GPTA Hall of Fame Members
Georgia Tennis Community Mourns Loss of George Amaya
Tennis took George Amaya out of South America and made him a collegiate national champion and world top-200 touring professional. Sportsmanship took him further. The long-time tennis director of Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta got his biggest break in tennis after a match he lost. Playing in 1980 at what is now Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Amaya drew a college player named Bud Cox. Amaya lost the match but impressed a spectator when he gave Cox a line call that the umpire had ruled in Amaya's favor. Six months later, the spectator Bud Cox's father, Charlie, a Cherokee member and later a Georgia Tennis Hall of Famer himself--called Amaya and told him that he was the kind of player and sportsman that Cherokee needed. Amaya was instantly popular at the prestigious Buckhead club and has became one of the most respected teaching professionals in the city, a former director and player of the year, as well as president, for the Georgia Professional Tennis Association.
Amaya was born in Weymouth, Mass., and lived in New England until his father, Jaime, took his family to his native Colombia when George was five. Amaya would become become the No. 2 junior player in the country with little formal training, just a love of tennis that he shared with his father and six siblings. "We used to be more like students of the game," Amaya said. "Any time there was exhibition, like Rod Laver and Fred Stolle came to Colombia, us kids would just kill to go and watch them and take notes and try to emulate how they played." One of Amaya's fondest memories as a teenager was working as a volunteer lines judge in the singles final of a circuit event that came to Colombia. The finalists were Tony Roche and John Newcombe.
Amaya followed brothers Jim and Juan to Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., and won the NAIA singles and doubles titles in 1971. He spent two years in the military and two in coaching before attempting the pro circuit age 25. In his first pro event, he made the semifinals of singles and finals of doubles in New Zealand. "For the doubles prize money, I got an envelope with a receipt that said, 'Prize money $5, Entry fee $4.50;' Then there was a 50-cent coin," Amaya said. "That's when I realized the circuit was going to be tough."
Amaya got as high as No. 170 and played the U.S. Open three times. After retiring, Amaya remained one of Atlanta's elite players, competing in ALTA's highest flight, AA-1, into his 50s. He was a four-time singles champion and six-time doubles winner of the Atlanta Senior Invitational, which attracts more senior national champions than any other tournament in the U.S.
George Amaya, 55, died from cancer at his Atlanta residence. The funeral was at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception at Cherokee Town Club. A left-hander, he was best known for a smooth forehand and a warm smile. "I'd like for people to remember me for my sense of enjoyment for the game," Amaya said, "but also that when I did compete, I did it with a high level of sportsmanship and respect for my opponent and for tennis."