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May 15, 2013

Geurkink's love for tennis led to lasting success

DUNCAN — In the early years of his childhood, Mark Geurkink was a do-it-all athlete, playing everything from youth football to basketball to tennis.

As he got older, Geurkink watched as other Duncan kids grew larger in stature while he remained the same size, making it difficult for him to keep up in most sports.

Tennis, however, proved to be the perfect fit.

“I was one of the smaller kids, but I realized growing up that tennis didn’t necessarily rely on size and physicality as much as sports like football and basketball,” Geurkink said. “I found that I had an aptitude for it and could compete with anyone of any size. In tennis, size did not matter.”

Choosing to focus solely on tennis led to Geurkink's immense success on the courts with the Duncan Demons, as he was named to the All-State team in 1976 and reached the semifinals of the state tournament during his junior and senior years. For that success, Geurkink will be inducted into the Duncan Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday at 1:15 p.m. in the Duncan Auditorium Building.

“Hearing about it [the induction] was really neat because I did not know that Duncan had one,” Guerkink said. “Duncan was a great place to grow up, some of my best friends today are people met here when I was 12 years old.”

Geurkink’s choice to just play tennis makes his induction unique, as he will become the first Hall of Famer to be inducted only as a tennis player.

The Class of 1976 graduate’s tennis career began at an early age, as he began competing in Duncan youth tennis camps at the age of eight.

By the time he was eleven years old, Guerkink was competing on the national level. Guerkink became the No.1 ranked Oklahoma singles player in the United State Tennis Association Missouri Valley’s 14& Under division and 16 & Under divisions and qualified for those categories’ national tournaments.

“That was an advantage for me when I played it high school,” Guerkink said. “The more you play, the better you get and that experience allowed me to compete against 18-year olds when I was just 15 or 16.”

The inductee’s passion for tennis stemmed from one of his strongest memories playing the game: a conference title when he was a seventh grader at Duncan Junior High.

“A lot of people might wonder why I would say that’s one of the moments I remember most, but at the time it was a huge deal to me,” Guerkink said. “I had just started playing at that level and winning a conference title was such a great feeling.”

Guerkink credits the adult tennis players in Duncan at the time, people like Phil Leonard, Duke Dubois, Les Corbit, Bill Sheets and Joel Wilkerson, for helping him improve his game at a young age.

Amidst all the success he had, Guerkink recalls one of the most trying moments of his career with the Demons taking place during his senior year.

‘The whole week before the Southern Oklahoma Invitational Tournament, I had been sick,” Guerkink said. “I couldn’t practice, couldn’t compete all week. I then went out there and was able to somehow make it all the way to the finals and finish second.”

After applying those skills at Duncan, where he was the team’s No.1 singles play all four years, Geurkink took his game to the college level, playing for Oklahoma and being named the team’s captain his senior year.

“My junior year at Oklahoma in 1979 was my best year of tennis,” Guerkink said. “I won a Big Eight Title in No.3 double play.”

Though his time with the Sooners led him to eventually settle down in Norman, Geurkink's family ties – his parents and wife’s parents still live in Duncan – bring him to town several times a year.

“I’ll always remember Duncan as a great place to grow up. I’m proud to be from Duncan,” Guerkink said. “There was a lot going on at the time, the town was growing so much when I grew up there. I always enjoy coming back to visit family.”

 

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