GENE PHELPS: Return to tennis successful for New Albany's Creekmore

Warner Creekmore will tell you tennis is a lifetime sport, but she actually went 10 years without playing before she returned to the courts.
“Obviously, something was missing,” said New Albany High School’s fourth-year tennis coach. “I’d played in tournaments since I was 8 … a long time.”
Creekmore walked away from tennis as a young adult, but returned to the game in 1994 when her family moved to New Albany.
In contrast, her daughter, Callie, only lasted about 10 months without a racquet in her hands. A freshman at Millsaps, the younger Creekmore didn’t plan to play college tennis, but that changed last month when she tried out for the squad.
Last season’s MHSAA Class 4A state singles champion is now playing No. 1 singles for the NCAA Division III program in Jackson.
“I was tickled to hear she wanted to play again,” Warner Creekmore said. “She had said she wasn’t going to play. She’s rusty, but she’ll get it back.”
Creekmore smiled and added, “I spent most of my spring break watching Millsaps play.”
Game gives back
Creekmore, who has a 4.5 UTSA ranking as an adult player, not only teaches and coaches at the high school level, she helps direct the city’s summer youth tennis programs.
“We have only four courts in New Albany, but we’re hoping to get a new complex soon,” she said. “We run a summer program with our four courts.
“We started a QuickStart program for younger children in 2007. The goal is to get the youth involved with tennis.”
For her efforts in teaching tennis to beginners and juniors, Creekmore was named the USTA’s 2010 Coach of the Year in Mississippi. It’s an honor she’s proud of, but winning awards is not her motivation.
“I just love it,” she said.
Tough act to follow
Creekmore’s Bulldogs won the MHSAA 4A state team championship last spring, defeating St. Stanislaus, 4-3. However, repeating the feat this spring will not be easy.
New Albany lost all six players – her daughter, Luke Wilson, Devin Mills, Luke Lawrence, Anne Maxwell and Emily Carol Alef – who were main contributors to the championship win.
“Gone … gone … gone … ,” Creekmore said as the names were called out by this reporter. “Last year it was easy. We already had two courts guaranteed (Creekmore and Wilson in singles). All we had to do was come up with two more courts.
“It’s going to be tougher this year. Our division – Pontotoc, North Pontotoc, Itawamba, Tishomingo County – is tough.
“I think they have potential. They’re going to have to come on.”
Creekmore and her husband, Sam, own a landscaping business. He’s also one of the founders of the Cotton States League, a summer wooden bat league for college players. So, there’s a spring and summer full of tennis and baseball ahead.
“We’d be miserable if we didn’t have sports,” she said, then smiled.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@journalinc.com.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal