Last month John Lau retired as head squash professional at the University Club of San Francisco. He had been a pro at the club for thirty-two years.
More than 130 people came to the third floor of the University Club on June 24 to bid fond farewell to Lau and his family, including Lau’s wife Evy, their two daughters Emily and Rebecca and Lau’s brother Steve.
More than a dozen people spoke about Lau’s impact on their lives and the Pacific Coast squash community. They included Dick Crawford, Lau’s legendary coach at Cal Berkeley in the 1970s; Busani Xaba, Lau’s assistant pro and now successor at the club; Lauren Patrizio Xaba, the executive director of SquashDrive, the Bay Area’s urban squash program. The evening was organized by Craig McAllister, with help from Jack Bickel, Mike Townsend and others.
Lau was presented with a special recognition plaque from US Squash; poems about his earlier hairstyle; a scrapbook of memorable photographs and notes; a street sign that signaled the club was renaming the alley behind the club “Lau’s Lane;” and the dedication of court B in his name. Outside the John R. Lau Squash Doubles Court is a portrait of Lau commissioned by Mike Townsend.
A San Francisco native who is now sixty-four years-old, Lau recently recovered from a battle with acute myeloid leukemia after being diagnosed in July 2013. An avid bicyclist, Lau regularly has rode around Lake Tahoe, a seventy-two mile trip. In 1991 he won the 35+ hardball title at the National Singles: he was down 2-0 in the finals to a player he had lost 3-0 to in the finals the previous year and eventually won the match 18-17 in the fifth. In 1998 he captured the 40+ at the National Doubles, on the left wall partnering with Gordon Anderson. As the pro at the University Club, Lau directed three Lapham Grants and many, many dozens of NorCal, California and Pacific Coast championships.