by Dan Karnowsky
President So Cal Squash
Jonathan Club in Los Angeles was the host club for the 2014 California State Doubles Squash Championships, April 4 – 6. As she has done for all of her recent squash events at that magnificent, upscale downtown venue, Victoria Simmonds, Jonathan Club Head Squash Professional, did a superb job of organizing and hosting this event.
The tournament featured an Open, B, C, 40+, 60+, Mixed, and Women’s Open over three days. The event was bookended by awe-inspiring matches in the Open on both Friday and Sunday. The crowd was so mesmerized by the play on Friday that no one left before the match finished at 9pm, even though all were invited to a 7:30pm dinner at the private home of Mimi Munson, an avid player and fan.
The food may have gotten cold, but everyone was hot for doubles after the closely contested match between the hometown team of Michael Shrubb and Tyler Stout, and the newly minted doubles team of Peruvian Andres Duany and Richard Glanfield, the former Malaysian National Coach and first coach of a little-known female player called Nicol David. Glanfield had only one previous doubles match under his belt but showed great skill in keeping up with Stout and Shrubb—who are both experienced and skilled at doubles. Duany demonstrated super-human speed and retrievals, awing the crowd time after time. In the end, the fifth game went to Shrubb and Stout by a whisker, but the crowd congratulated both teams on their level of play and sportsmanship. Stout and Shrubb could not maintain their winning ways, however, falling to the eventual winners in their next match on Saturday.
In the finals of the Open, another hometown favorite, the team of Alec Sokolow and JP Rothie, winners of the SoCal Doubles Championship last fall, faced the team of Francis Johnson and Colin Campbell, two former Yalies, who demonstrated why Ivy League squash is so dominant. Again, it was the last match of the day, and again, the match went to five games. Rothie and Sokolow struggled back from a 1-2 deficit to even the match 2-2. The fifth game was a seesaw battle, until tied at 14-14. The Yalies served to Sokolow who had been hot all day. Alec, who at 14-14 in the fifth in the SoCal Championship final last year had hit a winner off of serve to capture the title, went for that same winner again at match point, but hit the tin; and the match was over with Johnson and Campbell the new State Champs. No one was disappointed at the level of play, however; and the crowd, after congratulating all four players, left inspired and ready for next year.
In the other divisions, the finals of the Women’s Open was populated by four pros, our hostess, Victoria Simmonds playing with Shirin Kaufman, from the Bay Area, against Orla O’Doherty, from Santa Barbara, and Ivy Pochoda, another local LA favorite. Simmonds & Kaufman wasted no time stamping their mark, claiming the first match 15-7. The second, however, saw Pochoda and O’Doherty fight back to get a 15-14 win, tying up the match. Unshaken, Simmonds & Kaufman displayed great athleticism and went back to what worked in game one; focusing on pace and precision as they proceeded to win the next two games, 15-9, 15-5, claiming the title.
Shirin Kaufman won a second title in the finals of the Mixed with partner and Open finalist, JP Rothie, against Simmonds and Shrubb, who claimed disability due to late night carousing. Rothie and Kaufman comfortably took the match 3-0 over the ailing Shrubb and always game Simmonds.
In the B division final, the team of Halsey Smith and Geoff Thompson took on Phil Ahern and Peter Susskind. This marathon match was literally neck and neck the whole way through. After battling back and forth for over an hour, Smith & Thompson emerged victorious winning the fifth game 15-11.
Susskind, who had made the trip from San Francisco, went on to claim two finalist trophies, both in the B’s and in the 60+. In the 60’s, he, along with Terry Eagle of Carpinteria, CA, faced off against Peter’s erstwhile B partner, Phil Ahern, and Dan Karnowsky. The duo of Ahern and Karnowsky were having a good day, and managed to shut out the well-established and experienced team of Susskind and Eagle, winning 3-0.
In the C’s, Eagle paired with Alan Fox to claim victory and a measure of revenge over Karnowsky and his C partner John Rindlaub. The ever vigilant Fox and his superior racquet skills proved too much for their opponents, losing the third game by only one point, but winning the fourth game and the title by that same one point.
In the 40’s final, local boys and Jonathan Club members, Ray Bertrand and Jeff Isenstadt, got off to a rocky start against the new pairing of Halsey Smith and Richard Glanfield, losing 15-3. However, the JC duo began to do what they do best; Isenstadt striking balls faster than the speed of light and Bertrand showing great skill and strategy, went on to win the next three games 15-12, 15-12, 15-11.
The Jonathan Club once again demonstrated superior hospitality with an elegant lunch spread on Saturday, a wonderful dinner on the rooftop Skybar of the club on Saturday night, and breakfast on Sunday. For anyone who has not yet spent an evening at the Jonathan Club Rooftop Skybar, this is an LA must. There is no more pleasant and impressive dinner venue in all of California.
In short, there was great food, great hospitality, great fellowship, great sportsmanship and excellent squash. There was nothing more to be desired.