Outside the Lines: Shelby County ambassadors of tennis

Shelby County is beginning to receive recognition as a source of good tennis players.

As the college schedule enters it&8217;s second month of the spring calendar, former Oak Mountain state champion Christy Striplin of Georgia Tech and Pelham native Brent Bozeman of Central Alabama Community College are both ranked among the Top 100 tennis players in their division by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Indian Springs School is ranked first in the state for boys tennis, as they look to repeat their 2006 state championship under the direction of coach Boo Mason, who was named last year&8217;s USPTA Pro of the Year for Alabama.

The state title was the first team championship captured by a Shelby County school in boy&8217;s tennis, while Briarwood captured a title in 2001 for the girls. More than 11 individual championships have been captured by boys and girls competitors combined.

Tennis is spreading beyond the high school and college ranks, as the adult game is taking off at the Pelham Racquet Club.

This past weekend 98 players competed in the Third Annual Remax First Choice Pelham Classic. One competitor was Bill Bussey of Pelham.

Bussey, better known as one of the sexiest fat men alive Bubba, started playing tennis in the fall, and has since seen positive gain on and off the court. Having lost 35 pounds, he is enjoying success on the court, as he and mixed doubles partner Kimberly Crow captured the NTRP Mixed 6.0 Doubles title Sunday.

Bussey and his wife Betty, who first started playing tennis while at the beach for their anniversary two years ago, have both recently qualified to represent Pelham at the state tournament in Mobile this June.

Betty was a part of a state championship team last season, which impresses Bussey.

&8220;In a period of one year my wife went from not being able to hit a tennis ball to having a state championship trophy,&8221; he said.

Now Bussey hopes to add a trophy with his Net Patrol team, a take off on Taylor Hicks&8217; Soul Patrol, as he works to surround himself with good players.

&8220;I want to be the absolute worst player on the team,&8221; he said jokingly