Class of 1997Active: 1967 - 1973
13 Open Victories
Twice Sinjin Smith played in 25 open tournaments in single seasons on his way to a record 416 starts. Larry Rundle played in 25 opens his entire career.
There are many who would argue that Rundle was every bit as
talented as Smith, who is on everybody’s short list in the best player of all-time debate. Rundle’s winning percentage of .520 (13 victories in 25 starts is better than most of the sport’s luminaries including Smith (.334) Karch Kiraly (.419,) Kent Steffes (.482), Randy Stoklos (.333) and Phil Dalhausser (.341).
Few could dispute that Rundle’s seven-season career from 1967 to 1973 was spectacular if not for longevity, at least intensity.
Wearing black socks in some events to play into a “nerd image” he liked to perpetuate, the six-foot Rundle was explosive out of the sand due to his weight room diligence. He used to spend hours at the UCLA weight room squatting five sets of 15 reps with 505 pounds worth of weight on the bar, while the Bruin football offensive line ogled in amazement.
“I was only 165 pounds and they would bring their friends in to
watch that ‘little guy’ squat the weight,” said Rundle. “I was a natural jumper, but I also worked at it and never bought into the theory that building big muscles limited your flexibility. I figured strong legs transferred into a big jump and that was good for volleyball.”
Rundle played volleyball at UCLA when it was a club sport with such legendary teammates as Ernie Suwara and Keith Erickson. He was the star of the epic 1968 United States Olympic team match in Mexico City against the heavily favored Soviet Union. It was the lean Rundle who put the hot shoulder to the cold war adversary, powering through the Soviet block into what was one of the greatest moments in Olympic history during a five-set American upset.
The very next match against Czechoslovakia and the match tied at one set apiece, Rundle landed on the referee stand and sprained his ankle. He never played another point in the Olympics and the U.S. dropped out of contention. The Soviets went on to win the gold medal.
Disappointed, but not deterred Rundle quickly made his mark on the open beach tournament scene. “I was gainfully unemployed,” said Rundle, who eventually worked 25 years in the mortgage business and later owned and operated a tennis facility in Thousand Oaks. “I worked a celebrity nightclub in Beverly Hills waiting tables until 2:30 in the morning to make $40 a night in tips so I could play beach volleyball.”
Rundle’s daily routine would included getting up late from his
long nights at the club, play some games at the beach and then head to Westwood to use the weight room. “I was the first beach guy to incorporate heavy lifting into my training. It worked for me and I stuck with it.”
Rundle’s primary run came with the mysterious Henry Bergman, whose physical prowess helped make the duo the most entertaining warm up team of all ties. “Henry bounced a ball once in Santa Barbara over the trees and onto the street,” said Rundle. “On one bounce -- I have never heard of anybody else doing that. He did things that just stunned people.”
Seven of Rundle’s career victories came when he was partnered with Bergman, including the 1968 Manhattan Open. He also won five times with Bob Clem and once with Ron Von Hagen. That 1968 Manhattan victory was over Ron Lang and Von Hagen in which the two teams played each other for over six hours on that Sunday while squaring off both in the winner’s final and championship double final.
“It finally ended when Lang couldn’t see the ball anymore in the last game to 15 and we ran through them,” said Rundle. “I said a few years ago at the Manhattan Open Champions dinner that tournament should have been called a draw. I still feel that way.”
(Written by: Jon Hastings)