London, ON, April 23-26
For an event as historic and prestigious as the Lapham-Grant, even though I knew of it, I knew very little about it. Apparently, it is one of the oldest running sports competitions between the USA and Canada, dating back to 1922. The countries are actually vying for 4 separate trophies: one for men’s singles (the Lapham Cup), one for men’s doubles (the Grant Trophy), one for the women’s singles and doubles (the Crawford Trophy), and one for the men’s veteran’s doubles for players over 65 (the Lawrence-Wilkins Trophy). Teams are hand selected from across each country by the respective captains and I was honored to be asked to play in the 94th running of the event which was being hosted by the London Squash and Racquet Club.
The trophies are works of art and the Lapham Cup rivals the Stanley Cup in size – if not even larger. The names of the winning team are etched into each and as the years pass, it grows. Shipping the things between countries year after year is a task in itself (and expense), and if you happen to take the time to read who has played and managed to get their name marked in history, you would be ‘oohing’, aaahing’ and ‘wow-ing’ for a while. The Lapham Cup (the biggest of the four) is valued at over $50,000.
In the spirit of the competition, none of the matches are refereed, players are left to their own devices – much like the DAC Classic – and honesty and sportsmanship is a requirement. (I did not see one solitary dispute all weekend.) Understandably, the home country has the advantage. It is easier to pool many of your players locally, and in this case since we were playing in London – from the Toronto area as well. The US team was a little short staffed since I believe London was a little harder to get to than any major city. It would be an almost impossible task to arrange the match-ups equally, not knowing the exact standard of many of the players. On paper, the Canadian team looked stronger anyway – and they were.
I had my first match on the doubles court, my partner was a fine gentleman from Cincinnati who did have more experience than I. We were definitely up against it, our opponents knew the angles very well. I am not sure we could have won the match, but we certainly could have won the second game (14-15), we simply we not steady enough and found the tin all too often.
More at home on the singles court, I played 2 matches here. I had a tough first outing taking the match 3-1, two of those games went to extra innings. I won my second match 3-0, but it was a lot closer than it looks. My squash was complete by lunch time on Saturday and now I had the luxury of relaxing and resting my already sore body. (The doubles really, really, makes the shoulder ache!)
The DAC had 2 other representatives. Peter Logan played 2 doubles matches and 1 singles match. His singles was an arduous assignment against a young whipper-snapper ready to keep running. Peter lost 3-0, but 2 of the games were tie-break and he was unlucky not to pull at least one of them out. His first doubles was not overly pretty, and it was over 3-0 rather quickly, but the second doubles match was a 15-13 in the 5th mauling… and again unlucky to be on the wrong side of the result.
Bob Burton was our other flag bearer. Bob played 2 doubles matches and was probably the only American who could claim to have a 100% record for the weekend. (Or one of very few!) He won both of his doubles matches in 5 games and enjoyed his beer a little more than the rest of us.
With all such competitions, the sports component is just half of the formula. Socializing isn’t just recommend, it is a requisite. The simple joy of having a drink, meeting new people, reminiscing with old friends, is what brings these things together and encourages the people to return. I had a blast. The black tie dinner on Saturday was held at the London museum, a beautiful setting. Of course, my rent-a-tux was not working properly and I stood out as the only (male) person there without a bow-tie. (The hook for the bow-tie was broken). Men’s Warehouse received a nasty visit from me on Sunday. We mingled, drank, mingled some more, drank some more, and kept going until being vertical was too hard to maintain.
The following morning was a breakfast buffet at the squash club with some feature doubles matches to entertain our weary heads, and then the obligatory speeches and presentations. For the record, Canada won all four trophies in convincing fashion. There was also a 5th trophy presented that morning. This one is called the Eric Finkelman Award which goes to the one individual “that dares to contribute more than the bare minimum”. Many candidates were created over the course of the weekend, the winner was a very happy chappy that not even falling off his stool in a bar and lying flat on his back could dampen his spirits – or laughter. He was still laughing that morning.
|The Eric Finkleman Award.|
A couple (or more) of must mentions: Firstly, the London Squash Racquet Club, their manager Tom Panabaker and one of their biggest supporters, Jay Nash. It must be a monumental undertaking to arrange and run an event of this magnitude. Together with the extensive team of volunteers, I cannot be praiseworthy enough. (See you in September for the Nash Cup!)
And to the US Captains in Liam Culman and Randy Goodleaf from New York. I do not know the amount of work that was required, but it must have been immense. Thank you both so very much. I hope to be invited back for the 2016 edition – in New York.