Steve Messmer had a great recipe for success as a tennis player. Start off with some basic ingredients like hard work and a passion for the game and then sprinkle in some special additives like good timing and excellent coaching. Add in a little flavor to meld everything together and something very special is created.
Cooking analogies aside, when Messmer was notified of the hall of fame committee’s intention to induct him as part of the class of 2007, his reaction was typical of someone who downplays his success on the court. "Did you run out of people to induct?’’ he asked.
Messmer’s induction is not only well deserved but well earned. He was not the typical serve and volley player that defined his competitive era in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but rather used his head and his legs to get the most out of his game. Those skills helped him to qualify and compete at Wimbledon in 1973 and at the U.S. Open in 1976.
He played for 2002 hall of fame inductee Chuck Gibson, at both Hoover High in 1966 and at Glendale College in 1967. He won the 1966 CIF Doubles title at Hoover with Don Bohannon and the 1967 Western State Singles title under Gibson. He transferred to San Fernando Valley State University in 1968, now known as Cal State Northridge.
Messmer won the conference title in 1969 for the Matadors and then rode that wave of momentum all the way through the NCAA tournament before capturing the Division II singles and doubles crown. His efforts helped his squad win the team title as well. He was inducted into the Cal State Northridge Hall of Fame in 1982.
Messmer credits Glendale College, and particularly the coaching he received from former men’s tennis coach Chuck Gibson, with helping him achieve as much as he did in tennis and business. "Glendale Junior College was the real starting point for me. I had experienced success in high school but decided against leaving the area for college, so GJC was my choice,’’ Messmer said. "Little did I know that Chuck Gibson, my former Little League coach and tennis pro, was going to be my coach at Glendale. It was his mentoring, coaching abilities, and most of all, friendship, that provided the encouragement and optimism that prompted me to continue to pursue my education as well as my tennis.’’
But while his success in high school and in college might have given Messmer reason to believe playing on the pro tour would be a natural transition for him, trying to compete for spots in main draws with small pay days and traveling without a sponsor was not something he was always willing to do.
"It was my college degree and my tennis abilities that qualified me to play for the U.S. Army while I served a two-year stint. The experience provided the opportunities of extensive travel, seeing many places and meeting people from all over the world,’’ he said. "Friendships were made, business relationships were established, my hobby of cooking was furthered as I collected recipes along the way, and future career opportunities have all been the result of my education and my tennis.’’