CHEYENNE – Until two years ago, tennis was a fond memory from Milan Norgauer’s past.
He grew up playing the sport in California, and even spent a season as a practice player at UCLA. It was during his freshman year that Norgauer met his wife, Heather, and decided to focus on academics.
A bachelor’s degree turned into graduate degrees and a career. Dates turned into a marriage and a family. The tennis rackets came out occasionally, but mostly collected dust.
That all changed a few springs ago, when Norgauer returned to California and visited his tennis-crazed family. One of those days included a trip to the tennis courts. Most of the players had trickled off the court and started packing up, but Norgauer’s son wasn’t ready to leave.
Elijah Norgauer – who will be a senior at Cheyenne Central this fall – hadn’t shown much interest in tennis before that day, but he didn’t want to put the racket down.
“He wasn’t very good at it, but he was running all over the place having a great time,” Norgauer said. “He told me he wanted to quit soccer and start playing tennis. I didn’t think he was serious, but soccer season ended, and he wanted to be out on the court every day.
“(Elijah) decided he wanted to take up the sport, so I came back to it and fell in love with it all over again.”
Norgauer had some rust to knock off, but his results in the past two years don’t reflect his 28-year hiatus.
On Friday, the 50-year-old won his first match of the Wyoming Governor’s Cup open singles tournament, 6-0, 6-0. He has made the finals of numerous tournaments in Wyoming and Colorado over the past two years.
In March, Norgauer won the United States Tennis Association’s 4.5 National Singles championship in Phoenix, a 50-and-over tournament.
“I thought a lot of those guys probably played at a higher level than I did in college and had had great coaching growing up,” he said. “But I thought I stood a fighting chance because I do my best to stay fit and healthy. I turned out to have a really good run.”
That’s an understatement.
Norgauer went 5-0 and dropped just four games across those matches. As nice as the title was, the camaraderie was more important.
“They were amazing guys,” he said. “They’re all really competitive, and they’re all really good players, but they’re also out there to have a lot of fun.”
Norgauer followed his national title with a win in the Broomfield Open’s 5.0 singles draw last month. He went 3-0 in that tournament, and split his matches in the open singles bracket.
“He is a big hitter, likes to put a lot of topspin on his shots, and hits a variety of shots,” said Cheyenne South senior-to-be Brendan Lock, who has squared off with Norgauer in several local finals. “He also has a really big serve.”
Norgauer has been pastor of Northwoods Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne for the past 10 years. A lot of tournaments he enters are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He plays in as many tournaments as he can, and tries to ask ahead of time to not play on Sundays.
Norgauer appreciates the opportunity to still play the sport he loves. Tennis is a refuge from life’s troubles.
“For me, it gives me a way to express myself with abandon,” he said. “When I’m on the court, there’s nothing else going on in the world. I don’t think about problems, I don’t think about the world, politics or anything like that.
“It’s a way to get refreshed, escape and focus on something completely different. I love it for that. It’s amazing for me for that.”