A friend invited Gary Davis to play tennis when he was 10, and a lifetime interest began.
Davis played on his high school team in Grand Rapids, Mich., and defended the No. 1 singles and doubles his last two years. As a teenager, Davis helped with tennis activities at the YMCA.
At Andrews University in Michigan, he focused on intramural sports as there was no tennis team. After college, Davis began teaching chemistry in Kettering, Ohio, but when his position was eliminated, he looked to Florida.
"I first taught at a private school in Miami, then Fort Pierce where I had my first opportunity to coach high school tennis. Then, I came to the Tampa area," Davis, 50, said. He taught junior high and elementary school and has spent the past six years teaching at Zephyrhills High and coaching the boys team.
"When I started at Zephyrhills, we had no one, and then got lucky with two boys, Chris Black and Chris Hinkle, who joined the team and formed the nucleus of our squad," Davis said. "We finished second in the district and those two qualified for state in No. 1 doubles. After they left, we finished third one year and now are rebuilding."
Davis is as dedicated to coaching as to teaching. He recently earned tennis teaching certification from the Professional Tennis Registry, a world-wide organization.
"Not only do I try to teach and train the fundamentals of tennis, but I teach the benefits of playing tennis and the fact that tennis is a sport you can play for a lifetime," Davis said.
Davis doesn't just tell his team about the benefits and values of tennis. He practices them every chance he gets. Davis is beginning a season in the K-Swiss Tampa Bay Tennis League, a singles flex league. Also, Davis helps with the junior program at Hunter's Green Country Club twice a week.
LEAGUE NEWS: The USA Tennis Florida Adult League State Championships were canceled last weekend by Hurricane Jeanne. An independent auditing firm conducted a lottery to determine teams to represent Florida in next month's national tournaments. Selected was Seminole Lake Tennis Center's 4.0 men's team, which competes this weekend in Tucson, Ariz. Tampa's 3.5 women's team travels to Tucson for its Oct. 8-10 national contest and Tampa's 4.5 women's team competes Oct. 15-17 in Tucson.
A meeting for Senior Doubles Leagues' team captains begins 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at Countryside Country Club in Clearwater. For questions on the women's senior division for 50-plus players, contact Judy Murphy, (727) 815-9618; for men, call David Wisotsky, (727) 938-7902.
Plans are under way to form a men's 4.0 super senior division for 60-plus players to begin play in January. Call Wisotsky.
Carol Levin is coordinator for the women's super senior division and can be reached at (727) 797-8416.
NET SHOTS: USA Tennis Florida is donating $5,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to assist those affected the recent hurricanes.
Second seed Kelly McCain of Wesley Chapel reached the final in this month's $25,000 Pro Circuit Tournament in Ashland, Ky. She played to the semifinal round in doubles with Julie Ditty, defeating Lutz's Stacia Fonseca and Arpi Kojian 6-2, 6-3.
Andres Molina defended his top seeding in the SPTC Adult Classic Championships to win the men's 45-and-over singles title, as did Danny Holcomb in the 70. Bridgett Harrer captured the women's 45 title. Consolation winners included Kelly O'Keefe in the men's 35 and Gary Downing in the 45.
Tampa's Clara Arrington won the girls 16-and-under round-robin competition in this month's Train Smart Tennis Rookie A, as did Trilby's Ali Steiner in the 14. Carol Fraley won the girls 12 and Chana Camacho the 10. In consolation action, Matthew Dodd finished first in the 12, as did Sarah Vande Berg in the 10.
Alexis Dorr defended her top seeding in the Clearwater Fall Championships to win the girls 16-and-under singles title, as did Michael Alford in the boys 12. Dilip Kamath was a finalist in the boys 16. Consolation winners included Kourtney Stark in the girls 16, Lincoln Dunham in the boys 14 and David McKenzie-James in the 12.
COMING UP: Train Smart Tennis Rookie B contest for singles players 16 and younger is Oct. 2-4 in Tampa. Call Alan Williams, (813) 610-7301, by today's deadline. The Temple Terrace Junior Halloween Classic is Oct. 16-18 at the Temple Terrace Tennis Center. Players 18 and under should register for the singles event by calling Manny Mariani, (813) 989-7178, by Oct. 13.
News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, (727) 796-5559; e-mailed to namorgan46msn.com; or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.