Monday, March 19, 2012


Less than two hours. That’s how long it took for the 18 players to exhaust themselves through the group play and the knock-out draw while trying very hard to resist - but failing miserably - the keg at hand. The appropriately named Blitz Tournament pits players of all levels against each other while handicapping the stronger. The handicapping is always a dubious task. All it takes is for a couple of good (or lucky) shots from the player who already started with a healthy advantage, and suddenly the pressure on the other turns up exponentially. It is remarkably difficult not to make an unforced error.

The first 2 matches of group play were perfect. When I say ‘perfect’, I mean that the score was 15-14 and that the handicap assigned was spot on. Nothing like a desperation sudden-death rally - the lower ranked player often lifts their game to heights they never thought possible and the higher ranked player can help but think it should be easy and God forbid they lose! There were seven ‘perfect’ games in total, all the players were working hard on the court, sweating up a storm, sucking the oxygen out of the building, depleting the DAC’s supply of towels and plastic cups... and loving it!

Paddy O'Petz showing off his
Handball skills... 

When the round-robin play ended, two of the four groups had to draw straws to see who was to advance to the knock-out phase. Since only two players per group moved on, in case of a tie the fairest way to choose the ‘winner’ was to pick it out of a hat. There was a three-way tie in one case involving Patrick Petz, Todd Baker and Matt Hayduk. Irish eyes were not smiling this particular evening on Paddy O’Petz as he was eliminated from the competition after receiving the short straw. After downing a beer or two, Patrick wondered if he would have more luck on the handball court and donned a pair of gloves for a quick smack-around with Bob Kozak. From watching a couple of exchanges, his fortunes hadn’t changed. Ambidextrous he isn’t - although he has been known to drink from both hands.

Three of the eight that moved onto the knock-out phase had already won the Blitz Tournament before. That included current champion Josh Slominski who had to play the March 2010 winner Matt Hayduk in the first round. Matt is a bit of an anomaly. He is capable of producing surprisingly decent squash, and then 5 minutes later leave us wondering where it all came from. Josh received the ‘good’ Matt on this occasion and even though Matt started with only 6 points, he walked off a 15-8 winner – he didn’t need the handicap at all.

The other tournament winner was Mike Counsman (March 2007). Mike took care of Todd Baker in round 1 with a solid 15-11 victory but ran out legs in the next round against Ken MacDonald going down 15-11. He gave Ken 5 points head start; again it was an advantage that apparently wasn’t needed. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Finalists Matt Hayduk and Ken MacDonald

Ken MacDonald’s final’s opponent was Matt Hayduk. The ‘good’ Matt cleaned up James Van Dyke in the semi 15-10 and was given a 7 point head start against Ken. Timing is everything. Suddenly, the ‘bad’ Matt showed up. Watching Matt play all evening, I was worried that 7 points may have been too much. But after the first 3 rallies of the final, it was obvious it wasn’t going to be enough – anywhere near enough. In fact, 14 wouldn’t have been enough. Ken rolled off 15 straight points to take it 15-7 – a remarkably difficult thing to do not to hit one error, or have Matt hit one winner. No offense to Matt – he did very well to almost take his second Blitz title, but inconsistency struck him at the worst possible time. And congratulations to Ken who immediately purchased a new pair of squash shoes with his winnings! Mike Counsman somehow found his legs to take 3rd spot. They were next to the keg.

The Blitz crew... or most of them!

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