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Tribute: Professional tennis player Torben Ulrich, father of Metallica's Lars Ulrich, remembered

Tribute: Professional tennis player Torben Ulrich, father of Metallica's Lars Ulrich, remembered

Former professional tennis player Torben Ulrich and the father of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich passed away yesterday at 95. 

His son, Lars, delivered the news on Instagram yesterday with a gallery of photos and wrote: “Torben Ulrich: 1928-2023. 95 years of adventures, unique experiences, curiosity, pushing boundaries, challenging the status quo, tennis, music, art, writing… and quite a bit of Danish contrarian attitude. Thank you endlessly! I love you dad.”

Winner of the Stuttgart Open in 1953, Torben had deep runs at Grand Slam tournaments including 4th round appearances at Wimbledon, the French Open, and US Open.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Torben played tennis from the 1940s, joining the Tennis Grand Masters tour in the 1970s and 1980s, and represented Denmark in 102 Davis Cup matches. In 1976, he was the top-ranked senior player globally and simultaneously wrote for Danish jazz magazines and newspapers, including Information and Politiken." 

Asked in a 2005 interview if he was disappointed his son Lars didn't pursue pro tennis, Torben pointed to Florida and replied: "No, no. The main thing was that he do what he thought was his choice—not our choice. But in order for him to know that more clearly, we encouraged him to leave Denmark for a year and travel to Florida, to a place called the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. He went there when he was 13 or 14. He was very interested in tennis at that time, but he was also very interested in music."

I met the amazing Torben Ulrich over 20 years ago at the Omega Institute in New York. His seminar was called Zen and Tennis. 

Photo (via Wikipedia):  Noske, J.D. / Anefo - [1] Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANeFo), 1945-1989, Nummer toegang Bestanddeelnummer 908-7532. CC BY-SA 3.0 nl.

At the start of the clinic he sat in a meditative seated position and was silent for about 5 minutes which to the New York students seemed like 5 hours.

Leading us to the tennis court, he was like Moses leading the students through the desert. His racquet was like Moses' stick, his beard resembled the great leader. In a magazine interview years ago, I recalled they asked him if he was scared of Pancho Gonzalez's serve, at that time the best in tennis.

His reply was, "How can you be scared of a thing of beauty?" 

He relayed amazing stories about how his dad was a top tennis player who was friends with the King of Sweden who helped him hide during the German occupation when Hitler was in power.

His study of jazz, Buddhist thought, and his humor were incredible assets.

There are a handful of spirits and souls you meet that shine brighter than others. Torben was that shining star.

Now Torben is finishing his interview with Coltrane, Miles Davis, and the other jazz greats.

Love 95++++ 


Written by: Thomas Katovsky, the former varsity tennis coach at Kent State and John Carroll University, and a mainstay in the tennis world for over a decade. He also was volunteer coach at the Israel Tennis Centers in Tel Aviv (working alongside Davis Cup coach Ron Steele). Katovsky also happens to be co-founder of Healthy Referral, a newspaper founded in 1989 dedicated to researching elusive natural health resources contributing to mental, nutritional, financial, and spiritual wellness. .

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