My college tennis coach, David Benjamin, attached this photo in a recent email. The picture was taken at the opening of the (then) brand new Lenz Tennis Center on Princeton’s campus late in my senior year of 1984.
What is most surprising about the photo (aside from the short shorts) is that I have almost no memory of the day or of the exhibition match. THAT’s surprising because of the heady company I was keeping on that occasion.
To celebrate the new center, and to draw a local crowd, my teammate and co-captain Ted Farnsworth and I played in a doubles exhibition with identical twin brothers Tim and Tom Gullikson. In the late 70s and early 80s, both of them were ranked in the world top 35 in singles and top 5 in doubles. Tim even beat John McEnroe in the 1979 Wimbledon. Ted himself had become a much better player than me, winning a National Collegiate Indoor Championship. He headed straight to the pro tour after our graduation later that summer.
So Ted and I got to play on the same court with legit tennis royalty. And yet I have only the foggiest recollections of that day. Why? Short shorts? Bad hair cut? The courts at the Lenz were too slow? We were to play Harvard in a few days? I was going to get married in a month? I suppose it’s a combination of all of the above.
Sadly, two of the four in the photo are no longer with us. Ted died in 1993 when the jet he was flying as a naval aviator crashed. I actually presided at his memorial service in the Princeton Chapel that summer.
And Tim Gullikson died of brain cancer in 1996 after a successful coaching career with the likes of Pete Sampras.
So it’s a throwback that lands firmly at the intersection of bitter and sweet.