Late Upstate coach who played at Wimbledon and Myrtle Beach-area woman tabbed for South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame
COLUMBIA, S.C. – USTA South Carolina and the South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation are proud to announce that Shirley Taylor of Garden City will be inducted and the late Dick McKee of Spartanburg will be inducted posthumously into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame next month.
McKee spent years playing tennis and helping grow the sport throughout South Carolina, and Taylor continues to play and exhibit great sportsmanship on the court. “We are so grateful for everything Dick did for tennis in our state, and Shirley’s story is one that should inspire all of us to remain persistent in whatever we’re trying to achieve,” said Graham Cox, executive director of USTA South Carolina. “We look forward to properly celebrating their achievements and contributions to the game.”
Their achievements will be formally celebrated at the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame banquet at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms. The induction ceremony, held in conjunction with the USTA South Carolina Annual Meeting, is sponsored by the South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation, the charitable arm of USTA South Carolina that runs the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame in Belton.
Clark Richard McKee, who went by Dick, grew up in Miami Beach, Florida, and started playing tennis after he received a racquet for his 12th birthday, his son Richard McKee said. Before Dick McKee knew it, he was playing college tennis on scholarship at the University of Miami, where he teamed in doubles with Pancho Segura, who later coached all-time great American tennis player Jimmy Connors.
In 1941, McKee, the No. 7-ranked player in the country, helped Miami capture the national intercollegiate men’s tennis championship.
“Dad was around some good people, some very intelligent people as far as tennis goes,” Richard McKee said.
From there, Dick McKee served in the U.S. Army in England during World War II. His military service led him to his finest tennis memory. In August 1945, months after Victory in Europe Day, McKee played at Wimbledon for the U.S. team during the Allied Forces European Theater Championships. The crowd featured members of the royal family, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill. “That was the pinnacle,” Richard McKee said.
Richard McKee could remember only one other time in which his dad played competitively after the war – a father-son tournament they won in the early 1970s. Instead, Dick McKee spent most of his adult life helping others with tennis.
He coached teams at Davidson College and at Furman University for more than 10 years. He also served as the director of tennis for the Greenville Country Club and the Country Club of Spartanburg.
McKee lived in Spartanburg for 28 years before he died in 2001 at the age of 80.
He passed along his passion for tennis.
Richard McKee previously coached the men’s team at Florida State University and is still a teaching pro in Tallahassee. Bobby McKee, Dick and Audrey’s other son, coached the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, and at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, before he died January 1.
Richard McKee will accept the honor on behalf of the family at the banquet.
If Dick McKee was your prototypical tennis star – grew up in Miami, went on to college success and coaching prowess – Shirley Taylor is your atypical tennis champion. Taylor, who grew up in Johnsonville, South Carolina, 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, South Carolina, 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.
“I believe in being a lady on the court and respecting your opponent and behaving yourself,” Taylor said. “I would play the best I would play but I would also respect my opponent and certainly give her credit for playing well.”
Taylor, 81, and now lives in Garden City, South Carolina, where she still picks up her racquet and heads to the courts.
“It’s been a real blessing and fun and all those good things,” she said, “and of course, I’m still playing.”
For more information, including how to buy tickets to the Hall of Fame ceremony, go to www.sctennis.com/annualmeeting.