Area tennis players recognized by USTA SC
Two tennis players with connections to Florence, will be recognized by the USTA South Carolina at its 2015 annual meeting held Dec. 5 on the Isle of Palms. Billy Wilson of Florence will receive the USTA South Carolina 2015 Adaptive Tennis Volunteer of the Year Award. Billy has been dedicated to helping adaptive athletes for the past 15 years.
He always helps athletes at the three biggest events for adaptive tennis players in South Carolina: the Special Olympics South Carolina Tennis Games, the Special Population Unified Doubles tournament in Belton, and at the Special Olympics North America National Tennis Championship on Hilton Head Island. Shirley Taylor of Garden City will be formally inducted into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame.
Taylor, who grew up in Johnsonville, didn’t play tennis until she was 40. At the time, she was playing golf a few days a week but wanted to participate in a more active sport. Taylor was so eager to learn tennis that she’d drive 45 minutes to Florence where the nearest teaching professional resided, for the occasional lesson. Taylor, however, was not an overnight success. During her first tournament, she lost to a teenager, 6-0, 6-0. “And it wasn’t even that close,” she said. But she stuck with the sport, winning only one game, some matches and two games during other contests.
“I was thrilled to death to win two games,” she said. Her persistence paid off. Eight years after she started playing, Taylor won her first South Carolina State Championship. She has since won more than 25 USTA Southern championships, where players from nine states can participate. Taylor also has been ranked No. 1 in her age group for much of the past 20 years. Twice – in 1995 and 2010 – she was named the USTA South Carolina Adult Female Player of the Year.
“Maybe a lot of people when they’re beaten that bad, (think) oh, let’s just give that up. This isn’t that fun,” Taylor said. “I just loved playing. I knew I had the ability to do better. You can’t get better if you don’t practice and I practiced.” Taylor also never let winning change how she acted on court. She has won multiple sportsmanship awards from tournaments. Taylor now lives in Garden City, where she still picks up her racquet and heads to the courts.
More than 20 organizations and individuals from across the state were recognized for all they’ve done to help tennis. “These recipients have done more for the sport than we can quantify,” said Graham Cox, executive director of USTA South Carolina, the state office of the U.S. Tennis Association. “We're honored to be able to celebrate their accomplishments and what they've achieved with tennis in 2015.”