Former WKU athlete recognized with Kentucky Tennis honors for outstanding career


WKU archives

WKU Athletic Hall of Famer, Katy Tinius, played for the Hilltoppers from 1975-1979.

Jake McMahon

In 1974, Katy Tinius became the first woman to be given an athletic scholarship at WKU. This Hilltopper milestone along with her career accomplishments ultimately earned her one of the highest honors in Kentucky Tennis when she was inducted into the Kentucky Tennis Hall of Fame.

Tinius first picked up a racket at the age of 12. When her family moved from Dayton to Springfield, Ohio, her parents wanted her to get involved with the game. Through free tennis programs at public parks in the area, Tinius began her career at a young age.

“Free sounded good to them,” Tinius said. “ But I loved it right away so I couldn’t be mad at my parents.”


Tinius fell in love with the game as she played and was struck by the stars of the sport. Twenty one time major champion Chris Evert was Tinius’ biggest idol on the professional level. A wooden Chris Evert racket was the one Tinius used when she first started playing in tournaments. 

As Tinius began to grow as an athlete, her reputation in the sport grew with her. After Tinius began playing tennis at WKU, several teammates of hers followed behind as other players signed scholarships a month after she did.  

“It’s really cool and it’s a great honor to have,” Tinius said. “It was pretty cool that our coach got on it [the athletic scholarship] and had me sign first.”

The honor Tinius had at WKU wasn’t without challenges, she faced adversity as a woman playing a collegiate sport. She encountered men involved with WKU tennis that were unhappy they had to share court time with women. 

Tinius says several coaches for men’s sports at WKU were not receptive to women and didn’t like their presence.

“As a matter of fact,” Tinius said. “Some of the male PE personnel were quoted as saying it just wasn’t ‘lady like’ to play sports.”

Despite the adversity she faced, Tinius dominated  the court in her collegiate days. In her four years as a Hilltopper she tallied an impressive 40-9 singles record. Along with the great record, Tinius won four Kentucky Women’s Intercollegiate Conference tennis titles during her time on the Hill. Her stats landed her a spot on the all-time Ohio Valley Conference women’s tennis team in 1988.

“Katy had textbook perfect strokes that landed her the number one singles spot on WKU’s team,” former teammate Mary Hays-Caton said. “ She was the Chris Evert, or the closest talent we had to match Chris’s.”

After her playing career at WKU, Tinius became head coach of the women’s tennis team. She had an impressive stint as a coach for the team. Her 16 total wins as a head coach is eighth in WKU history. 

“Katy was a wonderful tennis coach,” former Hilltopper Denise Bainbridge said. “Katy made playing tennis so much fun and we had a great close knit team. She was like a mother to me while I was away from home.”

Tinius’ overall resume as a Hilltopper also earned her a spot in the WKU athletic hall of fame in 1995.

Katy Tinius’ impact on the university did not stop once she left WKU. Every member of the Tinius family is a Hilltopper. Katy’s husband Joe ran cross country for the WKU. Her son Chris was a part of the men’s soccer team from 1999-2003 while his wife Ashley graduated WKU as a broadcasting major. 

Katy Tinius (far right), Shelley Fredlake (second from right) and two other team mates talk on the WKU tennis courts, previously located where the current WKU baseball indoor facility is. At the time, the women’s team did not have uniforms provided by the school. (WKU archives)

Tinius’ daughter Kelly played for the women’s soccer program while her husband Matt played basketball on the hill. Finally, the youngest of the bunch, Casey was the kicker for the football team while his wife Rachel played soccer and ran track. This family history is what earned the Tinius’, WKU family of the year honors in 2008.

“It’s really cool,” Tinius said. “I would say there are very few families or alumni that have that.”

Even after her days at WKU, Tinius continued to play and dominate the game. She was ranked as the No. 1 women’s player in the state in 1982, 1984, 1990 and 1991. Additionally, Tinius accomplished all this while instructing tennis throughout the community.

While Tinius’ involvement with the game has slowed down, she still tries to be around the game even if she’s not playing or instructing. She continues to keep in touch with the people she coached and is a familiar face in the Bowling Green community as she regularly attends local matches. 


Sports reporter Jake McMahon can be reached at [email protected] .