Kimm Ketelsen, a two-time NAIA tennis All-American in the early 1970s, has once again reached the pinnacle of his sport at age 61.
Ketelsen, the Tyler Junior College assistant tennis coach, is the Men’s 55-and-over Player of the Year in the United States Professional Tennis Association — the world’s oldest and largest organization of tennis-teaching professionals.
He was honored recently at the annual national awards breakfast at the USPTA World Conference on Tennis outside Tampa, Fla.
Ketelsen won the men’s 60 singles title at the 2010 USPTA International Championships, and he also captured the men’s 55 singles crown at the 2010 USPTA Hard Court Championships. He was the USPTA’s top-ranked player in men’s 60 singles and was co-No. 3 in men’s 55 singles last year.
Ketelsen, considered an all-court player, is showing no signs of slowing down.
He defended his title at the world conference by winning the 60s singles title over Tommy Connell, a teaching pro in Houston and the father of new TJC head tennis coach Dash Connell. Ketelsen and Connell also teamed up to win the doubles title.
“I’ve played all through my age groups,” said Ketelsen, who called the Player of the Year award his greatest achievement. “My goal was always to be ranked top 10 in the United States. In 40s, I was ranked twice in the top 10 in the United States when I really played a lot of national tournaments.”
Ketelsen grew up in Midland — and the first time he ever hit a tennis ball, at age 9, he was hooked.
He played four years of tennis at Midland High School and was the team’s No. 1 player as a junior and senior. He graduated in 1968 and earned a full tennis scholarship to Southeastern State University in Durant, Okla., where his list of achievements is long.
Ketelsen was the first Southeastern State player to win the singles championship of the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference four times (1969-72). He was named All-American in 1970 and 1972.
His senior year was the best.
Ketelsen captured the conference singles and doubles titles and reached the finals of the NAIA national tournament in both draws. He was named the university’s Athlete of the Year and was inducted into Southeastern’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.
After graduating from college, Ketelsen began learning an entirely different side of tennis.
“My first job out of school I went to work as a tennis pro in San Angelo, and across the street was a private court owned by George Richey,” said Ketelsen, referring to the father of former professional tennis players Nancy and Cliff Richey.
Nancy Richey won two Grand Slam singles titles, four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and was ranked No. 2 in the world in 1969. Cliff Richey was the top-ranked U.S. pro in 1970.
“I was kind of their sparring partner for a few years and George really taught me how to play the game,” Ketelsen said. “When Nancy was No. 2 in the world, I was her No. 1 sparring partner for that year. I played with Cliff quite a bit, too, but he was traveling on the tour.
“Their dad really taught me how to build points. … I was decent, but he really taught me how to play (tennis) and gave me a lot of insight on how to teach it.”
Ketelsen’s career highlights as a coach include volunteer assistant for the Texas Longhorns women’s tennis team, which captured the NCAA championship in 1995; and winning the junior college women’s assistant coach of the year award in 2010.
“I enjoy competition, I enjoy the competition of being an assistant coach with the team and I enjoy competition myself,” said Ketelsen, the chair of TJC’s professional tennis management program. “I think for myself it sort of dwindles more … I enjoy the coaching more and more and I don’t have time to play as much.”