TCU, Fort Worth, and the sport of tennis, lost a major player on Wednesday with the passing of King Tut.
Former TCU tennis coach Bernard “Tut” Bartzen has died, the school confirmed on Thursday.
Bernard J. “Tut” Bartzen was 91.
Bartzen is one of the most successful coaches in the history of collegiate tennis, and during his playing career was one of the best Davis Cup players to have played.
Although he had slowed down considerably in his latter years, he was still a regular at TCU home tennis matches, to watch the players play at the facility that bore his name, “The ‘Tut’ Bartzen’ Varsity Courts.”
Most of the people who saw Bartzen quietly walk around likely had no idea who he was. He was a short man who did not suffer from little man’s syndrome.
You could know Tut and easily not know his resume; he was not going to tell, or brag, about it. Someone else would do it for him.
In 1995, Bartzen became the fourth tennis player to be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
He coached the TCU program from 1974 to 1998. In his tenure at TCU, he turned the program into one of the most successful in the nation. In his career, TCU won more than 500 matches, and reached its first NCAA Final Four in 1989. The Horned Frogs program reached the Final Four again in 1996.
Under Bartzen, TCU reached the NCAA Tournament 13 times. He was named the ITCA National Coach of the Year in 1982.
Current TCU tennis coach David Roditi, an All-American in his TCU career, played for Bartzen from 1993 to ‘96.
“It’s impossible to put into words what Coach Bartzen has meant to TCU Tennis, the Fort Wort community, Colonial Country Club, Texas Tennis and USA Tennis. He and his wife, Sara, together with the Friedman family, had a vision,” Roditi said in a statement. “They built the beautiful tennis center and instilled a championship culture at TCU. We wouldn’t have what we have today, if it wasn’t for the work of Coach Bartzen.
“It would be hard to find a tennis family in Fort Worth that wasn’t touched by the leadership, mentoring and passion of Coach Tut. For me, personally, he was like a father. He was a mentor. He taught me discipline. He taught me right from wrong and how to be the best person I could be. He was a great role model, father and family man. He was one of the most humble human beings that I’ve ever been around. Everything he ever accomplished was deserved because he worked for it and earned it.
“As humble and full of integrity as he was, he was also one of the most competitive people that I’ve ever met and I love that about him. One of my main goals when I became a coach at TCU was to get the program back to where he had it. More than making the fans and alumni proud, I wanted to make him proud. And I’d like to think that he was. I’m so grateful to have spent so much time with him. I’m sad to have him leave but he gets to be with his wife now. He lived a beautiful, clean and spiritual life. He will be very missed around TCU.”
A BRILLIANT CAREER
Bartzen was born in Austin and moved to San Angelo when he was four. In San Angelo, he won two high school singles state titles and a doubles championship. He also won the National Interscholastic singles championships.
He attended the College of William & Mary where he was 50-0. He won the NCAA doubles title in 1948.
After college, he worked for Wilson and was drafted to go to the Korean War. During his service time, he was allowed to play tennis and in tournaments. Although he was ready and willing to go, he never had to go to Korea.
Bartzen then went to a pro career, in an era where tennis looked nothing like the professional circuit that it is today. In this portion of his career, he was known as “Black Bart.”
As a singles player, he was ranked in the top 10 from 1953 to 1961. He won four U.S. Clay Court Championships and the Canadian National title in 1954.
He played in the French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open.
He became a co-captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, where he was 15-0 in singles play.
Bartzen was a brilliant player who simply had the misfortune of playing in an era when tennis was not a big money maker.
After his pro career was over, he became the head pro at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Because of his ties to the tennis community, he was able to put on a large tournament at the Club and attract star players, which at one time included his friend, Rod Laver.
Tut and his wife, Sara, had four children, and eight grandchildren.
Their daughter, Angela, qualified for the Texas state single’s tournament at Paschal in 1976.
Sara ran the TCU tennis shop while Tut coached the team. The two were fiercely, and quite wonderfully, protective of each other.
Sara died in 2000, and while many of Tut’s friends feared her passing would slow him down, he kept moving. He played tennis, mostly doubles, for as long as his body would allow. One of his tennis partners was former American League baseball president and Fort Worth resident, Dr. Bobby Brown.
Tut was an instructor and a teacher at heart, who was a friend to anyone who wanted.
Tut is now again with Sara, walking their dog, headed to a tennis court.
SERVICES FOR TUT BARTZEN
Visitation will be 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16, at Thompson’s Harveson & Cole Funeral Home.
The service for Bartzen will be 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17 at Saint Andrews Catholic Church.