John Flanigan, the athletic director at the University Club and long-time Windy City Open tournament director, was honored with the 2018 President’s Cup Tuesday, February 26, on the glass court in Chicago’s Union Station.
Kevin Klipstein, US Squash President & CEO, presented Flanigan with the organization’s highest individual award in Union Station’s Grand Hall. Inaugurated in 1966, the award is given to those who have made extraordinarily substantial contributions of the game of squash. Flanigan is the forty-seventh recipient of the President’s Cup.
“John’s career has spanned the grassroots to the sport’s grandest stage, this World Championships in Union Station,” Klipstein said. “John’s work and career embodies US Squash’s values of integrity, inclusivity and innovation more than any other recipient of this award. Anyone who knows John appreciates how easy he is to be with and to work with. He exudes integrity, he does what he says he will do, when he says he’ll do it.”
Flanigan has been an innovative and dynamic leader in squash for thirty years. He started his career in Minneapolis. A tennis coach, Flanigan was awarded a grant from the Minnesota Squash Association in 1988 to learn how to coach squash and a year later was hired as a squash coach at the Northwest Club. From 1993 to 1998 he was the pro at the Minnesota Athletic Club, during which time he directed the 1996 and 1997 U.S. Open.
Since January 1999 he has been a pro and now the athletic director at the University Club of Chicago. He ran the 2010 U.S. Open in Millennium Park in Chicago, the first time the venerable event has been staged outside. He has directed nineteen Windy City Opens, Illinois’ flagship pro event. Nine of these have been staged on a portable glass court on the ninth floor of the University Club, a marvelous feat of engineering.
“John has innovated, from hosting the U.S. Open in Millenium Park, to the Windy City event on the ninth floor of the beautiful University Club, to now only the third time hosting a combined men’s and women’s World Championships, this time with $1 million in prize money,” Klipstein said. “He has been a quiet leader and advocate of MetroSquash, the local urban squash and education program, one of the best—if not the best program in the country—making the sport more inclusive and diverse. US Squash seeks to increase access, foster community, achieve excellence and promote sportsmanship, and John’s career has furthered these goals as much as anyone in the country.”
The Windy City Open is one of the majors on the pro squash tour. Next year’s event will feature a $500,000 prize fun. It is also a trend-setter. Under Flanigan’s leadership, the Windy City was just the second top-tier event to institute prize money parity for the men’s and women’s draws in 2015, after U.S. Open launched the idea a year and a half earlier. Today all the majors on the squash tour have prize money parity.
This year’s World Championships at Union Station in Chicago, under Flanigan’s leadership, is also a landmark event. It is just the third time that both the men’s and women’s world championship draws have been held together, the first time that it is in a train station; and the first time that any pro squash tournament ever has offered $1 million in prize money.