Garth Thomson is entering his 20th year at Francis Marion University as the head coach for men's and women's tennis.
In his 19 seasons at the FMU helm, Thomson has led the men's team to 15 NCAA Division II national tournament appearances (including trips to the Sweet 16 in 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2008) and a 274-134 record (.672 winning percentage). The Patriot men have been nationally ranked at the conclusion of each of the past 16 seasons, and 17 of the past 18. In his 19 seasons, his teams have produced 17 double-figure win totals and 17 non-losing records. In 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2006 he was named the Peach Belt Conference men's "Coach of the Year."
This past spring, Francis Marion finished 10-8 with a No. 17 national ranking and again earned an NCAA Tournament bid. All eight defeats were to nationally ranked opponents.
In 2010, FMU was 12-8, advanced to the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, and was ranked 15th in the final 2010 ITA NCAA Division II national poll. Seven of the team's defeats were to nationally ranked opponents and the other was to a Division I foe. Two players earned All-America recognition, including Dilshod Sharifi who was ranked as Division II's No. 1 singles player late in the season and who was the recipient of the 2010 ITA National Player to Watch award.
In 2009, the Patriot men were 16-6, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and ended the year ranked 18th. All six losses were to nationally ranked opponents, five of whom were ranked in the Top 10. Two players earned All-America honors.
In 2008, the FMU men finished 19-6 (equaling the team record for wins in a season) and advanced to the Division II Elite Eight where they lost a narrow 5-4 decision to the eventual national runner-up. All six losses came at the hands of nationally ranked opponents. FMU ended the year ranked a program-best 7th.
In 2006, the Patriot men were a program-best 19-3 and were ranked as high as eighth in the Division II national poll.
Thomson has directed the women's team to a 245-162 mark (.602 winning percentage), 10 trips to the NCAA tournament -- including five straight between 1995 and 1999 and four of the past five years, and back-to-back appearances in the national finals in 2008 and 2009. The team has appeared in the final national poll in 13 of the past 19 years. His women's teams have posted double-digit win totals in 14 seasons, including consecutive 20-win campaigns.
This past season, Francis Marion finished 11-7 with a No.30 nationally ranking. All seven losses were to nationally ranked opponents, including four to Top 10 squads. For the third year-in-a-row, the Patriots were awarded the Peach Belt Conference Team Sportsmanship Award. Over the past four seasons, the women are an impressive 71-21, with 13 losses coming to opponents ranked in the Top 5.
In 2010, the Patriot women compiled a 17-6 mark, advanced to the semifinals of the PBC Tournament and the regional finals of the NCAA Division II Tournament, and ended the year ranked 13th in the final ITA Division II poll. All six losses were to teams ranked 11th or higher, including three setbacks to the eventual national champion. Two players earned All-America honors.
In 2009, the FMU women were 20-5, selected to host an NCAA regional tournament, advanced to the NCAA's round of Sweet 16, and ended the year ranked a program-best No. 5. Francis Marion finished third during the PBC regular season and lost in the Peach Belt Tournament title match. Three players were honored with All-America recognition, and the squad received the PBC's Team Sportsmanship Award for women's tennis.
In 2008, the Patriot women enjoyed their most successful season ever with a program-best 23-3 record, a No. 5 final national ranking, and an appearance in the Elite Eight of the national finals. Francis Marion finished tied for second during the PBC regular season and lost in the PBC Tournament championship match. The squad's three losses were all to the teams that played in the Division II national championship match.
FMU advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Mid-Atlantic Region title match in 2006 and 2007, before the qualifying procedure changed in 2008. In 2006, Francis Marion was one of the most improved squads in Division II, going from a 10-15 record in 2005 to a then program-best 20-6 mark. His 2006 squad was ranked as high as 11th nationally, and five of the team's six losses were to nationally ranked opponents. For these accomplishments, he was also named the 2006 PBC "Coach of the Year" for women's tennis.
Since becoming the first tennis All-American at FMU during his playing days, Thomson's Patriot programs have produced numerous All-Americans on the court and in the classroom. On 27 occasions, Patriots netters have earned All-America honors and on nine occasions, FMU players have gained Academic All-America recognition.
In the fall of 2009, Thomson saw one of his men's and women's doubles duos win the ITA Southeast Regional title and advance to the National Small College Championships in Mobile, Ala., where they then both earned spots in the Division II title match.
In his first two years heading the FMU women's program, he coached Mary Hirst and Lee Whitwell to back-to-back NCAA Division II Women's Tennis Doubles National Championships in 1993 and 1994. The duo became only the third doubles team in Division II history to successfully defend a national title.
Thomson was named head coach on Oct. 26, 1992, replacing Rowan Davis. He is the eighth head coach in the history of the men's program and 12th in the history of the women's program. Prior to taking the FMU position, he was the assistant club (tennis) professional at the Florence Country Club.
A native of Harare, Zimbabwe, Thomson earned the B.B.A. degree in finance from Francis Marion in 1991. He later received the M.B.A. degree from FMU in 1997. While an undergraduate, he lettered four years in tennis (1987-90) and earned his team's most valuable player award each year. During both his junior and senior seasons, he captured the NAIA District Six number-one singles title, won three matches and advanced to the round of 32 at the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City, Mo., and was named an NAIA second-team All-American. He was the first Patriot tennis player to earn All-American honors. In March 1990, he represented Zimbabwe in Davis Cup competition.
In 1998, Thomson was inducted into the FMU Athletic Hall of Fame. He previously served as the university's International Students Coordinator. He was named the South Carolina 2007 College Coach of the Year by the South Carolina Tennis Association. He is also an active tournament player, ranking No. 1 for his age group (40's) in the Southern Region (11 states) for both singles and doubles (USTA). He ranks No.1 in South Carolina for both singles and doubles in his age group, and is 14th nationally in singles. In August 2009, he competed for the United States in the seventh-annual Ted Avory Cup in London, England.
Thomson is married (wife Kelly) with three children (daughters Kaia and Halyn, stepson Landon).