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Mike Trautner

If you grow up in Pierre, SD and like tennis, you’re mainly a summertime player. But, starting at age 8 or so, and even with no year round tennis, Mike Trautner grabbed the game by the throat. He rose to the top ranks of the Big Ten Conference playing for the Minnesota Gophers.

As one of the top players this state has produced, Mike is being inducted into the 2007 South Dakota Tennis Hall of Fame. Mike attributes his tennis success to high school coach and father Phil Trautner, Minnesota coach Jerry Noyce and some terrific teammates.

After winning three straight state singles titles (1974-76) for Pierre, and being ranked #1 in the Northwestern Tennis Association three years running, Mike earned a tennis scholarship under Noyce. Mike said he had lots of great matches, but a highlight was winning #1 doubles with partner Kent Helgesen over Michigan, on the Wolverines home court, on their way to a Gophers’ Big Ten title.

"Coach Noyce really stressed doubles, which we practiced a lot of, since then we had limited facilities with a big squad, often practicing four to a court anyway," said Mike. "Jerry was legendary for his very tough doubles drills. And of course, my father was like a sponge, also stressing doubles for Pierre High School, and together we shared many of Jerry’s ideas."

Mike, who is single, earned a business degree at Minnesota and today works in real estate finance for Daugherty Financial Group in the Twin Cities. Phil Trautner (1992 SD Tennis Hall of Fame) died in 2004, and mother Joan still lives in Pierre. Mike’s sister Lynne lives in London and younger brother Perry lives in Oakland, CA.

Mike’s tennis story ignited because Phil loved the game. "My father came to Pierre to be the coach of all sports. Fortunately, he found a kindred spirit in Franklin Hyde, who not only loved the game, but was generous enough to build some new courts. Dad had the gift of teaching, coaching and promotion, and some older players got me started through the summer recreation program."

"One of the influences toward tennis was Joe Grimes, who was probably in his 60’s when I started, but was an outstanding player, often playing in those days with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth," smiled Mike. "Joe was very generous with his time, playing with me and handing out advice along the way."

Mike remembers his first title in the 12’s at the SD Closed. Then he spent each summer traveling the Northwestern Section. "Jim Thielen was one of my first Sectional partners. His dad, Harry, would often drive us to tourneys, leaving Pierre at 4 a.m., hitting Sioux Falls in time for the draw. Often Harry would pull over to take a quick nap and Jim and I would have to prod him awake to get us there in time."

Mike said his most memorable time in junior tennis days was winning sectional titles at Woodhill Country Club in Minneapolis against Mark Wheaton, a noted name in the Section. "I really took on the challenge that a kid from Pierre, with no indoor courts, could compete with kids from the Cities with year-round facilities."

Traveling to tourneys with Phil when each played in their age groups was a highlight, and many tourneys provided housing which brought many new friendships. "When I was a 9th grader, Dad let me play on the high school team and winning a state title for Pierre, as a junior in 1975, is a top memory." Great matches against Mike Hoeger of Sioux Falls Lincoln (future teammates at the U of MN) rate high on Mike’s list.

In Mike’s 4th year at Minnesota he took a medical red shirt, recovering from shoulder surgery in the summer of 1980. Playing Ron York in the finals of a Rochester, MN event, Mike dove and landed on his stretched out arm. He recovered well enough to co-captain Minnesota as a senior, playing #1 singles and #1 doubles, in 1981. In winning Big Ten doubles, he was named team MVP.

Mike said generous donors headed up the Baseline Club at Minnesota, which helped build a successful program by assisting with facilities and travel. As a junior, Mike had three national experiences representing the Section at Kalamazoo. Later, he played a national 21 and under circuit traveling to several national tourneys with Mark Wheaton.

An all-around athlete, Mike played basketball his senior year for Roger Pries and the Pierre Governors. His running mate at the guard spot was Mark Flannery, who then became his doubles partner for the school tennis team. Mike’s singles titles were 1974, over Bruce Mannes of Aberdeen Central; 1975 over Scott Hackler of Vermillion; and 1975 over Hoeger. His prep overall singles record was 80-2, and he lead Pierre to two conference championships.

Trautner and Hoeger, both from South Dakota, with the 1981 Big Ten title in hand for the Golden Gophers (their first ever), and a total of four of the players from the Northwestern Section, said something about the quality of play in this region at the time. Mike said the players were interchangeable, evidenced by a terrific player like Hoeger winning at #6 singles.

"I’m extremely proud of my SD tennis heritage," said Mike. "My experiences playing and growing up in SD have served as the foundation for whatever successes I have had both in and out of tennis."