Morris Inducted Into N.C. Tennis Hall-of-Fame
Feb. 1, 2010
PINEHURST, N.C. (courtesy Barton College) - Former Atlantic Christian College/Barton College tennis great Tom Morris, who later led the Bulldogs to great success as a coach, was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
That's the good news. The bad news is that Morris wasn't able to make it to the ceremonies at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst because of icy road conditions.
Morris, of Blount's Creek, and Tom Willson of Cashiers were the night's honorees. Morris' sister, Beth, accepted his honor and former Atlantic Christian/Elon University tennis coach Tom Parham gave some remarks about his former standout player and friend.
"I was going to tell stories and talk about a lot of people, and none of them were going to be there because of the weather," a disappointed Morris said from his home Saturday evening. "It was just too messy out there, so maybe I'll get to see most of them next year."
Morris, who said it took his East Carolina women's team four hours to ride home from a match with N.C. State in Raleigh on Friday night, was told by N.C. Tennis Foundation officials that he would be able to give an acceptance speech at next year's awards ceremony. He said he looks forward to that opportunity.
"I just want to recognize the people that were so instrumental in my life in the area of tennis," he said. "I just can't imagine how different my life would have been without tennis. Virtually everything I do on a day-to-day basis I do because I have played or coached tennis. This is a huge honor...one I didn't expect. I am very humbled and excited to be a part of this (Hall of Fame) group."
He thanked his father, Jack, a former South Carolina state champion, for getting him involved in competitive tennis. He is indebted to Gary Hall, Barton's Director of Athletics, for giving him his first college coaching job, and Parham, who was his college coach and mentor. Parham is also a member of the N.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, as well as six other Hall of Fames. Morris and Parham are both Barton College Hall of Famers.
"I really enjoyed my time in Wilson and at Barton College," Morris said. "We started raising our family there, and I would never have ended up at East Carolina if I hadn't got the chance to coach at Barton. I get to watch people play tennis for a living. It doesn't get much better than that, and it seems to be more and more fun every year."
Parham told the crowd of 90 (250 were expected), that Morris was "a true Southern Christian Gentleman" who took Atlantic Christian from a good program to a great program while winning four straight No. 1 Flight Carolinas Conference singles championships. "Tom buoyed the whole program...his coach included," Parham said.
Parham added that it was a real coup to get Morris, who had numerous full-ride scholarship offers, to come to Atlantic Christian, but said Morris made it known that he wanted to play tennis and study at a small Christian school. Once he arrived, it was apparent that the Bulldogs had a sensational player at the top of their lineup.
"Tom was a baseliner, and he could hit balls from back there all day," Parham said. "I heard another coach tell his player that he could try to play Tom that way (from the baseline), but if he did, he (Tom) could run him off the court in no time."
"Tom was like a a pig in a mud puddle," Parham continued of Morris' prowess of running opponents all over the court from the baseline, "sooner or later, you realize a pig likes wrestling in the mud."
Morris coached both men's and women's tennis at ECU for six years, but has been coaching just the women's team for the past six seasons.
Morris came to North Carolina by way of Columbia, S.C. He enjoyed a sensational prep tennis career, during which he suffered just one regular-season loss and won one high school state championship. As an undergraduate at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton), Morris played in the No. 1 spot all four years, earned All-America recognition twice and helped his team win the 1979 NAIA National Championship. He reached the semifinals in the National Singles Championship his sophomore year and ranked as high as #5 nationally in doubles.
His 105 career singles victories still rank as the school record. Morris was named Kiwanis Male Athlete-of-the-Year at Atlantic Christian three straight years, making him the only athlete to earn that honor more than twice. Morris would return to his alma mater years later as its head coach from 1990-98, molding eight All-America selections and eight conference players of the year. He was inducted into the Barton College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.
Morris is East Carolinas's all-time winningest tennis coach and has compiled a record of 232-168 at the institution, complementing his 407-270 career collegiate mark.