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Hunter
Lott Jr.

USA CHAMPION IN BOTH HARDBALL
SINGLES AND DOUBLES

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February
2005, By Rob Dinerman © 2005 SquashTalk
Photos: © 2005 Courtesy UPENN Sports Information Department

Nov 25th 1914 – Oct 29th
2005

Hunter Lott at his prime: USSRA 1949 National Champion.

When
Hunter Lott Jr. suffered a fatal attack on the morning of October 29, 2005,
less than a month short of what would have been his 91st birthday,
the squash world lost one of its most prominent historical figures
and true icons.

Lott
in 1948-49 became one of only nine players in the century-plus history
of the USSRA (Neil Sullivan in ’34, Charlie Brinton in ’46, Stanley
Pearson Jr in ’48, Diehl Mateer in ’54 and ’56, Sam Howe in ’67, Victor
Niederhoffer in ’73 and ’74, Peter Briggs in ’76 and Preston Quick
in ’03 and ’04 are the others) to capture both the U. S. National Singles
and Doubles championships in the same season, and the eight National
Doubles crowns he captured (five straight with Bill Slack from 1938-42
and three more with Mateer in ’49, ’50 and ’53), all while playing
the right wall, stood as a right-wall record until Morris Clothier
recorded his ninth just this past spring.

A native and lifelong Philadelphian, Lott attended Lower Merion High
School and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1936, the
same year he competed in the National Singles Tennis Championships (which
later became known as the U. S. Open) at Forest Hills before beginning
a 48-year marketing career at the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO)
in which he ascended to the position of Executive Assistant to the CEO
before retiring in 1984. He served with major distinction in World War
II, attaining the rank of Captain in the U.
S. Quartermaster Corps, in which capacity Lott participated in every
European invasion landing throughout the war, from North Africa (where
he had a chance meeting with Larry Pool, the early-1930’s Harvard squash
star) to Sicily and on into Italy, where he was among the liberating
troops on D-Day in 1944.

Hunter Lott in a recent photo: Tireless supporter of
Penn squash and tennis.

Returning to the U. S. in September 1945 (when he would finally for
the first time see his son, Hunter III, who was by then nearly three
years old), Lott resumed his business and squash careers, falling just
short in the National Singles final twice in the late-1940’s before breaking
through in ’49 in his home town. There he and fellow Merion Cricket Club
torch-bearer Donnie Strachan (who had won the Nationals 10 years earlier
and who, like Lott, was by this time well into his 30’s) upset the higher-seeded
and much-younger Pearson and Brinton respectively in the semis.

The key game of their final was the third, when at a game apiece on
simultaneous game-point at 14-all Strachan barely ticked the top of the
tin on what would have been a backhand reverse-corner winner. Buoyed
by this turn in his favor and by this time confident as well in the great
improvement his backhand (formerly a weakness) had undergone in the months
leading up to the Nationals, Lott garnered an early lead in the fourth
game and held off a late Strachan rally to claim the championship, an
achievement which Lott came to view as one of the three most important
events in his life, along with his marriage to Virginia Sharp (a union
that produced two offspring, Hunter III and his sister
Ann) and his service in the war.

Realizing
that winning the National Singles had required a training and conditioning
effort that he likely would be unable to replicate, the by-then 34-year-old
Lott decided to retire from singles competition (as did Strachan),
at least on the national scene, and concentrate on doubles, in which,
as noted, he had already won five national titles with Slack prior
to World War II. In his Merion club-mate Mateer, Lott found an ideal
protégé with the youth, strength,
athleticism and shot-making skills to complement the experience and
forehand power Lott provided. Their half-decade partnership proved
enormously mutually beneficial, serving as a launch-pad as well for
the three national singles and record 11 national doubles championships
Mateer himself would earn during his own stellar career. Both men were,
literally, first-ballot USSRA Hall Of Famers as members of the original
class of inductees into the Hall, elected in
1999 shortly after that organization was founded and officially inducted
in the spring of 2000.

Mateer and Lott did oppose each other in a memorable Merion club doubles
championship in the early 1960’s, in which Lott, by then in his late
40’s, and James Whitmoyer won a five-game final against Mateer and John
Hentz, who less than a month earlier had garnered the third of the four
National Doubles titles they won during the five-year period from 1958-62!

It was to be the last hurrah for Lott, who ruptured an Achilles tendon
shortly thereafter that ended his squash playing, though he continued
to play tennis twice a week (earning a national seniors tennis ranking
for a number of
years) until he suffered a small stroke three years ago. Throughout the
last four decades of his life, however, Lott continued an association
with squash in general and with Penn squash in particular that expressed
itself in a host of forms, encompassing everything from the fund-raising
effort he led for the Ringe Squash Courts in 1960 (part of a FIFTY-YEAR
racquet-sports fundraising involvement at Penn that also included the
Palestra tennis courts, which were in fact named in his honor in 1974),
to the establishment in 1970 of the annual Hunter Lott Junior Tournament
for players aged 10 to 18, which has become the largest junior championship
in America, to the mentoring he provided to hundreds of squash and tennis
athletes at Penn (even moving into an office at Penn’s Weightman Hall),
many of whom have said how much he inspired their careers and lives,
to the several lunches a year he would arrange to have with Penn racquet-sport
coaches, a number of whom, Demer Holleran and Ned Edwards among them,
have in recent weeks affectionately recalled how Lott would often use
these occasions to gently advance his agenda for the Penn squads they
were heading.

Lott’s reputation for being resolute, loyal and steadfast, traits that
he attributed largely to his three years of praiseworthy military service,
resulted in a remarkable degree of multi-front longevity: married for
63 years, he worked for PECO for nearly half a century, served as a member
of Philadelphia Crime Prevention for 69 years, represented Penn racquet
sports for 72 years and was a member at Merion for seven decades, including
a three-year term as president of the club. He also was elected president
of the USSRA and the Jesters. His squash game, both doubles and singles,
was similarly solid and unshakable, and his many contributions to and
accomplishments in the sport have fully established his standing as one
of the most influential and legendary figures in the history of the game.

 

Hunter Lott with Al Molloy (Penn Coach) and Rudy Rodriguez
(US National Winner 1989) with the trophy won by the two of them
(Rodriguez and Lott) 40 years apart.




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