The ITA Regional Small College Championships, beginning on September 14, features some of the top men’s and women’s players across the country. In preparation for the tournament, learn more about the impressive legacies that 1995 ITA Women’s Hall of Famer Shirley Fry Irvin and 1985 ITA Men’s Hall of Famer Don McNeill left at the small college and professional levels.
Shirley Fry Irvin –
A force to be reckoned with from a young age, Shirley Fry Irvin was a natural born competitor. By the age of 14, Fry Irvin was the youngest individual to play in the U.S. Amateur Championship, and would go on to make a total of 16 appearances in the U.S. National Championships. By the time she graduated from Central High School in 1944 in Akron, Ohio, Fry Irvin would be ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. and would remain there for thirteen years.
Fry Irvin attended Rollins College, the same college that fellow ITA Women’s Hall of Famers Dorothy Bundy Cheney and Pauline Betz Addie also attended. Heavily involved at Rollins, Fry Irvin ended up graduating with a degree in Human Relations.
Following her collegiate career, Fry Irvin would become one of only 10 women to win the singles titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open in 1951, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1956, and finally the Australian Open in 1957. During her career, she also won 12 women’s doubles titles and one mixed doubles title.
Outside of the four Grand Slams, Fry Irvin participated in the Wightman Cup from 1951 to 1956 and contributed to the U.S. victory during each of these year’s, excluding 1954.
Aside from tennis, Fry Irvin was known for her kindness, humility, sportsmanship, and trailblazing attitude. Fry Irvin was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1970 and the ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995.
Don McNeill –
Born and raised in smalltown Chickasha, Oklahoma, Don McNeill simultaneously found success at the professional and collegiate level. In 1939, McNeill claimed the French Championships singles title, now known as the French Open, becoming the first American after Don Budge to do so. That same tournament, McNeill also captured the French Championships doubles title alongside partner Charles Harris.
Following his standout year on the professional tour in 1939, McNeill went on to capture the 1940 Intercollegiate Singles Championship title for Kenyon College, defeating Joe Hunt of the Naval Academy 7-5, 6-1, 6-1. Although this title was not an NCAA sanctioned event, NCAA men’s tennis championship competition beginning in 1976, this was the first title ever claimed by a student-athlete at Kenyon. During his three years at Kenyon, McNeill would go undefeated in Ohio Athletic Conference competition.
In 1940, McNeill’s impressive results translated to the professional tour. As an agile, all-court player, McNeill found himself ranked as the No. 1 American and with another Grand Slam title under his belt, defeating Bobby Riggs 4-6, 6-8, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 in the US Open finals. McNeill would go on to win the 1944 Us Open doubles title as well with partner Robert Falkenburg.
With his tennis career interrupted by World War II, McNeill stepped away from the sport to serve as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following the war, McNeill began a career as an advertising executive, while still playing tournaments intermittently.
McNeill has been inducted into multiple Halls of Fame including the International Hall of Fame in 1965, the ITA Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Kenyon Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988.
About the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame –
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men’s and Women’s Halls of Fame aspire to preserve and celebrate the history and further the development of intercollegiate tennis through the collection of historic memorabilia and with inductions of notable players, coaches, and contributors.