Traditionally, the first weekend of December means a couple of things for squash players. In the past couple of decades the older generation, especially out west, have gone to Santa Fe to play in the Kiva Classic, one of the great doubles tournaments on the calendar.
Back east it is the gem. Since 1928 people have gathered at the Rockaway Hunting Club on Long Island to play for the Gold Racquets. There really is no other tournament like it: intimate, high-level and tremendously fun. And apparently good for marriages: in 1962 it was the first squash tournament my father took my mother to; in 1999 it was the first tournament I took my wife-to-be to.
Rockaway suffered from Hurricane Sandy: it lost power for eleven days and salt water went over a lot of the golf course (not the first time for sure). The first fairway was fairly inundated. Many local members got whacked hard: Gold Racquets tournament director Mark Hinckley’s house received three feet of water on the first floor.
Another club that often has seen storm damage is Valkyrie Squash Club in Sea Bright, NJ. The club, in an old trolley turnabout, regularly suffered from flooding (players sometimes walked to the court in barefeet, carrying their sneakers). During Hurricane Irene last year, the floors got damaged after sandbags left to protect the club were stolen.
Another fabulous weekend at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia. I played in five draws in four different sports, all indoor, walled-courts and yet four different balls, courts, rules. Ten matches; finals in two, won one, again, with partner Tim Proctor in the B squash doubles. Proctor & Zug—it is a scary team, on paper.
Sore limbs and tremendous fun. On Saturday I was at the club for sixteen straight hours.
Todd Ruth upset Dent Wilkins in the semis of the A draw squash singles. Dent, days away from becoming a father for the first time, will get to ponder if having a baby helps or hurts his squash game.
Usual sluggers in the doubles. Nice to see Rich Sheppard still tagging it against the young guns.
Whether they come for the famous showers or for peace and quiet on a Philadelphia marathon weekend or for the late-night egg McBagels or for the fellowship of new and old friends, the Dunn is a classic weekend.
See my formal report at the USCTA website:
Ten years ago, Jamie Crombie was a controversial figure. Born in Vermont, he was raised in Calgary and turned pro while at the University of Western Ontario. But in 2002 he tried to play in the SL Green and thus sparked a nasty little tempest.
In November 1994 a young Michael Bamberger, destined to become known not just for his golf writing but for his blurb of Run to the Roar, wrote a hilarious, fascinating profile of Crombie in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Great stories of tournaments in Colombia, his housemates in Toronto and his evaluations of his billet’s goodbyes.
Bamberger has Crombie pegging the players on the PSA tour: the Germans are precise—when is the practice time? Italians take things personally. The Finns are big gamblers. The Brits are complainers.
Is that the case today, exactly eighteen years later?
Had a great time last wekeend at SquashSmarts’ annual gala night at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, the BestShotBall. Wonderfully packed crowd, exhibitions, auctions, speeches, tons of food (freshly-sliced roast beef), and great conversations. Heard many tales from the Can-Am Cup in Buffalo, especially how people got back home before the storm hit.
The best was a long, quiet talk I had with one of the newest members of SquashSmarts, a tiny, talkative sixth grader at Roberto Clemente named Jose Marrero. Just joined this fall, already keen on squash. “This could be you,” I said, as we watched Johnny White work over Graham Bassett in one of the squash exhibitions. “Someday, someday,” he said.
An amazing weekend at the Racquet Club of Chicago. Didn’t leave the club for over fifty straight hours. Why leave, when there was a ton of racquets play (doubles, played with a guy named Colt who galloped through very exciting matches, saving three match points, great rallies); squash doubles; squash singles; and the piece de resistance: real tennis. The court, restored after seventy-six years, is magnificient.
It has a unique, Chicago touch: Billy, the rat-catching dog, is emblazoned on the hazard-side wall, where a crown or something usually goes; and a half dozen rats, alive or dead, are scattered along the red bandeau.
A gaggle of world champions on site; dozens of overseas visitors from the four other tennis-playing nations; the incomparable RCOC food. I found a copy of my squash book at half past one in the morning behind the bar in the library. Very nice.
Of course, everyone had trouble extricting themselves once Hurricane Sandy arrived on the East Coast. I got lucky and slipped onto a flight Sunday evening (after cancellations, standby’s, etc.). Other guys drove or waited it out. Some only got home on Thursday afternoon. But there are worse places to be stranded than in Chicago at a club with a brand-new real tennis court.