Mention racquetball to an aficionado of the sport, and the name Charles Garfinkel comes immediately to mind. That’s as it should be, for “The Gar” is to racquetball what Babe Ruth was to baseball. From 1967-1979 Garfinkel, who played varsity tennis but no racquetball at Buffalo State College, won Buffalo’s singles racquetball championship for 13 straight years. Then, 1982, at age 43, he won it again. In addition to his 14 city singles titles, he has won 19 National racquetball titles, 21 Eastern Regional championships, 25 New York State titles, as well as nine City of Buffalo doubles championships. A crowning moment took place in 1976 when Garfinkel defeated Bill Schmidtke, the world’s number-one professional racquetball player at the time. In national competitions, he has defeated former national champions Dave Bledsoe, Charlie Blumfield and Bud Meuhleisen. The Borgs, Beckers and Connors of racquetball.
In 1972, the Gar became the first player to sign a professional racquetball contract, and from 1971-1974, he was ranked in the top ten on the nation’s pro tour. From 1984-1987 Gar was undefeated in the 45-and-over division. During that period, he won five national titles, 27 straight tournaments and 101 straight matches, a record that may never be broken.
Garfinkel is also one of the nation’s leading authorities on the strategies and mechanics of the game. He is the author of two books, “Racquetball The Easy Way” and “Racquetball for The Serious Player.” He has also penned more than 300 articles on the sport for the Buffalo News and other local, regional and national publications. He is one of only ten players inducted into the Racquetball Hall of Fame. In addition, he is a member of the WNY Racquetball Hall of Fame, the Jewish Center Wall of Fame and the Hall of Fame at Buffalo State College, where he also played varsity basketball for three years.
Garfinkel also left his mark in squash and tennis. In 1969, he won the singles titles in squash, tennis and racquetball, the only player to win all three in one year. He also won numerous national, regional, state and city amateur tennis titles including four doubles championships in Buffalo, each with a different partner.