Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Lapham-Grant Tournament, Calgary, April 20-23, 2017

What an honor it was to be asked to represent the USA for the second time in the historic Lapham-Grant Tournament against Canada. The magnificent Glencoe Club in Calgary, was the main host for the weekend, a generously sized facility that offered an array of activities from bowling to tennis to ice-skating to climbing to badminton to swimming to… other stuff… and of course – squash.

The city of Calgary boasts a relatively substantial squash program (compared to Detroit, that wouldn’t be difficult!) with 16 listed clubs coming up from my google search. The Glencoe has 6 singles and 1 doubles of the cleanest, whitest walled courts I have ever seen. Absolutely spotless. Hats off to their cleaning crew for preparing the center to such a degree, I’m surprised some players didn’t require sunglasses.

The secondary host was the Bow Valley Club where I only visited for a short time on the Sunday morning before my departure back to Detroit. A distinguished establishment, cozy and inviting, also offering singles and doubles squash, its smack in the middle of downtown and was only a 3 minute walk from our tournament hotel. Their walls weren’t quite as unblemished, and their doubles court had the ceiling on the red line (so no lobbing!), but their bar was only 10 feet from their singles courts. An unquestionable plus.
The Trophies

Being invited was a thrill and I was determined not to let the team down. The Lapham Grant is actually spread over 4 events, each one with their own trophy and history. I was down to play in two of them. The “Lapham” is for the men’s singles and the “Grant” is for men’s doubles. The other two I don’t qualify for: The “Lawrence Wilkins” is for the 65+, so I have another 20 years to wait there, and the “Crawford” is for the women, so unless I go all Caitlyn Jenner on myself, I guess I’ll never qualify for that one.

I started my campaign on the doubles court on early Saturday morning. Those who know me, know that doubles is not my forte, I do feel a little like a fish out of water when I am not able to be in total control. However, together with my very adept partner from Philadelphia, Will Greer, we started out like superstars and – at least for the first 2 games – felt that this wasn’t awkward or difficult after all. In fact, sign me up for the tour! We were kickin’ it.

Then reality struck us with a 2-by-4 to the head. People will look back on this with awe and shock. They will wonder how it happened, question the validity, and in the end just shake their heads in bewilderment.
I am all for making the history books, and the fact that Will and I were publically presented at the Saturday night black-tie function as the receivers of this rare accomplishment – as we categorically deserved – at least it will be remembered.

We lost the third game 15-0.

Yep. We were bageled. On the doubles court.

In fact, we lost the first 3 points of the 4th game as well, so in total we were skunked 18-0. How we came so unglued was a mystery to say the least, Will and I were clueless. It was almost comical in the end, and if wasn’t for the fact that we actually ended up winning the match 15-5 in the 5th, we probably wouldn’t be so outwardly laughing about it now.

Later that day, I as able to bring sanity back into my life, feeling more at home on the singles court. I ended up playing against the same fellow I played 2 years ago in this event – Strahan Jarvis from Toronto. And, just like 2 years ago, I won 3-1. The world made sense again.

But, throwing me back on the doubles court for my third match of the day, made me a tad nervous. I felt for my partner – Scott Fuller (New York) – I’m sure he was worried I would drag him downwards into the vortex of infamy as well. However, we meshed well together and we had little trouble taking the match 3-0. My squash was now complete for the weekend, I happily stuffed my doubles racquet deep into my squash bag hoping it would never be found again. It was time to unwind.

Yasser El Halaby (NY), me, Alex Carter (Toronto), Will Gruner
The Friday night function was western themed being that we were in Calgary, so I gleefully donned my jeans that will never see the inside of the DAC and (Calgary authentic!) cowboy boots for the occasion. Many a conversation was had with many people I was meeting for the first time, sharing a laugh and a drink, creating memories of a great time for many moons to come, but finite details of which wouldn’t even last until the following morning. Shout out to Darren Thomson (Calgary) for taking me to the bar for extra-curricular activities and working vigorously on our techniques.

Saturday night was the black tie function and for the second time since my wedding, I was a spitting image of James Bond (if he was 25 years older, had less hair, was grey and wrinkly) in my perfect tuxedo. Horrible memories of 2 years ago surfaced when my (then rented) tuxedo had a broken bow-tie that I couldn’t wear and I stood out like a Sumo Wrestler at the all-you-can-eat-buffet at a super-model convention, but thankfully after 20 minutes of mindless effort and then eventually asking for help, I managed to attach the damn thing around my neck successfully.

Ian Sly (Cleveland), Jay Hatcher (Louisville), James Bond... !
But my cummerbund latch was faulty. For the first part of the evening it held up okay, but as the night lingered and the music was cranked up, the drinks flowing, it was touch and go. By the time the taxi dropped us off at the bar again (thanks, Darren!) I noticed the thing was no longer on my person. Jumping back into the departing cab, I frantically searched for the item to no avail. I sauntered back to the bar rather annoyed when I saw it lying in the middle of the car park. Joy! But did I mention it was raining? Because it was raining. Of course it was now sopping wet, the latch totally unusable. Crap! I nursed it the rest of the night, going over the conversation I was going to have with Men’s Wearhouse when I got back to Detroit. Hopefully it wouldn’t be the same worker who received my wrath after the bow tie incident in 2015.

Sunday morning brunch revealed what kind of damage a Saturday night of over-indulging can do. Nothing scrambled eggs and sausages couldn’t fix however, and the presentation of the competitions commenced and it was announced that the USA had won both the Lapham and the Grant trophies – the first time since the mid-90’s that we had done so on Canadian soil! Selfishly, I was delighted that I was going to get my name etched on the trophies for all eternity!

A huge thank you goes out to the USA captains for all their tediously hard work putting everything together. Also to the Canadians who are repugnantly kind and friendly, hospitality unbounded. Next year’s event is in Chicago and I hope to be invited again.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


McQueenie Cup Mar 31 – Apr 1

The DAC were McQueenie Cup Champions this year. Or, they would be, if the event was just on the Friday night. Our expectations for victory this year were not soaring into the stratospheric heights of overconfidence, especially since (once again) we were 1 man short for the singles competition. Fronting up with 7 of 8 players does make it substantially more challenging to win, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. The remaining players had little margin of error, minimizing our losses was imperative.

David de la Torre warming up
Spirits were high heading into the first afternoon of matches. Fresh legs, lungs, livers, and blood streams are an excellent formula for a successful outing. Even the 4-5 hour drive couldn’t (and didn’t) stop us from quickly adapting to their courts, finding a comfortable rhythm and for the most part dominating the day. Ryan MacVoy, Chas Bayer and John Rogers all took down their Columbus opponents 3-1, followed up by a 3-0 win by David de la Torre (who, by the way, has picked up a multitude of nick-names... “Nacho Libre” being the most widely used and accepted…!) the DAC was looking like the team to beat. Add on Brien Baker’s two wins in his category and we could start to sniff the polish on the Cup… picturing our names etched on there for all of history to see… We did suffer a couple of losses though – after all, you can’t win them all, right? – with Steve Brown and John Birgbauer, but even so the outlook seemed positive.

Then the sun went down.

I am all for celebrating a triumphant evening. The DAC up to this point were in first place. We were, however, just 1 round into the competition and Saturday was looming and promising to be a formidable task. And there really isn’t any reason not to make that mission even more painful, right?

Welcome to Chicago. And raising a glass or two at the local establishments in honor of our almost faultless on court performances is part of the deal. The team also accomplished that mission with distinction. If socializing was part of the McQueenie Cup, we would have put the result out of reach from the other 5 clubs right there and then.

Now, I am old. I am all for learning new stuff, but I am too old for hanging out and appreciating the work required to close down a bar for the night. I wanted to be up and alert for the Saturday morning matches that were to start at 9.30am. Apparently, most of our team are not as old as I.

The next morning as I was munching on the provided muffins and slurping their coffee, our day did not exactly start out like we finished the one previous. On the contrary. Difficulty was an understatement. As commanding as we were 16 hours ago, the rollercoaster had reached its peak and was now hurtling downwards at a perilous speed. The 0-3 losses punctuated the morning, it got ugly quickly. We suffered through the session, picking up just one win thanks to Steve Brown, but being on the receiving end of 6 others. Our hope for the McQueenie Cup had ended.

But the matches had not. The afternoon session was begging and our players – with the fog lifted - were keen to redeem themselves. Nacho Libre managed to do so coming back from a 2-0 deficit to then steamroll his opponent the next 3 games. John Rogers also scored a win, and suddenly the wheels were starting to straighten out again. Ryan MacVoy couldn’t do much against his opponent, clearly the strongest player in that category. And Chas Bayer played an excellent match against Audrey Berling (who was representing Toledo) going down in a tough 4-setter, one of the better matches on the day.

Steve Brown lost his final match 3-1 as did John Birgbauer (3-2), valiant efforts from both, but just running out of gas at the end. We ended up 4th. Just half a point from 3rd, something we could / should have achieved if our Saturday morning wasn’t so upside-down. The University Club of Chicago won the Cup. As it turned out, I doubt very much that even with a ‘clean’ Saturday, we would have stood much of a chance anyway. Chicago won it easily, 40 points better than 2nd placed Toledo. Home city advantage, tough to compete with their extremely deep pool of players! Scores:

1.      University Club of Chicago - #%&@-load of points
2.      Toledo – Not so much, way behind
3.      Columbus – Even further behind, but a surprising result
4.      DAC – half a point back. Blah.
5.      St. Louis – half a point back from us. Coming 5th would have been painful for us.
6.      Union League Club of Chicago – just a handful of points. Thanks for coming boys.

This year was the first time there was a doubles portion to the event. Called the “Aubrey Cup”, it is actually so named after the DAC Athletic Director Rex Aubrey. He held that position here for 40 years before Rob Barr took it over about 15-16 years ago. The DAC sent 2 teams to compete, which again is 1 team short of the maximum, meaning that we had no shot of winning. In fact only one club really could be victorious because St. Louis was the only one with a full 3 team contingent. They were also pretty good at it which helps.

I stepped in to play in the A draw with John Birgbauer and we won 1 of 3 matches. We didn’t play too badly in the first two, the third was the one we want to forget. Bob Burton represented us in the 50+ category with Steve Brown, and unfortunately went down with an injury on Saturday and had to withdraw.

Saturday night dinner was an entertaining affair with a stand-up comedian who cracked us all up, some joke telling from the players that was a little hit-and-miss, but excellent company all around, the main reason we do these road-trips.

Of course, the DAC had to up the ante from the Friday night escapades and they carried out that operation with military-like precision. Once again, we won the night, Chicago did not stand a chance.

Team DAC: Chas Bayer, Ryan MacVoy, Steve Brown, Brien Baker, John Birgbauer, John Rogers, Nacho Libre
I want to extend some thank-yous:
1. To John Flanigan of the U Club for hosting and organizing the large band of misfits crashing your club. That extends to John Seidel who helped with the event and draws.
2. To the DAC team members – even though we weren’t completely successful on court, we were successful off it. We all had a blast, what a great group!
3. Ryan MacVoy for driving me to Chicago in his Tesla, demonstrating the power of “ludicrous” mode to accelerate from 0 to 60 and almost making me pass out in the process but giving a much needed face lift.
4. Nacho Libre for offering to drive most of the rest of the team and showing us the power of an Ecuadorian accent. Much appreciated.

Next year’s event should also be in Chicago. May I suggest that for us to have a chance of winning, we need to resist the calling for Friday night and hold off until Saturday? Oh, and we need an 8 man team. Goes without saying really.

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