Stu Goldstein, 1978 WPSA Champion from New York
RELENTLESS PURSUER OF SHARIF KHAN IN THE '70s
SquashTalk Player Profiles
2003, By Rob Dinerman © 2002 SquashTalk
Powerful Performance Packed into Abbreviated Career
One of the most determined of Sharif Khan's pursuers during the latter's extended period of domination and the best player in the New York metropolitan area for a half-decade encompassing the late 1970's and early 1980's, Stu Goldstein became the first non-Khan in 16 years to win the WPSA Championship when he defeated Gordy Anderson and Rainer Ratinac in the semi-final and final rounds of that event at the Commodore Club in Minnesota in February 1978. He combined immaculate stroke production with extraordinary agility and conditioning to fully earn a spot along with fellow top-five WPSA protagonists Victor Niederhoffer, Clive Caldwell, Mario Sanchez, Michael Desaulniers, Anderson and Ratinac as the top contenders to the crown that Khan wore so proudly for so long.
It is a bittersweet
aspect of the legacy that he and contemporaries Anderson and Caldwell
created that all three were fated to have their prime years intersect
with the dominant period of the older but ageless Khan, who always loomed
up to deny them the major titles that they otherwise would have been winning.
This phenomenon is similar to what occurred in the NBA throughout the
By the time Sharif finally began to fade in the early 1980's, thereby opening the door for the Sanchez-Desaulniers-Mark Talbott generation to etch their names below his on the permanent trophies of the game's most prestigious events, it was too late for Goldstein and his generation, whose time by then had already passed.
it must be said that it was not for lack of trying that Goldstein was
never able to quite knock off The Champ in the game's biggest arenas,
or that what the stylish Stony Brook graduate (and two-time all-American)
WAS able to accomplish was anything short of superlative.
If anything, he may
have been guilty of expending TOO much effort in his dedicated push for
the No. 1 ranking, relentlessly forcing his smallish and slender frame
through punishing daily work-outs both in the squash court and on the
track that may have brought on the sequence of injuries, particularly
to his back, that required him to withdraw from a number of tournaments
Those mishaps and the overall burn-out effects of his full-bore pursuit of Khan's seemingly endless position of pre-eminence may also have contributed to the brevity of Goldstein's career, which ended when he was only 31 years old and seemingly with several productive seasons still ahead of him. One such injury, when he fell heavily on his knee during one of the last few points of his first-ever victory over Niederhoffer in overtime in the fourth in the semi-finals of the '77 Metropolitan Open, caused the joint to swell up overnight to a degree that prevented him from playing in either the next-day final or the North American Open one week later..
Though terribly disappointed by this setback and the several weeks of enforced inactivity that resulted during the heart of what was at that time a very compressed WPSA season, Goldstein recovered in time for the WPSA Championships in Detroit the following month, where he defeated Caldwell and Niederhoffer on the same day to reach the first of his three consecutive WPSA finals.
Exhausted by those successive exploits just hours apart against that season's Nos. 3 and 2 ranked players, Goldstein lost the ensuing final to Khan, who thereby captured this title for a record eighth straight time.
But when Khan lost
to Anderson one year later in the quarter-finals, Goldstein seized on
the opportunity generated by the premature elimination of his nemesis,
overwhelming a pardonably spent Anderson in the semis, a pattern he would
repeat three years later at the Atlantic City event in '81, where Goldstein
again defeated Anderson, this time in the final, after Anderson semi-final
Goldstein would go
on to defeat Khan head-to-head in the final of both the '78 Metropolitan
As a Long Islander who was a product of neither a famous squash family (like the Khan clan, which included during that period not only Sharif but his brothers Aziz and Charlie and cousins Mohibullah and Gul in the WPSA top 10), nor a privileged prep-school or Ivy League background nor a vaunted junior program (like "Bentley juniors" Caldwell and Anderson), and the outsider standing he internalized from fairly early on was furthered by his Jewish status in a sport where acceptance was decidedly slow in coming.
This situation, along
with the swiftness of his ascent up the ranks, caused Goldstein some resentment
among his peers which was exacerbated by some intemperate comments he
Ultimately it would
be Desaulniers who would succeed Sharif both as North American Open champion
(in the spring of '82, ending a Khan run of six straight Open titles and
12 in 13 years!) and in
In fact, the North
American Open, recognized as the game's most coveted championship, would
prove a bit of a bugaboo for Goldstein during his snake-bit seven-year
pursuit of this crown. As noted, an injured knee kept him out of the '77
event and he lost in five games to Gul Khan in '76, Anderson in '78 and
'79, Sharif Khan in '80 and Aziz Khan in '81! He led Sharif two games
Goldstein's '82 Open match with Khan, a close four-game battle, was the last of Stu's career, as he had already announced before the tournament that he would retire afterwards, whatever the outcome, to embark upon what has developed into a remarkably successful career in real estate as the CEO of SDG Management for the past 18 years.
It seems somehow symbolic of his accomplishment-filled but unexpectedly brief and strangely enigmatic career that Goldstein reached that semi-final via successive wins over Ned Edwards and Talbott, who the following season would end up occupying the top two spots on the WPSA rankings, in spite of which Goldstein's tournament is more remembered for his falling short yet again against his career-long tormentor in their final clash than for the two excellent wins over much-younger and highly talented opponents that preceded it.
Let the record show
that Goldstein's actual last match, in the third-place play-off the following
day, was in fact a victory over Tom Page, that Goldstein's ledger of career
tournament wins includes not only the host of WPSA sanctioned-tournament
titles we have already chronicled but also the Met Pro
Goldstein crammed a remarkable list of achievements into a relatively compressed time frame while becoming one of the most prominent of the legendary protagonists who put the WPSA tour on the map during its meteoric rise in the world of racquet sports.
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