The feat, which the Windermere resident accomplished as part of a tennis team based in Tampa and traveled all the way to Indian Wells, California, to complete, represented the fulfillment of an athletic bucket list, of sorts — Florin also has completed an Ironman in Hawaii and run in the Boston Marathon. 

To boot, she’s a registered nurse and a mother of six.

It’s an ambitious lifestyle — one heavily predicated on the importance of staying physically and mentally sharp — and it can get chaotic. 

But, as her day begins each morning, before she gets busy with mom work, fitness or remaining up to par as a highly competitive amateur tennis player, Florin makes time for scripture — the spigot through which everything else flows through in her life.

“Faith is the biggest part of my life; everything else stems from that,” Florin said. “I read the Bible every single day — I do not miss. That’s how I start my day. It gives me clear focus.”

It was that clear focus that Florin said she sought during one of the most important moments of her tennis career. 

Although her accomplishments of completing an Ironman and the Boston Marathon came more than a decade ago, in 2001 and 2002, respectively, the tennis national championship had always been elusive to the former college player for MiraCosta College.

She had come up short time and time again and, in 2014, things looked to be heading in the same direction after a strategic misstep by her team’s captain put her in a compromising situation.

Although she was 53, Florin’s team was competing in the 18-and-up division and, instead of utilizing her in doubles play — where she was much more comfortable playing players significantly younger than her — she was slotted to play singles.

“Faith is the biggest part of my life; everything else stems from that."

After some of her teammates lost in their matches unexpectedly, the team’s ability to advance out of the semifinals to the national championship hinged solely on Florin — in a singles match against a woman roughly three decades her junior.

Florin remembers being soundly defeated in the first set, so much so that she almost felt resigned to defeat. But, between sets, she remembers recalling a Bible verse, and instead of asking to win (or even for defeat to come quickly), she sought clarity in a moment of adversity.

“It’s James 1:6,” she said. “It said, ‘He who lacks wisdom ask, and I will giveth.’ So I said, ‘OK Lord … give me wisdom to see something I am possibly not seeing.”

Taking a more strategic, calmed approach, Florin began to outmaneuver her opponent, who gradually became flummoxed that she was no longer able to dominate based on athletic ability. After winning the second set and then the match, Florin’s team advanced and later took home the national championship for the 18+ Women’s 4.5.

This year, competing in the 40+ Women’s 4.5 Tournament, again in Indian Wells, the team repeated.

Florin’s faith goes far beyond that, though. She and her husband, Jorge, attend Mosaic Church in Oakland. Jorge Florin is a surgeon and, together, they have done mission work in Ethiopia — with Tami Florin setting up a makeshift tennis court to teach the children the game during downtime.

“It was quite humbling because we have so much here, and people don’t realize how much poverty there is in the world,” Tami Florin said. “We will go back because the need is so great.”

Tami Florin has no plans of slowing down. With the majority of her children out of the house, she is hoping to take a shot at one more national championship in 2016 — this one as a senior (55-plus). Playing the game in any capacity, though, is the greatest gift as, in addition to all the tangible, physical benefits, there have been the friendships and the chance to share her faith with others.

“No matter where I go in the world, I get to meet new people and tennis is the common denominator for us to enjoy and get to know one another,” Florin said.


Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].

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