For Orange Coast College men’s tennis standout Elmer van Butselaar, the road to Costa Mesa began all the way in Rhenen, Netherlands, where he began playing tennis at 12.
Fast forward 22 years and this 34-year-old freshman for the Pirates has been not only a strong player for OCC, he’s also been a mentor and leader for the younger players.
“He’s really been a joy to be around and his teammates love him,” OCC head coach Chris Ketcham said of van Butselaar. “You can really see the enthusiasm he brings onto the court day in and day out and the younger players really feed off of it.”
As a standout player for the Netherlands, van Butselaar competed nationally for his country before beginning a successful coaching career. Perhaps the most well-known player van Butselaar has mentored during his coaching tenure was fellow Dutch player Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, who played 13 years on the WTA tour and reached a No. 9 world ranking.
With the passion of playing tennis still in his blood, van Butselaar returned to school in the hopes of being a physical therapist, so he came to OCC to do both.
“After 10 years of coaching, I began to realize that it was more interesting to me to learn how to keep athletes healthy than it was to teach them how to hit a tennis ball, so I decided to go to college and learn more about it,” van Butselaar said. “After spending time in Florida, I thought a change of scenery would be nice so I came to Southern California and found Orange Coast College.”
Through the first six matches, van Butselaar helped lead the Pirates to a perfect 6-0 record, going a combined 11-1 in singles and doubles competition.
“This has really been a great experience so far,” van Butselaar said. “Chris (Ketcham) has been fantastic and I love spending time with my teammates and traveling to the different matches in the same van with them. It’s really been a lot of fun.”
As a single, van Butselaar lost only 12 games through the first six matches, posting victories over Mt. San Antonio’s Erik Martinez (6-2, 6-1), El Camino’s Joshua Legardy (6-2, 6-0), Palomar’s Christian Corse (6-3, 6-0), San Diego City’s Logan Rinder (6-0, 6-2) and Victor Valley’s Nolan Earl (6-0, 6-2).
In doubles, van Butselaar teamed up with OCC teammates John Lieu, Peter Hariri, Chris Chiu and Justin Nevins and they have gone 5-1, including three 8-0 shutouts.
Recently, he topped the field en route to the 2015 Orange Empire Conference men’s tennis singles title at Riverside City College.
Van Butselaar opened the tournament as a No. 4 seed and after a Round of 64 bye, he defeated RCC’s Julian Siapno, 6-2, 6-4 in the Round of 32.
From there, van Butselaar advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-1 win over ninth-seeded Connor Stephenson (RCC).
In the quarterfinals and semifinals, van Butselaar won by default to earn a trip to the finals, where he would go up against Saddleback College’s Ryan Mariano.
It was no contest as van Butselaar cruised to a 6-2, 6-4 win to give OCC’s top player the conference championship.
Following his Coast career, van Butselaar hopes to earn a degree in kinesiology at Concordia University in Irvine.