Sports Legends: Game, Set, Match

Three-time All-American Lisa Spain Short was a tennis standout at UGA

In 1980, two future three-time All-American athletes entered the University of Georgia.

One was Herschel Walker. Now tell me who the other one was.

If you said Scott Woerner, Fireball Frankie Sink-wich or Charley Trippi, you would be wrong. The other one was not even a football player and not even male. She was a beautiful young tennis player out of Moultrie named Lisa Spain, now Lisa Spain Short.

Nobody, not even Herschel, came to UGA with more credentials than Short. She was in a league by herself.

During her four years at Moultrie High School (now Colquitt County High) she had an amazing record of 56 wins and one loss. The one loss was to the No. 1 player at Leon High School in Tallahassee, Fla.

“I took some solace from that loss,” Lisa said. “My foe charged the net to return one of my serves, and I slammed the ball over her right eye. I may have lost that match but I gave her a black eye.”

Lisa was and is supremely confident. During her junior year at Moultrie High School, she was offered a scholarship to be the No. 2 singles player on the Clem-son varsity.

“I wanted to be the number one singles player. I thanked the coach for the offer but said no thanks.”

Meanwhile, Dan Magill, director of tennis at the University of Georgia, and Bulldogs Coach Greg McGarity pursued Lisa with letters and personal visits. “On my first visit to the campus I fell in love with UGA. There were offers from other colleges, but for me there was no other place than Georgia.”

At age 18, she was the first female tennis player ever to receive a full athletic scholarship to the Univer-sity of Georgia. The year was 1980, the same year the Bulldogs were national football champions.

Lisa, who had just won her fourth consecutive Georgia High School Class AAA championship, was now ready for college competition. While Herschel was running wild on the gridiron, Lisa was dominant on the tennis courts. She was runner-up for the South-eastern Conference Crown as a freshman and captured the title in her sophomore, junior and senior years. Her senior year was capped by winning the national collegiate championship.

She played at Wimble-don four times (’83 – ’86). In ’85 she lost only to Steffi Graff, future world champion. Short is a member of the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame.

Said Mr. Bulldog himself, Dan Magill, “Lisa could have been a successful professional, but she wanted to get married and raise a family.”

So she married her high school sweetheart, Herbert Short, a graduate of the University of Georgia Law School.

They settled down in Atlanta and began raising three children – Katherine, now 20, a sophomore at UGA, Spain, age 15 and a tennis player for Westmin-ster Schools, and Madison, 18, an offensive lineman on the Westminster football team.

Looking back on her career, Lisa credits Mike Jenkins, her coach at the Moultrie Recreation Department, for getting her ready to play competitively at age eight. With Coach Jenkins guiding her, she entered and won the Moultrie city championship. With Coach Jenkins shouting words of encouragement, she won the U.S. Tennis Association title at age 11.

For all the coaching he did for Lisa, Coach Jenkins never charged her but $1.

“No one was better prepared to compete than I was,” Lisa said. “When I was not in the classrooms, coaches Jenkins and McGarity had me on the tennis courts.”

As an athlete, Lisa is hardly one-dimensional. She has run 10 marathons and completed one tri-athlon.

Lisa, Herbert and the children live in Atlanta in a home they share with cats, dogs, goats, bobcats and horses.

She has taught tennis at the Atlanta Athletic Club. She teaches preschool at the Peachtree Presbyterian Church and gives private tennis lessons at her home. In her spare time, she speaks to civic clubs and has helped her American Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) team win a championship at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center.

Her sweetest tennis victory was her first match at Georgia against the No. 1 player at Clemson. “I won that match, and I think it made the Clemson coaches realize they had made a terrific mistake to let me get away.”

Categories: Legends