Ten-Year Anniversary of Emotional Sampras Match Mirrors Ten Years of Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation
1/25/05 9:29 PM
PALM COAST, Fla. – On January 24, 1995,
Pete Sampras played the toughest tennis match of his life and his coach, Tim Gullikson, began to fight a battle unlike any he’d ever experienced on the court.
As the Australian Open celebrates its Centennial, the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation, which helps support brain tumor patients and their families, recognizes its 10th year. Both found their wings in Melbourne, one consciously, the other because of one of life’s double faults from which few recover.
Ranked No. 1 in the world ATP rankings, Sampras, along with Gullikson were in Melbourne, Australia preparing for Sampras’ tournament run when Gullikson had a seizure. Accompanied by his twin brother Tom, Tim Gullikson was admitted to a Melbourne hospital where doctors thought he had brain tumors.
“It was a very uncertain time,” Tom Gullikson recalled. “Pete came to see Tim everyday after practice and other coaches and players were taking time out of their training routines to do the same.”
Sampras, who arrived in Melbourne with a tournament title as his goal, found himself determined to play exceptional tennis for his ailing coach.
“I remember having to play knowing that Tim was not doing that well and wanting to get through some tough matches for him,” said Sampras who is retired from professional tennis.
Before Tim left Australia to travel home for further testing, close friends and associates visited to wish him well. Among them were Sampras and Jim Courier who were scheduled to play one another in a tournament quarterfinal the following day.
What happened January 24 is etched in Aussie Open archives and was the most emotional display of a coach and player bond in professional sports history. As Tim and Tom Gullikson flew home to Chicago, Courier and Sampras played a tight match. Down two sets to love, a spectator yelled to Sampras “do it for your coach,” at which point the protégé broke down on the court. He would continue the match with tears streaming throughout. Sampras played each point with heart and tenacity, and captured the next three sets and match from Courier, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
It was Tim Gullikson who helped Sampras develop the tenacity he showed on the court, even as he bowed to Andre Agassi in the Open’s title match.
“Tim’s attitude about practicing hard, his work ethic and knowledge of the game made a lasting impression on me on and off the court,” Sampras said.
Tim Gullikson used the same determination to battle brain cancer.
“This was obviously an emotional time for Tim and our family,” Tom Gullikson said, “and Tim took it at as hard as anyone would. Tim said, though, that he had two fundamental choices. He could wait to die or he could fight the brain tumors for all it was worth.”
Once Tim Gullikson knew what he was facing he developed a game plan to fight the disease that is the No. 2 cause of cancer deaths in children and young adults, and the No. 3 cause of cancer deaths in middle-aged adults. Then he turned his attention to others who fought the disease. If he, who had a loving and supportive family and the best medical attention available found it challenging to find information about how to live with this disease on a daily basis, how would other patients and caregivers cope?
“Tim said if someone had to face something as serious as brain tumors, it was good that it was him because he had so much support from family and friends,” Tom Gullikson said. “He reverted to a coach’s role. Tim believed in incorporating the principles of team-building, mental attitude development and coaching on how to best treat and live with the illness to create a source where patients and families could go for information and fill a gap in doctor’s offices.”
Tim Gullikson, with Tom, wife Rosemary and other family members founded the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation.
“Tim continued to coach Pete over the phone,” Tom Gullikson said. “Paul Annacone was brought in to coach Pete on-site on an interim basis. Tim fully expected to return to Pete’s side as his coach.
“Tim handled everything with amazing fight, hope and a positive attitude. He never had a bad day.”
Although Tim Gullikson died on May 3, 1996, his legacy lives on. Ten years and more than $3 million dollars later, the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation awards scholarships to college-bound students whose lives have been affected by brain tumors, supports research regarding quality of life issues that confront brain tumor patients, provides camp scholarships to children who are brain tumor survivors to attend Ronald McDonald Good Time Camps, funds social workers on the East and West coasts and in the Midwest who have developed social service programs for, and provide support via a toll-free telephone line and the Internet, to brain tumor patients ,caregivers and brain tumor networking groups.
The Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation played an instrumental role in developing the Brain Tumor Family Support Center at Duke University Medical Center, a model support program for large teaching hospitals.
In 2005, the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation celebrates its 10th anniversary. In launching a yearlong celebration, benefits will be held throughout the United States beginning in March with Desert Smash in California and Tennis for Tim in Southeastern Wisconsin.
“The Foundation has done such a wonderful job at keeping Tim’s vision firmly intact, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so,” Sampras said.
According to Tim’s wife, Rosemary Gullikson, Tim was always a coach who cared about other people and their needs. As the Foundation that bears his and his brother’s names recognizes its 10th anniversary, she believes that the Foundation’s programs pay tribute to that legacy.
The Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation was founded in 1995 by former tennis professionals Tim and Tom Gullikson and their families after Tim was diagnosed with brain tumors. The mission of the Foundation is to assist brain tumor patients and their families manage the physical, emotional and social challenges presented by the illness. It funds care and support programs of organizations with similar missions, and through college and camp scholarships. The Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. It may be reached at 1-888-GULLIKSON and www.gulliksonfoundation.org