By Mark Hinckley and Peter MacGuire
The Gold Racquets, graciously hosted by Rockaway Hunting Club in Lawrence, New York, is the nation’s oldest invitational tournament. It was founded in 1928 and remains a cornerstone event on the winter’s fixtures list, always on the first weekend of December.
For the first time in the eighty-four years of the tournament, the singles draw was won by a schoolboy. Many collegiate players have won the Gold Racquets, including Beek Pool in 1921, Ralph Howe in 1961 and Rudy Rodriquez in 1988, but never someone as young as sixteen year-old Sam Scherl. A junior at Pingry School, Scherl is coached by Ramsay Vehslage, whose uncle Steve won the Gold Racquets at the age of twenty-three. Scherl won the boys U15 national title two years ago and the U17 title this past March.
To win the coveted Gold Racquets title, he had to overcome an ageless Richard Chin, then Lee Rosen and then Will Newnham in the semis to take on Jacques Swanepoel in the finals. Swanepoel, having survived a five-game tussle with Dylan Ward on Sunday morning, had another five-gamer with Scherl in the afternoon. Scherl fought off four games balls in the second game to even the score at 1-1 and then took the last two games at 11-7 to win in five. He turns seventeen in January.
On the doubles court in the Ray Chauncey, the number-one seeded team of Addison West & Will Hartigan opened the action in the first semi-final against a game but dinged-up Jeff Osborne & Dylan Patterson team. Patterson, who had injured his foot during his quarter-final match late Saturday afternoon, was hobbled from the get-go, and no amount of heroics from Jeff Osborne were going to stop West & Hartigan, who won, 3-0. (Patterson, it turned out, had a torn plantar fascia.) In the morning’s second match, it looked as though a similar 3-0 result was in the cards as Shane Coleman & Hamed Anvari won their first two games. However, Carl Baglio & Jordan Greenberg decided to get hot and steamed their through games three and four. The last game was tense throughout, with each team mounting several runs. Baguio & Greenberg managed to survive 15-14. It was a gritty, exciting comeback by Carl and Jordan against a very tough, experienced team.
After lunch and the conclusion of the singles final, a late-starting doubles final saw Addison and Will take control of the match early with heat from both sides of the court and a very hot, sharp-shooting West converting from all over the court. Carl and Jordan were never able to mount any sort of a charge of their own, and Jordan, who had bruised his lower back in a slide into the back wall in the semi-final, was tired because having doubled up in the draw he had played in twenty-one games by the end of the weekend. In the end, West & Hartigan prevailed, 3-0.