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‘I always wanted to be here’: Mike Van Zutphen is ready to serve as La Jolla Tennis Club’s new manager

Mike Van Zutphen is the La Jolla Tennis Club's new manager and director of tennis.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

When it comes to effective tennis operations, Mike Van Zutphen, the new manager and director of tennis at the La Jolla Tennis Club, has written the book. Several of them, actually.

The author and consultant says he’s been “involved with every aspect of tennis” throughout his life, and now he can add running the local club to that list. He was appointed last month after a national search.

The 11 books he has authored include “Tennis Management” and “Tennis Operations,” in which he shares his insights on how to run a club based on his years of consulting.

“I worked for a company that would send me to clubs and turn it around,” he said. “I would look at facilities from an operational standpoint and would write up these reports and give it to the management company. I would do an audit of the place and found what could be improved operationally and functionally. When I did that, my eyes became more analytical about why a club was successful or not.”

Van Zutphen said he plans to bring that analytical eye to the La Jolla Tennis Club.

“I plan to add structural organization and a step-by-step approach to make the place function well … in terms of goals and development,” he said.

What that means specifically for the La Jolla club is “not an easy answer,” he said. “It’s not one thing.”

Van Zutphen said he wants to improve the club’s calendar of events, make the club more accessible and ensure that maintenance staff is doing what is needed to keep the facility in top shape.

“The nuts-and-bolts things,” he said.

“People love the accessibility of having good tennis players around you all the time,” he added. “It’s a nine-court facility with hundreds of members. The USTA [U.S. Tennis Association] recommendation is 35 members per court; we are triple that recommendation. That’s the level of activity. It doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, but you love the look and the location.”

Growing up and living in Arizona, Van Zutphen often would come to La Jolla to vacation during the summer and more recently would bring his children here.

“We would be near the [La Jolla Tennis Club] facility. I thought it would be great to be a pro here,” he said.

When the board of directors unanimously selected him to be the new manager, Van Zutphen was “excited to get that call” because “I always wanted to be here,” he said.

A player since childhood, he is now a U.S. Professional Tennis Association master professional (one of 135 in the country). He has spent his 30-plus-year career teaching other professionals, collegiate players, adults and children.

His selection in La Jolla, however, comes at a tumultuous time for the club.

Anger continues among some members of the La Jolla Tennis Club over its board’s firing of certain tennis professionals more than a year ago and other conduct they found questionable.

In February, the search began for a new manager, who would be the club’s third in about a year. The board, which is responsible for running the club as a nonprofit service to the city of San Diego on city-owned courts, hosted a meeting Feb. 23 on the club grounds at 7632 Draper Ave. to collect feedback on the qualities the new manager should have. It discussed a decision to spend $20,000 to use South Carolina-based McMahon Careers to help find a manager.

Much of the feedback at the meeting centered on whether the manager also should be a tennis coach. Some speakers said allowing the manager to teach would unfairly compete with instructors who rent courts to offer private lessons. Given that the board had terminated the contracts of some coaches last year, some speakers said bringing in someone who would teach in addition to managing the club would “raise some issues.”

Others said local coaches who are already familiar with the courts would make ideal manager candidates.

However, the conversation soon shifted to how the board communicated with club membership before approving the contract with McMahon.

Board meetings are open to club members, but the topics to be discussed are not listed on the agenda. The board noted that anyone could have attended the meetings at which the manager issue was discussed. Opponents of the search contract responded that they would have attended had they known.

The board proceeded with the McMahon contract, which resulted in Van Zutphen’s hiring.

Former manager Scott Farr left in April 2021 after 15 years after declining a pay cut. Soon after, the board hired Vic Kramitz to manage the club. However, Kramitz’s contract was terminated at the end of 2021 after the board learned he “was paying himself overtime while also taking nearly a full day off work a week,” according to Alex Brown, now the club’s board president.

Kramitz declined to comment at the time about the reasons for his departure.

For more information about the La Jolla Tennis Club, visit ljtc.org. ◆