Squash Association Celebrates Game’s Buffalo Roots

Sally Russell and Richard Lynn look over a scrapbook commemorating the 80th year of the Buffalo Squash Association. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Sally Russell and Richard Lynn look over a scrapbook commemorating the 80th year of the Buffalo Squash Association. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Article and image courtesy of the Buffalo News

Sally Russell, Dave Koehler and Richard Lynn have done an exemplary job of putting together a history of squash in Buffalo.

Their many hours of work on this project included the Buffalo Squash Racquets Association, Through the Decades, the association Hall of Fame, compilation of squash happenings through the decades, interesting facts about the game, Buffalo representation in the United States Squash Racquets Association, top awards and recognition. Junior Achievement awards, and an Adult Achievement award.

It is believed that the beginnings of squash occurred in the Buffalo area about 1900. Howard Bissell is called the Father of Squash in Buffalo, and it is believed that the first match ever played in this area was played in Bissell’s barn. In 1924, Lyman Bass originated team competition between the Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club, the University Club and the Buffalo Athletic Club.

For a city of its size Buffalo has had an incredible number of great singles and doubles champions.

Squash, not to be confused with the vegetable, is a racquet sport which is played with a small hollow ball on a four walled court. A player wins the match when he or she wins 3 games. Each game ends with the first to win 11 points. Squash is being considered for inclusion in the Olympic games in 2020. It also was rated by Forbes Magazine as the number one healthiest participation sport in 2003.

Sally Russell, who has held many positions in the Buffalo association and is a former City Women’s Singles Champion, has been a close follower of the game.

“Twenty-five years ago the courts and the balls that were used were drastically changed,” said Russell. She noted that the squash balls were usually black, hard and fast at that time, and courts were narrower than they are now.

Then mostly all squash courts throughout the world were rebuilt to meet International Court requirements, which meant that the courts were wider. The hard balls were replaced by squash balls that were much softer and slower.

It changed squash from a power game to one of endurance as the slower ball was very difficult to put away and score a point with.

“About 12 years ago junior squash really started to take off,” Russell said. “We had local players and coaches really take an interest in improving junior play and there were great results. From barely 25 players in the program we have well over 100 today. Different grants from various squash funds were extremely helpful. Some of the junior players started going to junior events and their skills were noted by different tournament hosts and college coaches.”

As more players started competing outside of Buffalo, Division I, II and III, schools started to take notice. Quite a few students have been awarded scholarships and have given great incentive to others to play squash, improve, play in tournaments, and perhaps achieve a scholarship. “Everyone is extremely pleased with our junior program, and we are sure it will continue to grow in the future,” Russell said.

The following is a brief biography of each of the 22 players in the Buffalo hall of Fame and the year they were inducted.

2000: Gordie Anderson – Originally from Canada, was ranked number one in Canada in 1976. He has won many national age group titles in many categories and is one of the leading court builders in the world, having converted over 1,400 courts to International Courts. When he was on the pro squash tour, he was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world.

2000: Bill Dann and Nelson Graves – Their incredible team work resulted in them winning seven City Doubles Championships, five U.S. National Age Group Championships and three Canadian Age Group Championships.

2000: Phil Harty and Monty Pooley – They won nine City Doubles Championships, three Canadian Open Doubles Championships, and two age group championships, one in Canada and one in the U.S.

2000: Charles Jacobs: Without doubt, Jacobs is one of the greatest doubles players to have ever played in Buffalo. From the late 1970s until the late 1980s he won the City Doubles Championships 11 years in a row with three different partners — Rev. Bob Hetherington, Jim Wadsworth and Marc Reinhardt. For good measure he added a 12th City title, again with Marc Reinhardt.

2000: Seymour Knox – Knox was city singles champion from 1927 to 1931. He was a past president of the U.S. Squash Racquets Association and was awarded the prestigious Jesters Cup for his contributions to squash. 2000: Seymour Knox III – Seymour was an accomplished singles and doubles player winning one City Singles title and one city age group title. He won a total of six City Doubles Championships, four with Hetherington.

2000: Adrian Smith – was City Singles Champion in 1926 and 1932. He won the City Doubles Championships in 1937 and 1939 and was the president of the USSRA and the BUBSRA.

2000: A. Warren Smith Jr. He was City Singles Champion in 1961 and well known for his commitment to the game of squash.

2001: George Goodyear Jr. – A protege of the legendary Harvard coach, Harry Cowles, he was a USSRA treasurer from 1940 to 1943 and president of the BSRA from 1936 to 1941.

2001: Edward Jocoy – City Singles Champion four times and probably would have won more if he hadn’t run into Hetherington in many finals. He was ranked three times among the nation’s top 15 players, won many regional tournaments, and won the City 50 & Over Singles eight times.

2001: Al Molloy – One of the greatest squash coaches in the country. He was responsible for the success of such local squash greats as Charley Jacobs, Dan Roblin and Chris Sadkowski at the University of Pennsylvania and was head squash and tennis pro at the Buffalo Tennis & Squash Club from 1954 to 1959.

2002: Harry Conlon – Arguably Buffalo’s greatest home-grown squash player. He reached his apex when he won the National Singles title in 1952.

2002: Robert G. Hetherington – “The Rev” ranks near the top as one of WNY’s all time great squash players. He won the Buffalo Singles title 13 times and the doubles five times. He was also ranked in the nation’s top 10 for 14 years in a row. He was also a Canadian Open Singles champion.

2002: Michael McGorry – Ranked No. 1 from 1997 to 1999 in the 40-plus Doubles nationally. In 1998 he won the Canadian 40-plus Doubles and was City 40-plus Singles Champion in 2001. He is rightfully known as “Mr. Squash” in the Buffalo area.

2003: Peter Linder – When he became president of the BSRA in 1983 he was committed to the development of squash in Buffalo. His leadership led to Buffalo becoming a site for many national tournaments.

2003: Lou Schaefer – City Singles Champion twice, City Doubles Champion seven times and the 40-and-Over Singles Champion three times.

2004: Sally Russell – City Champion in singles in 1986 and City Doubles Champion in 2011. She is first woman president of both the USSRA and the Buffalo T & S Club.

2004: Phillip C. Barth III – His main claim to fame is that he defeated Hetherington in the 1983 City finals, ending “The Rev’s” 13-year winning streak. Barth was a six-time City Singles Champion and won 11 City Doubles Championships.

2005: Peter DeRose – Only local player to win a National Open Doubles title and was twice ranked No. 1 in doubles in North America. A four-time City Singles Champion and a 10-time City Doubles Champion.

2007: Edward Linder – Chaired many tournaments that included the 1982 National Doubles. Linder was one of the founding members of the National Squash Fund, which supported junior and adult programs.

Last Friday night many squash players were honored at the 80th Anniversary of Buffalo squash at the Saturn Club. There were many highlights. However, the most impressive part of the ceremony was to see how many juniors were involved in high school and tournament play.