Patriot Tennis Players and Former Coach Named to FMU Athletic Hall of Fame (Induction Feb. 16)
FLORENCE, S.C. - Francis Marion University athletic officials have announced that former Patriot athletic coach Tom C. Davidson and former women’s tennis players Mary Hirst and Lee Whitwell, both two-time national champions, will be the newest inductees into the FMU Athletic Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony will take place during Homecoming activities on Saturday, Feb. 16. The ceremony will occur at approximately 3:45 p.m. in the Smith University Center gymnasium, between the women’s and men's games of the FMU and Augusta State University basketball doubleheader.
Davidson, who died on March 16, 1996, was a member of the Francis Marion athletic staff from 1972 to 1995. Among the many positions he held were assistant dean of students (1972-83), assistant men's basketball coach (1972-74), assistant baseball coach (1972-95), head men's soccer coach (1983-93), coordinator for all athletic recruiting (1972-75), and director of intramurals (1994-95). He also assisted in the area of fund raising for the Patriot athletic program.
During his years assisting Gerald Griffin in the Patriot baseball dugout, Francis Marion recorded a 549-323-1 record. While head coach of the soccer program, he compiled a 61-104-12 mark, which at that time was the highest win total for any coach in the history of the soccer program. His 1985 squad was the first Patriot soccer team to qualify for post-season play. His 1990 squad went 14-5-0, a season record for victories that stood until 1998.
“Coach D” broadcast some Francis Marion and area high school sports on the radio, and served on the executive committee for the Carolina Classic High School Basketball Tournament. He was involved with numerous civic activities and was an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Davidson earned the B.A. degree in psychology and physical education from Emory and Henry College, where he received 11 varsity letters in three sports and was a member of that school’s Sports Hall of Fame. He earned the M.S. degree in physical education from the University of Tennessee and did further study at Stetson University and Florida State University.
Prior to coming to Francis Marion, he was an assistant baseball coach at The Citadel for two years, and taught and coached at several high schools in Florida for seven years.
Although separated by one year in school, Hirst and Whitwell became synonymous with each other, as they teamed on the tennis court to win back-to-back NCAA Division II women’s doubles national championships in 1993 and 1994. The first year, they entered the national tournament as unknowns, and the following year as unlikely repeat champions. It was only the third time in Division II history a doubles team had successfully defended its title. The individual singles and doubles championships were discontinued in 1995, thus not allowing the duo a chance to “three-peat.”
Hirst played on the Patriot tennis team from 1992 to 1995 and earned All-America honors three times. She helped guide FMU to a four-year record of 47-29 and a pair of end-of-the-season national rankings. She earned a B.A. degree in history in 1995 and currently resides in her native England.
Off the playing court, she was named to the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll three times and was selected to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges in 1995.
In addition to her doubles prowess, she played in the 1994 Division II singles national championship tournament. She was the 1994 Patriot team’s most valuable player.
As a freshman, she played in the NAIA singles and doubles national championship tournaments. That season, she also earned All-Palmetto State Conference and All-District Six recognition.
Whitwell, a native of Gibraltar, earned a B.A. degree in English and Spanish in December 1996. She is currently the assistant women’s tennis coach at Alliant International University (formerly United States International University) in San Diego.
In addition to lettering for four years (1993-96) on the FMU women’s tennis team, she also played on the 1993 and 1995 Patriot volleyball teams. On the tennis court, she was a three-time All-American. She was an All-Peach Belt Conference selection three times, and was named the Peach Belt’s “Player of the Year” for women’s tennis in 1993 as a freshman. She was named the FMU team MVP in 1993, 1995, and 1996.
Her four-year record in singles competition was 67-24 and 63-20 in doubles. She helped guide Francis Marion to a four-year mark of 50-29 and two NCAA national tournament appearances.
As a senior, she compiled a 13-6 singles record (No. 11 national ranking) and a 13-5 doubles mark (No. 20) leading FMU to a school-record 14 wins (six defeats), a spot in the Division II South Region championship match, and a final national team ranking of No. 13.
As a freshman with an 18-2 singles record, she also played in the NCAA Division II singles championships in Industry, Calif.
Whitwell and Hirst also teamed to place second at the 1994 fall Rolex National Small College Championships, and sixth at the 1993 fall ITA/Rolex NCAA Division II National Tournament, both held in Edmond, Okla.
The three join 19 current members in the FMU Athletic Hall of Fame, which was formed in 1991. Past inductees include Cindy Alford (women’s softball), Jeannette Alston (women’s basketball, volleyball), Kristi Anderson (women’s softball), Gary Bennett (golf), Maria Costas (women’s basketball, tennis, volleyball), Carlton Farr (men’s basketball), LaRue Fields (women’s basketball, volleyball), Allen Floyd (men’s basketball), Sylvia Rhyne Hatchell (women’s basketball coach), Wayne Huggins (baseball), Scotty Keefe (baseball), Pearl Moore (women’s basketball), Robert Moore (men’s basketball), Mitch Powell (track and field, cross country), Tommy Randall (golf), Garth Thomson (men’s tennis player and coach), Randy White (track and field, cross country), Mike Wilson (baseball), and Rendy Yates (women’s softball player and coach).