The close friendship between tennis great Billie Jean King and homegrown talent Zina Garrison began a few decades ago when Zina was a kid just getting seriously into the sport. King served as her mentor and continued as a close friend throughout their careers and beyond.
(Garrison was a finalist in Wimbledon in 1990, a three-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion and a women's doubles gold medalist in the 1988 Olympic Games.)
In fact, King has been an avid supporter of the Zina Garrison Tennis Academy since it was founded 20 years ago with the goal of taking tennis to inner city children. For that loyalty and support, King was honored at the 20th anniversary gala Saturday night at The Houstonian with the Service With Love Award. Garrison and King are currently both coaching Taylor Townsend.
Close to 350 guests applauded King and Garrison while raising more than $250,000. They also applauded the surprise announcement that the Zina Garrison Tennis Academy and the University of Houston women's tennis team will share space in a new state-of-the-art tennis facility. The program will include housing for the academy and for its mentoring programs focusing on leadership, counseling, mentoring and tutoring.
Key players in the evening included emcee KTRK Channel 13 news anchor Melanie Lawson, gala chair Kim Davis, academy president Nancy Lerner and academy executive vice president Linda Elliott.
The crowd of tennis buffs and academy supporters included Wendy and Jeff Hines, Kelli and Eddy Blanton, Kelly Gale Amen, Eileen Campbell and Doug Perley, Jeanne and Joe Gillen, Isabell and Andrew McKinney, Carin and Todd Barth, Ryn and Russell Bowers, and Mindy and Steve Brown.