Gail Ramsay grew up at the Cynwyd Club outside Philadelphia (she is the fifteenth Cynwyd member to be inducted into the Hall of Fame). She was a legendary junior player, with a giant asterisk. In an era before the National Juniors had a girls draw, Ramsay played almost entirely against adults in competition. She did capture the sole junior tournament that existed for girls, the Philadelphia & Districts, a record six straight years.
Ramsay played varsity tennis at Penn State, which had sixteen squash courts but no squash team. Despite a lack of competition, Ramsay still managed to capture the national intercollegiate individual squash championship four straight times. Two other players subsequently matched this singular achievement (Yasser El Halaby at Princeton in 2003-06 and Amanda Sobhy at Harvard in 2012-15). Because of Ramsay’s extraordinary collegiate career, the CSA named the top division of the women’s national intercollegiate individual tournament after her, the Ramsay Cup.
After college, Ramsay worked as a teaching pro in New York for seven years, coaching at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, Uptown Racquet Club on the Upper East Side and New York University in the West Village. At the same time, she continued her storied playing career. In singles, she was one of the outstanding women of the era. She posted a record that mirrored the great Charlie Ufford on the men’s side—at the National Singles, Ufford reached the quarterfinals or better fourteen times. Ramsay was the same: for thirteen straight years, from 1975 to 1987, she reached the quarters or better, including losing the finals three times. Twice Ramsay played for Team USA at the Women’s World Team Championships, including captaining the team at the 1985 event in Ireland.
In doubles, Ramsay was a brilliant right-waller, known for her precise lobs and ability to shoot from the back of the court. She won three National Doubles titles, with Mary O’Toole in 1983 and Julie Harris in 1991 and 1992; and seven Mixed Doubles titles, six with her older brother Bill (1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1990 and 1991) and one with Neal Vohr (1985).
In the fall of 1988 Ramsay moved to Williamstown, Mass. to coach the women’s squash and tennis teams at Williams College. Ramsay revived a program (there were just five players on the squash roster when she arrived) and brought it back into the top ten. She mentored dozens of women, including Julie Greenwood who was a three-time All American and Ann Wetzel Award winner and later founded and is the executive director of Squash Haven, the urban squash program in New Haven, CT. During Ramsay’s six seasons, Williams went 73-37.
In the summer of 1994, Ramsay moved to Princeton, NJ to take the helm of the Tigers women’s squash team. (She was very familiar with the program, having taught at Princeton’s squash summer camps for many years and having grown up with Bob Callahan, the men’s coach.) In twenty-eight seasons at Princeton, Ramsay’s record is 274-80 going into this weekend’s Howe Cup tournament. So far the Tigers have won five national intercollegiate team titles under her tutelage—in 1998, 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2009; four times she’s mentored a player who captured the national intercollegiate individual title (Katherine Johnson in 1997 and Julia Beaver in 1999, 2000 and 2001).
For a half century Ramsay has been a strong advocate for women’s squash. She has served as the president of the Women’s CSA, guiding the collegiate game and mentoring other coaches and players. Sportsmanship has been a priority. Her 1995 Princeton team was awarded the Clarence Chaffee Award for team sportsmanship and twice a Tiger has been awarded the Betty Richey Award given to a senior who best exemplifies the ideals of squash in her love and devotion to the game, her strong sense of fairness and her excellence of play and leadership: Julia Beaver in 2001 and Katie Giovinazzo in 2012.
Ramsay herself is one of the most decorated people in American squash history. In 1995 she was inducted into the College Squash Association Hall of Fame and in 2017 was awarded the Achievement Bowl, US Squash’s oldest annual award.
Please join US Squash on April 2, 2022 for the induction of four members to the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame–Tom Page, John Fry, Gail Ramsay and Nancy Gengler-Saint–and the dedication of the spectacular new Peggy & Leo Pierce U.S. Squash Hall of Fame space in the Arlen Specter US Squash Center.