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Mike Linnik

San Jose YMCA

Inducted as a Player in 2019


Mike started at Oak Park YMCA, Illinois, with father Dr. Thomas Linnik as a kid playing with a black ball. Mike watched his Dad play Phil Elbert (AAU Open Doubles Champion), and St Louis Cardinal Pro football player Tony Pasquesi.

Mike played regularly in college at IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology), Chicago, where he played (and won) every semester tournament for four years.  Yet in his words "couldn't (yet) win a YMCA 'C' title".

Mike got a job with Texas Instruments in Dallas, and played at the Dallas YMCA with greats Buzz Shumate and Alvis Grant. He traveled to Austin and saw the "Super Eight" Pro's play like: Naty Sr, Fred Lewis, Dennis Hofflander, Gordy Pfeiffer, Vern Roberts, Lou Russo, Poncho Monreal. They helped show Mike different ways to win.

Mike came to San Jose's YMCA, played all the local & state tournaments.  He won Open Singles's: Super Bowl (1992), Turkey Shoot (1998), Kuaui (2011); and Open Doubles: Top Gun with Eric Gottlieb (2005), Honolulu Doubles with Gary Sternberg (2016).

It was in 2004 when Mike reached out to "The Great One" David Chapman.  David was a great Coach as well as Player, and used three days in 1-on-1 sessions to "get his message across" to Mike.

This was followed by his first breakthrough in 2006 in Houston winning the USHA 45's Singles, with friends Kevan Del Grande and the San Jose Handball Club pushing him to close out the tiebreaker.

Then Mike started winning Nationally from 45's to 60's.  Mike won YMCA National 40's title, won 6 USHA Nationals (4 Singles and 2 Doubles titles). Mike won a 1st place (and a Waterford Cyrstal) in Winnipeg World's, and a Silver medal at the World's in Dublin, Ireland.

Mike won 4 NCHA Regionals, 20+ Bay Area tournaments. Helped 15+ partners win Doubles titles: Kevan Del Grande, Tom Fitzwater, Ron Koscielak, Ron Strausbaugh, Eric Gottlieb, Dave Harris, Jerry Alcantar, Francis Breining, Dave Kennedy, Tom Urquhart, Gary Sternberg, John Ehni, Jerry Alcantar, Thomas Linnik, Artie Ward.

He also managed to nab the rare "slam", winning 2017 Fred Bancalari/Super Bowl 60's Singles, and 60's Doubles with Tom Fitzwater.

Mike's oddest memory: beating a Grand Master to win the 55's Singles in 2013 at the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club to realize he was joined by handball greats John Bike (who won the 50's), and Vern Roberts (who won the 60's).

Greatest memories: playing with his Dad at the Oak Park YMCA (outside Chicago); playing with son Thomas (13 years old) in Watsonville 3-Wall under the night lights; and winning the last Open Singles tournament held on Kauai to honorably carry the royal title "The Big Kahuna".

Submitted by Tom Sove and Tom Fitzwater

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