We are excited to resume the “How is…?” series, as we look back at the remarkable tradition of Utah men’s tennis through our alumni. Today, we are privileged to feature local and national tennis legend Laury Hammel.
Hammel was born and raised in Salt Lake City by Lee and Ruby Hammel, members of the Utah Tennis Hall of Fame. Hammel’s father and sister, Carolee, both played tennis for the U. His brother, Brad, played for Utah State’s tennis team although he ultimately graduated from the University of Utah. Hammel now lives in Cambridge MA, and has lived in the Boston area for 43 years.
Hammel joined the Utah men’s tennis team in 1966. As a freshman, he played the match of his life, as he lost a tightly contested 6-4, 6-4 match to then top ranked college player in the nation, and future No.1 in the world, Stan Smith of USC.
Throughout his Utah tennis career, Hammel played No. 2 through No. 6 singles positions and also found great success in doubles play, as he won two WAC championships at No. 3 doubles, once with Harold Sears and once with Steve Kruelivitz.
After graduating from the U with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Mathematics, tennis continued to have a positive influence on nearly all aspects of his life. He has coached many nationally ranked juniors in tennis over the years, including players that have gone on to be ranked in the top 200 of the ATP and WTA. He is the owner and CEO of the Longfellow Clubs, which is the premier group of tennis and health clubs in the Boston area, while also being the founder and volunteer Executive Director of the nonprofit Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts. In October 2013 Hammel returned to his roots and purchased the Salt Lake Swimming and Tennis Club, which his father used to manage.
The Hammel family tennis tradition carries on through his five children and two grandchildren. Four of his children played high school tennis and two played USTA tennis. His two grandchildren recently picked up the game of tennis after receiving brand new tennis racquets and foam balls from grandpa Laury. In 2000, Hammel’s family was awarded the title of “National Tennis Family of the Year” by the USTA.
Hammel’s tennis game is as sharp as ever. Currently, he is the #1 ranked played in the 65’s in New England and #13 in the nation. In 2013, he was the first player to ever win the “New England Triple Senior Slam” by winning the New England Hard Court, Clay Court and Grass Court championships.
Hammel was inducted to the New England Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009, an exceptional achievement on a long list of awards for Hammel that includes 1979 USTA New England Tennis Professional of the Year and 1991 USTA New England Person of the Year. Welcome back Laury Hammel!
Q: What is your most memorable moment as a Ute?
Hammel: “Playing Stan Smith. Also, In 1969 coach Harry was pressured by one of the team’s major benefactors to make me cut my hair before competing at the WAC championship in Arizona. I have a photo of the team cutting my hair (which was like 1.5 inches long on the back and sides) so I could compete on the team. Unlike Sampson, my tennis strength wasn’t tied to my hair length and Harold Sears and I ended up winning the WAC championships at No. 3 doubles and I didn’t lose my serve in any of my three matches.”
Q: How did the University of Utah affect your career?
Hammel: “I had a full scholarship for being on the tennis team and I received by bachelor’s degree which was obviously very important for my life in so many ways. I made many of my best friends in my life on the U tennis team including Harold Sears, Scott Bennion, Bill Bennion, FD Robbins, Gene Malin, Dick Svedman, and Dan Bleckinger as well as many other good friends.”
Q: How do you look back at your time with the University of Utah?
Hammel: “My experience on the U tennis team was one of the most meaningful and profound experiences in my life. It was fun, exciting, and dramatic. I learned so many things, both positive and difficult lessons. It set me up nicely for my career in the tennis industry and connected me to friends and teammates for my whole life.”
Q: What is in store next for you?
Hammel: “I have tennis in my blood and I love playing, teaching, managing, and promoting tennis. And I’m not done yet! In October of 2013, fifty years after my father managed the Salt Lake Tennis Club I purchased this iconic tennis institution. The Salt Lake Tennis Club was founded in 1912 and I am committed to continuing, for another 100 years, the proud legacy of this historic club by rebuilding the tennis programs and bringing them back to their former glory. I have a vision that goes beyond tennis and actually transforms the club into a world-class tennis, swimming, and health club that meets the health and wellness needs of the Salt Lake community.”