US SQUASH

2016 National Hardball Singles to be Final Official Hardball National Championship

Mark Talbott (L) and Todd Binns in the 1985 Hardball Chivas Regal Open. (image: Lawrence A. Armour)

Mark Talbott (L) and Todd Binns in the 1985 Hardball Chivas Regal Open. (image: Lawrence A. Armour)

2016 National Hardball Singles Registration
In February 1907 the U.S. became the first country to host a national squash championship, when US Squash hosted the National Singles in Philadelphia. John Miskey, a local doctor, won the tournament. It was just for men, with one open draw and only Philadelphians entered.

Since 1907 the National Singles has been a premier event on every season’s fixtures schedule. The tournament constantly expanded. Some of the milestones: in 1908 a five-man team event was added with the first teams hailing from Boston and Baltimore; in 1928 a women’s National Singles (both with both individual and team draws) was started—the men and the women didn’t play at the same weekend in the same city until 1976; in 1935 masters play began at the National Singles with a men’s 40+ draw; in 1949 the first women’s age-group draw, the 40+, was launched; in 1979 Portland hosted the National Singles, the first time it had been held west of the Mississippi.

Throughout its long and storied history, the National Singles have been very popular. That held true into the last years of hardball. But in the 1990s, the country began to move towards the international softball game, with its wider court and slower softball. The softball National Singles, founded in 1983, slowly replaced the hardball tournament as the true national championship in the United States. The 1990 hardball event had 411 players in seventeen draws while the softball had 395 players In 1991, for the first time, more players came to the softball National Singles than the hardball one.

Last season’s event had forty-seven players, a typical number for the last decade. With such a small draw, US Squash has decided to stop calling the event an official U.S. national championship. Thus, the February 26-28, 2016 tournament at Merion will be the 104th and last hardball National Singles. US Squash will continue to support hardball play throughout the country with sanctioned events, rankings and ratings.

Canada came to that decision two decades ago. In 1995 Toronto hosted their final hardball national championship. A huge crowd of players and fans came for a gala weekend. Jamie Bentley beat Scott Stoneburgh in the semis and then Dulmage in the finals of the men’s open draw, while Barbara Cooper outlasted Mariann Greenberg in the women’s open draw.

It is fitting to close the chapter of hardball National Singles at Merion Cricket Club because in the spring of 2016 Merion might be converting its last three hardball courts, built in 1928. This is a very symbolic move. Merion has hosted the hardball National Singles more than any other club, and almost all of the country’s greatest men and women squash players competed on these three courts over the past three quarters of a century.

Hardball singles is still going well. An active committee, led by Charlie Baker and Tefft Smith, have kept a cohesive calendar of events around the country—ten tournaments in six states—as aficionados continue to play.

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