Gallagher to be inducted in Hall of Fame Sunday
At the tender age of 15, Karen Gallagher had two very defined choices as an athlete.
“At my high school (in Hollidaysberg, Pa.) there were two sports open for women – cheerleading and tennis,” Gallagher said Monday at Homestead Court Club in Edwards. “I never really thought of myself as a cheerleader, even though I did go to a lot of the sporting events.”
Instead of a cheering skirt, Gallagher chose a tennis skirt, a decision though small at the time was monumental in terms of women’s tennis – and sports for that matter – in Colorado.
On Sunday when Gallagher, a 16-time United States Tennis Association National Champion, is inducted into The Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame at the Marriott Tech Center in Denver she will join the most elite group of Colorado female athletes, a sisterhood of world class competitors that have set the bar for future generations.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be recognized in such a select group,” Gallagher said. “I thank everyone from the valley who has supported me throughout the years. For as humbled and overwhelmed I am by this, it is my pleasure to share this once-in-a-lifetime event with those who represent the community, Vail Resorts, friends and coworkers, alike. I thank everyone for making it happen.”
Coming a long way
Gallagher’s journey to the Hall of Fame has been a long, drawn out trip, one full of stops and starts, and highs and lows.
After playing high school tennis in Pennsylvania, Gallagher ventured onto the great state of Texas for four years of collegiate athletics at Trinity College in San Antonio.
It was at Trinity that she got her first taste of coaching on the court, working as a tennis intern pro in the summers. After a team national title in her senior year of college, Gallagher’s tennis career went on hiatus after graduation. She played in some smaller USTA tournaments the summer before heading off to grad school in Illinois, but she never really got super competitive again until 35, when she decided to play at the USTA Nationals in Philadelphia, returning to her home state of Pennsylvania.
“I chose grass courts, when I came back,” Gallagher said. “I’ve been playing in the tournaments ever since.”
Professionally, Gallagher had worked as a tennis pro in Syracuse, N.Y., following grad school, before moving to Fort Collins in 1981. While living in northern Colorado, she continued to school students in the game she loved, along with organizing tournaments for the local Fort Collins clubs. She also continued to track down her goals as tennis competitor in USTA tournaments before moving to Vail in 1989 to become a ski instructor in the winter, while still being a pro in the summer.
Since 1993, she’s been the pro at the Homestead Court Club in Edwards, where she runs the juniors and adults programs, as well as organizing summer tournaments.
Highs and lows
Gallagher wasn’t nominated for Colorado Sportswoman of the Year honors three times (1992, 1999, 2003) for being an first-rate tennis pro, though – she was nominated by her peers for her incredible list of accomplishments as a USTA, and International Tennis Federation competitor.
“I have 16 national championships,” Gallagher said. “Four in singles, four in mixed (doubles) and eight in (women’s)doubles. Nine of my championships are on hard courts, three on clay, three indoors. And, my 16th, last year’s golden ball was on grass. I had seven silver medals up to that point. So in essence, that completed my surface slam. I have a golden ball in each surface, and a golden ball in singles, doubles and mixed.”
Gallagher also has a silver medal from the ITF World Championships and has played on several teams representing the United States in ITF World Competitions.
She was also named Colorado Female Tennis Player of the Year in 2000 and was selected as U.S. Professional Tennis Association’s Women’s 45 and over Player of the Year.
It has all been golden, though, for Vail’s high queen of the court.
“The lows are losing my mom in ’92,” She said. “I almost didn’t make it to my back-to -back singles titles because she was ill with serious heart problems. I was also in Austria when 9/11 happened in 2001.”
Lucky No. 7
Gallagher will be the seventh tennis player inducted into the Hall of Fame, recognized as the first community-based organization in the nation solely to honor female athletes whose efforts have advanced girls’ and women’s individual and team endeavors.
It’s an honor that she gets emotional about, being the humble soul that she is, but there is no doubting that Karen Gallagher is deserving to be enshrined with her adopted state’s best and brightest.
“Karen brings some of the most experienced teaching to the valley,” said Steven Ellstron, a local physician who has been under Karen’s tutelage for four years. “She not only has experience chronologically, but she continues to play. She continues to win national titles. She has an incredible perspective for the valley to have at its disposal. She’s a great teacher and an incredible person.”
As for what’s next after Sunday’s big banquet, Gallagher still plans on doing what she has done ever since she chose that tennis skirt as a 15 year old.
“I’m not getting younger by the day, but I am a very active player and person,” Gallagher said. “I’d like to keep going as long as I can. I’m definitely a role player. I plan on continuing to expand tennis here in the valley. (Homestead) is most active tennis club in the valley. It’s a great place to live, and it’s a great place to play tennis.”
For people wanting to attend or gain more information about Karen’s nomination, please contact: Joan Birkland, Executive Director, Sportswomen of Colorado, Inc. at 303-331-0376. You can get more information through the web site at: http://www.sportswomenofcolorado.org
Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555 ext, 608 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org