Given how much of her life was devoted to writing, perhaps it’s only fitting that Victoria’s Susan Butt partially learned to play tennis from a book. In her early teens, Susan checked out Championship Tennis from the Victoria Public Library and patterned her strokes from it. The book worked wonders as many later commented on her flawless technique as one of Canada’s top players of the 1960s.

First coached by her father at the Victoria Lawn Tennis Club, Susan was inspired to pursue tennis after seeing the legendary American champion Maureen Connolly play. Soon Susan was winning tournaments herself. She won the BC Open singles title at Stanley Park seven times during her career, while also picking up singles, doubles, or mixed doubles wins in Quebec, Ontario, Oregon, Alabama, Chicago, Ottawa, the Netherlands, and Germany. While out on international tours, she often wrote newspaper columns detailing her experiences for the Victoria Daily Times.

Susan ultimately played in tournaments on four continents including the French, Australian, and South African Opens and Forest Hills in New York. She faced legends of her era including Althea Gibson, Maria Bueno, Margaret Smith, and Billie Jean King. She played at Wimbledon in 1961 and 1967, in the former advancing to Wimbledon’s third round before falling to number one seed Sandra Reynolds on the hallowed grass of Centre Court.

Three times Susan was ranked as Canada’s top women’s singles player (1960, 1961, 1967) and another six years finished in the nation’s top five. In 1963 she won the Canadian women’s doubles title with partner Vicki Berner. She was a member of Canada’s Federation Cup team four times (1967, 1970-72) including the final three as team captain. She also represented Canada at the 1967 Pan American Games.

Much of Susan’s career was played while pursuing her education at UBC and the University of Chicago, earning a PhD in psychology. Later Susan taught for several decades at UBC and wrote the influential 1976 book, Psychology of Sport.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

To read more on the career of Susan Butt, please see the June 2023 Curator’s Corner article here: