USANationals 2000
>Press release 2-17-2000

Press release
#2: A historical look at squash in Concord and Eastern Massachusetts


Squash in Concord, Groton, and
Boston: Today and Yesterday

February 20, 2000. By Ron Beck. ©
2000 all rights reserved.

The first US National Squash championship
of the new millennium arrives in Massachusetts. The rural Concord and
Groton area offers a unique mix of new and old.

Semi-rural Concord boasts two brand
new squash facilities – the two new exhibition courts at the Concord-Acton
Squash Club and the new Concord Academy Courts. Rural Groton contains
the wonderful twelve court arena at Groton School. Across the Boston metro
area, over 90 courts have been constructed in the past 5 years. This weekend
enjoy your squash in a community that is both traditional and cutting-edge.

Squash traditions are strong in Boston-fueled
by the long-reigning squash juggernaut of Harvard University squash and
the history-rich Tennis and Racquet Club (T&R;), Harvard Club, Union Boat
Club (UBC), and University Club.


The first famous player from Boston
was Jack Summers, winner of the first four Professional Squash titles
in 1930-33 and again in 1935. Jack Summers taught generations of Union
Boat Club members. He was a skilled racket-man and a fine teacher. He
was still active (on an occasional basis) at the club in the 1970s. Summers
is also famous for the strobe photo Dr. Harold Edgarton of MIT took of
him (which now hangs in the new UBC courts).

On the women’s side, Eleanora Sears
and Margaret Howe gave Boston five of the first seven national titles,
starting with Sears’ title in 1928.

The next three Bostonians who took
national titles were George Waring and Harold Kaese in the veterans ranks
40 in those days) and Henri Salaun, who won the North American Open over
Hashim Khan in 1954 and the National amateur title in ’55, ’57, ’58, and
1961. Since then, Henri won almost every age-group title available to
him-the over 40’s six times, over 50’s six times, over 55’s three times,
over 60’s four times, and over 65’s four times. Salaun is still active
and has a skilled racquet, but he doesn’t compete in softball. Salaun
was (and is) a wonderful stylist with his racquet, shooting from any part
of the court and was also famous as a gamesman.

For the decades of the seventies and
eighties Boston squash was closely associated with Tom Poor, Lenny

1977 Boston Team: L to R: T Malley, D Johnson,
L Bernheimer, T Poor, G Poonen, R Beck, M Ahmed

Bernheimer, Ron Beck, Bill Kaplan
and Derrick Niederman on the amateur side and Mo Khan and Gul Khan on
the pro

side. Bill Kaplan and Ron Beck made
the switch from amateur to pro in the late seventies. And from time to
time top touring pros John Nimick, Greg Zaff, and Mark Talbott made Boston
a training center.

Bernheimer and Poor, in addition to
carrying on an interesting rivalry for many years, brought the Boston
Open to prominence. The open showcased Mo and Gul and brought top pros
to Boston again and again. They also staged one of the most memorable
national championships in Boston in 1978, which was won by Mike Desaulniers,
a Harvard student.

Boston also always had its share of
enigmatic squashers. Ted Malley, highly ranked in the early 70’s, split
his time between sword fishing and squash, and persevered for years on
swollen knees. Will Bigelow, in the late 70’s came onto the scene with
incredible talent and speed. He disappeared as quickly. George Poonen,
with wonderful touch, only played locally except for the annual intercities
Lockett Cup. Though he always appeared exhausted, he usually won. Ed Mank
at the Harvard Club played with phenomenal touch. He preferred his one
favorite court (it was frigid) at the Club. Don Boyko at the University
Club lumbered around the court with the omnipresent ambition of someday
beating Henri Salaun. He achieved his goal in the 1989 National over 60’s
championship. And here were many others.

Though the Harvard squash community
was always somewhat separated from the rest of Boston area squash, the
presence of such wonderful champions as Beekman Pool, Germain Glidden,
Charles Ufford, Victor Niederhoffer, Anil Nayar, Peter Briggs, Mike Desaulniers,
Kenton Jernigan, and Adrian Ezra repeatedly elevated local squash. Pay
a visit to the Tennis and Squash Shop in Cambridge and review Harvard
history with their wall-of-fame of championship winning rackets.

On the women’s side, the T&R; was one
of the first USA old line men-only clubs to go “co-ed”. Top regional player,
legendary Baba Lewis, was followed by Marigold Edwards, Aggie Kurtz, Ginny
Akabane, Debbie Brickley and Jessie Chai.

Today, Boston boasts an equally distinguished
group, with Angus Kirkland, PSA pro, at the Harvard Club, Mark Lewis,
respected USA pro, at the Union Boat Club, Paul and Wendy Ansdell at the
Concord Acton Club, and now Satinder Bajwa at Harvard.


From the day Mo Khan arrived in Boston,
soon afterwards bringing brother Gul, he added color and flavor the the
Harvard club and whole Boston squash scene. In addition to Mo and Gul’s
incredible racketwork and court control, the two elevated their games
to a level of showmanship that entertained a generation of squash audiences
in Boston and nationwide.

Today, the Pakistani squash tradition
is carried on in Boston by Mo’s sons Sakhi and Naji, at the Cambridge
Racquet and Fitness Club in Kendall Square and by Mohammed Ayaz at suburban
Longfellow club.


Despite its tradition, Boston squash
has always been known for trying new things and pushing new trends. Following
the lead of Quentin Hyder, who established a spring softball tournament
in New York in the early 1970s, Boston quickly became the most active
softball-playing city in the US.

The spring softball league, established
in the mid 1970s by the czar of Boston softball, Dr. Denis Bourke, was
so popular that it made the “squash establishment” nervous about a wholesale
switch to softball in Boston, and the MSRA established a rival spring
hardball league to try to stem the tide. Bourke’s annual spring tournament
regularly attracted 70-80 players, many from out of town, without any
advertising. That trend never faltered – as Boston’s 95-plus softball
courts lead the country today.

Boston also pushed tradition in the
modification of the all-white squash dress code. The Boston team raised
eyes and caused a near fracas at the annual Lockett-Ketchum cup match
taking place in 1976 at the Merion Cricket Club, when the Boston players
took the court wearing all-pink team shirts.

And Greg Zaff, a great competitor
in his own right, pushed the whole mindset of the sport of squash when
he created the SquashBusters inner city squash program – a wonderfully
successful program now being mirrored in New York and Toronto.


The push to bring squash to the western
suburbs was slow, with the best squash traditionally happening in downtown
Boston. Middlesex and Groton schools, however, had a long squash tradition.

Maybe the most famous squash player
with Concord roots is Peter Briggs, an incredibly athletic, skilled and
good natured champion, who challenged Sharif Khan for North American supremacy
in the mid 70’s. Peter learned his squash at the Middlesex school, before
moving to Harvard.

A group of about fifty active adult
players were given informal access to the Middlesex school courts, and
they fielded several long-running league teams. At the beginning of the
’70s, John Wheeler decided to build a squash-only club in Concord for
those players. Most of those players joined Wheeler at his new club in
1972. It was always a “bare-bones” club – one only squash fanatics could

In 1992, the club was sold to a group
of players led by Wayne Hodges, and the club’s courts were converted to
softball courts. This became the first “softball only” club in New England,
and the resulting migration of the best area players out to Concord-Acton
spurred the other private clubs in Boston to begin converting their courts
as well-a task now almost complete.

With the concentration of high tech
business west of Boston, Concord squash has become a fascinating mix of
internationals – players at all levels from South Africa, England, Ireland,
Canada, Singapore, India and other countries.

Wayne Hodges also brought top quality
coaching to Concord-first Pat and Richard Millman, and now Paul and Wendy
Ansdell. Paul’s popular and rigorous junior programs have made Concord
a mecca for most of the area’s private school and ranked junior players,
who undergo Paul’s weekly fitness sessions, pressure drills and stroke


It’s the growth of the junior game
in Concord and all over Massachusetts that best demonstrates the vibrancy
of squash in the region. Today there are over 500 active Mass juniors
in the league and tournament programs. After hosting a team at the Concord
Acton club for several years,

The Concord Academy, known more for
its art than for its sports, decided to build a brand new squash complex,
and now has a growing squash program as part of its new sports focus.
Nashoba-Brooks School, a private Concord elementary school, just initiated
a squash program this year.

And Paul Ansdell’s club juniors have
started to make waves with Jennifer and Rebecca Shingleton, Michael Trobagdis,
Nate and Elliot Beck, Lilian Rosenthal, Kate Esselen, Anna and Nicola
Ansdell, Julia and Laura Nickrosz and others all playing in tournaments
and on school and college teams. And Paul has got a great group of eight
to eleven year olds just getting started.

Health Point, a high-end health club
that just opened its doors in neighboring Waltham, put in a new squash
facility, demonstrating the demand for squash west of Boston.

So welcome to Concord, Groton and
Boston – a tradition-filled area with long-held squash traditions mixed
with lots of new growth.


The USSRA is a member organization
of the World Squash Federation (WSF) and is the squash governing body
recognized by the US Olympic Committee. The USSRA offers sanctioning of
tournaments in the USA at both a senior and junior level, as well as masters
and skill groups. Additionally the USSRA governs the selection process
and coaching for national teams that compete in the Pan American Games
and World Squash Federation world championships.

Squash is a sport played by over 18 million
players worldwide, and an estimated 1 million in the USA. Squash is offered
as a team sport in over 250 secondary school programs and over 100 colleges
and universities in the USA. Men’s and women’s world professional tours are
organized by the PSA (www.psa-squash.com
) for men and the WISPA (www.wispa.net)
for women.

For further information or media credentials
contact Ron Beck, US Nationals 2000 Press Officer, at 617-966-4209 or ronbeck@squashtalk.com

For sponsorship information and more information
about the USSRA contact Craig Brand USSRA executive director, or Mike Hymer
USSRA tournament coordinator at 610-667-4006.

The tournament will be covered on a live
basis at www.squashtalk.com/concord2000
, and further USSRA information can be found at www.us-squash.org