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Long-time tennis coach Thomson set to retire

on Wednesday, 26 May 2021. Posted in News, Columns, Education, Local News

Long-time tennis coach  Thomson set to retire

Long-time Francis Marion University men’s and women’s tennis coach Garth Thomson has announced his retirement effective July 1.

Thomson, a 1991 graduate of Francis Marion, recently completed his 29th year guiding the Patriot tennis programs. “We are thankful for the lifetime of work that Garth has given to Francis Marion,” said FMU director of athletics Murray Hartzler. “We are also excited for him as he starts a new chapter in his life. He was a Hall of Famer as a player and as a coach, having been an All-American and then winning more than 700 combined matches while running a program that produced quality graduates.

” Hartzler also said that a nationwide search for Thomson’s successor would begin immediately.

Thomson led the FMU men's team to 18 NCAA Division II national tournament appearances (including trips to the Sweet 16 in 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2008) and a 361-226 record (.615 winning percentage). The Patriot men were nationally ranked at the conclusion of 25 of his 29 seasons. In 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2006 he was named the Peach Belt Conference men's "Coach of the Year

." He directed the women's team to a 380-233 mark (.620 winning percentage) and 15 trips to the NCAA tournament. The program made back-to-back appearances in the national finals (Sweet 16) in 2008 and 2009 (both 20-win seasons), and appeared in the final national poll 11 of the past 16 seasons and 18 times during his tenure.

He was named the South Carolina 2007 College Coach of the Year by the South Carolina Tennis Association. His women's squad earned the PBC Team Sportsmanship Award five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017) since the award's inception in 2009, while the men earned the recently awarded 2021 honor. His teams earned ITA All-Academic Team Awards on 11 occasions (men: 2020, 2017, 2015, 2014; women: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), on 38 occasions Patriot netters earned All-America honors, and on 50 occasions FMU players gained Academic All-America recognition.

“It is time for a change, and an opportunity to see what my next adventure is,” Thomson said. “I need to thank David Cordrey for offering me a tennis scholarship in 1986 and affording me the chance to come to the states and to find a new home in Florence. I want to thank former (FMU) president Dr. Tom Stanton and former athletic director Gerald Griffin for giving me the opportunity to coach, and now current president Dr. Fred Carter and AD Murray Hartzler for their support as I continued coaching.”

“I have been fortunate to have had the chance to work with players who believed in our program and university, and individuals who had high goals. There have been many highlights, including the success of our men’s teams in the late 1990s, the doubles team of Mary Hirst and Lee Whitwell capturing back-to-back national championships, and the 2008 season that saw both our squads reach the national quarterfinals in Houston.”

“Francis Marion gave me the opportunity to earn a degree and play collegiate tennis. That led to NAIA District Six championships, becoming an All-American, and earning a master’s degree. Then I was offered the chance to coach and relive some of the same exhilarations, but from the other side of the court. It has been a fun ride, and I will always be a Patriot.

” Thomson was named head coach on Oct. 26, 1992, replacing Rowan Davis. He was the eighth head coach in the history of the men's program and 12th in the history of the women's program. Prior to taking the FMU position, he was the assistant club (tennis) professional at the Florence Country Club.

In his first two years heading the FMU women's program, he coached Hirst and Whitwell to back-to-back NCAA Division II Women's Tennis Doubles National Championships in 1993 and 1994.

In 2008, the Patriot women enjoyed their most successful season ever with a program-best 23-3 record, a No. 5 final national ranking, and an appearance in the Elite Eight of the national finals. Francis Marion finished tied for second during the PBC regular season and lost in the PBC Tournament championship match. The squad's three losses were all to the teams that played in the Division II national championship match. That same year, the men went 19-6, also reached the Elite Eight of the Division II Tournament in Houston, and gained a No.7 national ranking.

In March 1990, he represented Zimbabwe in Davis Cup competition. In 1998, Thomson was inducted into the FMU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Thomson remains an active tournament player, having been ranked No.1 in the state and in the Southern Region for his age group (50's and previously 40’s) in both singles and doubles.

Thomson is a member of the Francis Marion chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Honor Society. He also previously served as the university’s International Students Coordinator.

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