Magill, 87, refuses to slow down

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Dan Magill retired as men's tennis coach at the University of Georgia after 34 years in 1988, but he still prowls the court.

In the final of the 85s singles division at the Southern Seniors Hardcourt Open Championships on Thursday at Newman Tennis Center, the 87-year-old Magill polished off Terry Scott, of Columbus, Ga., 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour.

Magill and Scott were the only competitors in the division. Scott generously moved down from the 90s division after Magill's original opponent withdrew with an injury.

"I never got to a shot," said Scott, 90. "He got me every shot."

Magill's association with tennis dates to the 1930s. He remembers being a ball boy for a match with American star Bill Tilden. He played two years at Georgia and was the captain-elect of the 1942 team before enlisting in the Marine Corps and fighting the Japanese during World War II.

In the 1940s, tennis was considered a minor sport in college.

"We had a guy that didn't know anything about tennis," Magill said. "He was an assistant football coach."

After the war, Magill worked on the staff at The Atlanta Journal . In 1949, he was hired as the assistant athletic director for minor sports at Georgia. He later added the job of sports information director and, in 1955, became tennis coach.

He emphasized that he wasn't paid for coaching the sport he loved.

"When I started, there were only four or five coaches that were paid," he said. "It was a spring-quarter sport. I pioneered in the development of year-round tennis."

Magill gradually built a consistently strong tennis program. Georgia won NCAA Division I team titles in 1985 and 1987. Michael Pernfors, of Sweden, won NCAA individual titles for Georgia in 1984 and 1985.

Magill has always preached a simple coaching and playing style.

"The main thing I emphasize is clear the net," said Magill, who plays mostly doubles every other day.

He also promotes percentage tennis. "Hit the right shot at the right time," he said. "In doubles, first serve to the (returner's) weak side, in fast, volley, recover."

Like most super seniors, Magill struggles with physical ailments. He deals with a painful rotator cuff and fallen arches. But he loves the game too much to stop playing.

"I hope they have courts in heaven," he said.


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