Doug McLaggan, 1921-2007
May 4, 2007, By Rob Dinerman on SquashTalk.com, Independent
News; © 2007 SquashTalk LLC, all Rights in all media reserved.
McLaggan, Squash Pro For 49 Years, Dies At Age 85 By
Squashtalk has learned of the
death on April 27th of William D. (Doug) McLaggan, 85, at the Haven
Health Care facility in Rutland, VT, not far from Arlington, his
home since 2002. Remarkably, the Scottish-born McLaggan worked as
a squash professional for 49 years, beginning in his native Edinburgh,
where at age 15 he started as an apprentice to the noted head pro
Jerry Barnes in the afternoons when school let out, and ending with
his retirement from the University Club of New York in the spring
After serving as a British Royal Marine
Commando during World War II, McLaggan spent two years at the Cornish
Riviera Club before returning to the Edinburgh Sports Club from 1948-52.
He then moved to North America, where he was the head pro at the
Montreal Badminton & Squash Club from 1952-60; at Racquet & Tennis
in New York from 1960-67; at the Denver Club from 1967-73; at the
University Club of Chicago from 1973-75; back to R & T from 1975-77;
and finally at the University Club of New York from 1977-85.
of these venues, he transformed the character of the squash program
with his work ethic, patient good humor and absolute professionalism.
McLaggan carried himself with the quiet but unmistakable confidence
of the world-class person and player that he was. Unfailingly polite,
as pros of that era tended to be, he was, however, never obsequious;
there was never any question who was in charge of the pro shop or
squash area, and when giving a lesson, he was all business, eschewing
the condescension of a “customer’s
game” and giving the member the respect of assuming that the
latter was genuinely seeking to improve his game.
McLaggan was old-school
in the best sense of the term, with a Cal Ripken-like aversion to
missing a day of work (even when he was under the weather) and a
fierce dedication to maximizing the squash experience of any member,
regardless of playing level, who was under his charge. He became
a mentor to numerous aspiring pros, most notably Jim McQueenie, who
later became President of the North American Pro Squash Racquets
Association (NAPSRA) before it became the World Pro Squash Association,
and his own son Ian, who became a squash pro as well, and who survives
Doug, as does another son, Brian; three daughters, Shelagh, Judith
and June; his wife, Edith; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
competitive playing career mirrors his coaching legacy in its quality
and especially its longevity, a phenomenon best symbolized for his
advance to the final round of the NAPSRA annual championship both
in 1953 (where he dropped a fifth-game tiebreaker to John Warzycki
at the New York Athletic Club) and FOURTEEN years later,
when at age 46 (!) he came up just short in a close four-game battle
against the much-younger Mohibullah Khan in the 1967 final in Milwaukee.
It is instructive to note that during the first several decades of
McLaggan’s North American tenure the tournaments
were almost completely “closed” to pros, who were pretty
much barred from almost all of the invitationals and were therefore
limited to a very few predominantly low-purse events, most of which
were dominated throughout that time by the Khan clan and the Egyptian
star Mahmoud Kerim.
In spite of these severe barriers,
McLaggan fared well in the events he was allowed to enter, reaching
the semis of the first U. S. Open in 1954 (where his match against
Hashim Khan was covered by Life Magazine, which features several
photos of that match taken from a camera installed in the tin at
the front wall), winning the New York Metropolitan Open on several
occasions and receiving a plaque from his Montreal membership acknowledging
his tournament-winning accomplishments in the U. S. Pro Doubles and
the Canadian Open and Canadian Pro singles during his inaugural 1952-53
season. Prior to his move to North America, McLaggan had attained
a No. 2 U. K. ranking and had earned the right to challenge reigning
British Pro champion A. E. Biddle for that title, but he was forced
to make his move to Montreal before that match could be played.
style was controlled and canny, a reflection of his off-court persona
as well. He had a slow sidewall-front-wall shot, an expert adaptation
of the softball working boast into the hardball game. Especially
on his forehand flank, he was so difficult to read that his opponents
would start leaning and even moving in anticipation of a forehand
drive, only to have to frantically reverse direction and attempt
to track down McLaggan’s trickling roll-corner.
At one point, the Racquet & Tennis Club had three top-21 ranked
players (’65 National champion Steve Vehslage, Pete Bostwick
and Bart McGuire) and McLaggan would beat them back to back to back
in one continuous late-afternoon foray.
DEAN OF PROS
Even in the early 1980’s,
by which time he was in his early 60’s and his knees (each
of which had by then undergone multiple surgeries) were giving out,
McLaggan managed to rally from two games to love down and out-last
the vaunted and decade-younger age-group champion Charlie Ufford
in the final round of the 50-and-over Eastern State Veterans event
at the Yale Club, whose members had initially been reluctant to invite
a pro to play in what had heretofore been an amateurs-only event.
However, they were so enthralled by the intricacies of the exchanges,
the impeccable fairness and sportsmanship that prevailed throughout
between these two brainy standouts and the drama of McLaggan’s
comeback effort, that the club’s
attitudes were permanently changed for the better in one instructive
In his own quiet way, McLaggan influenced other
important improvements in the playing environment as well with his
stature and passion for justice. As one example, when the USSRA produced
what were clearly poorly-done tentative rankings at the end of the
1978-79 season, and it was subsequently learned that the committee
had not followed the proper guidelines, the New York regional association,
led by its activist president, the late Ames Brown, formed a special
MSRA National Ranking Committee in what could be construed as something
of an act of defiance that produced its own significantly-better
rankings. The presence on that latter Committee of McLaggan, as well
as Bostwick, effectively shamed the USSRA into acknowledging the
superiority of those MSRA national rankings and performing a much-needed
reconstruction of the USSRA ranking committee that resulted in a
prompt implementation of a ranking system that represented a major
improvement over what had preceded it.
For the dignity with which
he comported himself, for the impact he had on those whom he worked
for, worked with and coached, and for everything that he represented
so well for so long, Doug McLaggan deserves to forever be remembered
as a universally respected leading light of his squash generation,
as someone who cared deeply that people played the game RIGHT and
as one of squash’s truly
legendary figures for nearly half a century.
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Historical information PSA Men's Pro Event:
|1996||Jansher Khan||Ahmed Barada|
|1997||Peter Nicol||Jansher Khan|
|1998||Ahmed Barada||Martin Heath||15/5,15/17,15/13,13/15,15/13|
|1999||Peter Nicol||Ahmed Barada||15-9, 15-13, 15-11|
|2000||Peter Nicol||Ahmed Barada||15/14, 9/15, 15/3, 15/12|
Historical information PSA Women's Pro Event:
|1997||Sarah Fitz-Gerald||Michelle Martin|
|1998||Michelle Martin||Cassie Jackman|
|1999||Michelle Martin||Carol Owens||9-6, 9-0, 10-9|
|2000||Leilani Joyce||Carol Owens||8/10, 9/7, 9/5, 3/9, 9/5|
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