Wheeling Native Wins Arthur Ashe Award

WHEELING – Serving well on and off the court helped city native Tyler McCullough earn an award named for one of history’s greatest tennis players and humanitarians.

McCullough, 23, graduated from West Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in May after leading the school to its third NCAA Division III Atlantic Regional Tournament berth. While a student, he also helped other WLU student-athletes organize games and activities for local children and provided tennis lessons on weekends.

The son of WLU tennis coach Sam McCullough and his wife, Marian, Tyler McCullough is employed by the Wheeling accounting firm of Seachrist, Kennon and Marling as part of the audit team.

On Aug. 25, McCullough visited the U.S. Tennis Association Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City to attend Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. There, he was honored with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s NCAA Division II winner of the Arthur Ashe Jr. National Leadership and Sportsmanship Award.

Ashe, who lived from 1943-93, is the only black man to win both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and was the first and only African-American to be ranked the No. 1 tennis player in the world. Off the court, Ashe was known for many humanitarian works. His causes included raising awareness about the oppressive government of South Africa and about AIDS – the illness that claimed his life after he contracted HIV during a blood transfusion.

“It’s a great honor,” McCullough said of the award, presented during the ITA Awards Luncheon by Ashe’s friend, former New York mayor David Dinkins. “Arthur Ashe was such a great humanitarian.”

McCullough’s parents introduced him to the sport at age 3, and he said he’s been playing ever since. He participated in local tennis clinics as a child, but took few private lessons.

“Ever since high school, it’s been a huge part of my life,” he added, noting he continues to play and teach along with Missy Bailey Piko. He also plans to serve as a volunteer assistant coach at WLU this year.

Sam McCullough said Tyler’s lifelong interest in the sport has helped the family members remain close.

“It’s been a really nice journey,” Sam McCullough said. “Traveling together, I’ve gotten to see him play. We’ve done things a lot of fathers and sons wouldn’t have been able to do together.”

His parents “are very proud of him,” continued the elder McCullough, who is entering his ninth year as coach at WLU. “And the university is very proud of him.”

The award, which dates to 1984, recognizes players who excel on and off the court. Its criteria include a player’s tennis accomplishments scholastic achievements and extracurricular activities. A candidate’s sportsmanship, leadership and character also are considered.

McCullough is a two-time regional Ashe Award winner and the first West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference student-athlete to win a major ITA award, according to WLU.