For 27 years now, Dan Santorum has served as the CEO of the Professional Tennis Registry, thanks to a little bit of fortune and being in the right place, he calls it.
He got the job way back in 1986 following a two-year stint on the court working alongside Dennis Van der Meer, who ultimately offered him the job after seeing how his protege helped develop those in their tennis clinics.
"He made a huge impact on my life, I can tell you that," Santorum said.
He's not the only one. Van der Meer's legacy on Hilton Head Island continues to reach, ever since the tennis legend first opened up his tennis academy here way back in 1979. His contributions to tennis in the Lowcountry is one of the many reasons why he has been named the inaugural inductee into the PTR Hall of Fame.
His induction will take place this morning during the Parade of Nations Flag Ceremony at the PTR International Tennis Symposium.
"The PTR board instituted the hall of fame and they felt obviously that Dennis was the perfect person to be the inaugural inductee to go in alone, being that he's the founder and president emeritus," Santorum said. "He's had such an impact on the organization from the very beginning."
Dr. Jim Loehr, an author and motivational speaker, will emcee the event. Dignitaries from both the International Tennis Federation and the U.S. Tennis Association will also speak.
PTR made the initial decision to select Van der Meer as its first hall of fame member at last year's symposium. The debate over who would garner the honor was a short one, Santorum said.
"It was unanimous," he noted. "It wasn't a very long discussion. We didn't need to discuss it long. It was an obvious choice."
Van der Meer's induction is another in a long list of honors for the notable coach. He's been named to hall of fames by the USTA and TIA and also was selected as the developmental coach of the year in 1997 by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
He was the coach of both Margaret Court and Billie Jean King in the Battle of the Sexes against Bobby Riggs and has taught the game of tennis to thousands more since bringing his tennis academy to the Lowcountry.
"In terms of teaching ability, there was nobody that was better and I don't think there's anybody that's ever going to be better than him," Santorum said. "He had a great mind for teaching and a unique talent and a great sense to remember peoples names and had a great sense of humor.
"The combination of those three ... that's why people came back. They had a great time. They learned tennis and had fun doing it."
Santorum saw that better than most, when Van der Meer first brought him down to Hilton Head Island in 1984. Just one more person in a long list of them with a debt of gratitude for Dennis.
"It was unbelievable what I learned on teaching from the best," he said. "I just got fortunate of being in the right place at the right time when this came open. He offered me the job and it's been going great ever since."