WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- By the time he graduated from Whitman College in 1988, Dave Olafsson had won more men's tennis matches than anyone in the history of the varsity program.
By the time Olafsson returned to campus on Tuesday, his record of 138 career victories (singles and doubles) was ready to fall. Olafsson, 35, who lives in his hometown of Vancouver, B.C., stopped by the Bratton Tennis Center to meet Tim Mullin, the Whitman athlete poised to replace him in the record books.
|Dave Olafsson (far right) stopped by the Bratton Tennis Center this week to reminisce with former teammate Jeff Northam (center), who now serves as the men's tennis coach at Whitman, and to meet Tim Mullin, a senior who is one match away from breaking Olafsson's school record for most career victories.|
Mullin, a senior from Salem, Ore., also has 138 career victories (click here for details) as he heads into this weekend's final regular season matches against George Fox and Lewis & Clark. Whitman will host both matches, either on the outdoor courts if weather permits, or in the tennis center.
For Olafsson, Tuesday's visit was also a chance to reminisce with former teammate Jeff Northam, who now coaches men's tennis at Whitman. Northam and Olafsson were part of a formidable Missionary team that dominated the Northwest Conference during the mid-1980s and advanced as far as the semifinals of NCAA Div. III national championships.
"We were a very unique blend of guys who did well and had a lot of fun," Olafsson said. "I have great memories of that time."
Olafsson, a lanky 6-foot-5, was one of Canada's top junior players as a youngster. At age 15, however, he gave up tennis to follow in his father's basketball footsteps. His father, an inch taller and more husky, played on the Canadian national team that competed in the 1960 Olympics against a U.S. squad that featured Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
The younger Olafsson came to Walla Walla after being recruited to play basketball at the community college. "What I discovered after my first season was that I was too skinny to play basketball," Olafsson said. "But I wanted to stay in Walla Walla. I liked it here and my girlfriend was here. So, I transferred to Whitman to play tennis. I was surprised by how quickly the game came back to me."
Olafsson, whose surname traces his grandfather's roots to Iceland, arrived at Whitman the same year as Denmark's Chris Gregersen, who had come to the U.S. as a high school exchange student. "Chris was by far the best tennis player Whitman has ever had," Olafsson said. "He very seldom lost. One of his few losses was in the finals of the Division III singles championship, when he was sick."
Gregersen played two seasons at Whitman before transferring to Northwestern University to complete his education and playing career. A businessman, Gregersen lives in Berlin, Germany.
Olafsson, who majored in psychology at Whitman, moved to Germany after graduation and worked as a tennis instructor for four years. He returned home to Vancouver and continued to teach tennis for two more years. "By then, my shoulder and knees were starting to give out," he said. "It was time to find a new profession."
Olafsson took an interest in property management and went back to school, earning a basic certificate. He has continued to work in commercial property management while completing a four-year diploma in Urban Land Economy at the University of British Columbia.
Olafsson has stayed in touch with Northam and other former teammates, including Brian Nash, Brian Johnson and Mark Donnelly. Other friends who might want to contact Olafsson can do so by email (email@example.com).