From Canada to Texas, to New Zealand, to California, Guillaume Gauthier conquered language barriers and natural disasters, all for the love of tennis.
“I owe thanks to Tyler Junior College for a lot of things, but first and foremost for my ability to speak English. When I moved here I didn’t know any English. They helped me blossom and learn this new language,” said Gauthier.
In the fall of 1991, a 17-year-old, Gauthier moved to the small town of Tyler and enrolled in TJC. Little did he know he would spend over fifteen years of his life here preparing for a big move to the west coast. He spent most of his junior and senior years of high school through Canada and the U.S. playing tennis. While at TJC, he majored in journalism and played on the varsity tennis team. He claims to have met the most influential person in his life during this time.
“I always went to Coach Peterson for advice, not only in tennis but personal things too. He really cares about his players. He has a heart as big as this earth,” said Gauthier.
Gauthier also left a lasting impression on TJC head coach John Peterson.
“In 23 years, Guillaume was the second hardest worker I met,” said Peterson. “He was very talented, even as a 17-year-old freshman coming from Canada.”
In 1993 he transferred to the University of Texas at Tyler and graduated in 1995. In April of 1997 he got a job at Tyler Tennis and Swim and continued to work there until March of 2011.
Gauthier was fortunate enough to continue his career in tennis long after college. In February 2011, he was chosen to represent America in the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The team traveled to New Zealand to compete against Argentina on Feb. 21.
The next day, on at 12:51 p.m. in New Zealand, the earth shifted beneath his feet. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the city of Christchurch. Gauthier was in his hotel located in the center of the city.
“We were lucky enough to get out with just a few scrapes and bruises. Mostly I’m just trying to recover mentally,” said Gauthier.
It took several days to make it safely home to the U.S. Shortly after returning, his life would continue to shift as he and his family planned a move to southern California.
After Gauthier experienced an earthquake that resulted in a death toll of 180, he is moving to yet another “quake-zone” where he will be continuing his career in tennis while working at a country club.
“I believe everywhere you go, you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Gauthier.
His wife, Veorinque, and 7-year-old son Jacob, are excited and supportive of the big move.
Gauthier was an All-American in college and is currently ranked number 3 in the world for his age division. Even after accomplishing so much, he still has big dreams.
“Every year I go back to the drawing board and set new tennis and family- oriented goals. Every year I have been blessed to stay involved in tennis.”
He gives thanks to all his teachers, coaches and friends at TJC because that is where his journey started. He said each person was an important piece of the puzzle.
Gauthier felt that TJC was important to him, but some people thought he was important to TJC as well.
“He helped the other students out a lot,” said Assistant Tennis Coach Kimm Ketelson. “I was very lucky to have him around. Once he graduated and got a job, he actually employed some of my students.”
Looking back at teaching Gauthier almost 20 years ago, Peterson still feels proud that this is where it all started.
“People definitely are not teaching for the money. They teach because when you get to see a student mature and succeed, especially in tennis, it is so gratifying,” said Peterson.