Squash: It’s Minturn’s March pro-am | VailDaily.com

Squash: It’s Minturn’s March pro-am

Ian CroppVail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyThe Minturn Raquet & Trout Club's squash court is one of the top doubles surfaces in North America.

MINTURN – On the southern outskirts of Minturn, there are a few things you can expect, like big cliffs and great trout fishing. But a squash court?OK, so if there is one, it must be an old court whose floor boards collect dust. Right? “This is the premier doubles squash venue in North America,” said Gary Waite, who along with partner Damien Mudge are the No. 2-ranked double pair in the world.So it’s no stretch of the imagination that Waite, Mudge and ten other top pros are in town this weekend for the Minturn Raquet & Trout Club Invitational.The pro-am tourney, the creation of Jim Brinkerhoff of the Minturn Raquet and Trout Club, is in its second year, although the court has been a part of the club for a while longer.”It’s not the normal amenity to put in a homeowners group, but because it’s my dream, we’ve made it work,” Brinkerhoff said. “You first build a court, and you’re thinking, maybe we should have an event.”Waite helped Brinkerhoff get things started last year.”(Jim) had been talking about it ever since (he built it),” Waite said. “It was a given we’d come down here an check it out.”

Squash pro-ams are a breed apart. In events like golf, pro’s and amateur’s play together, but not head-to-head.Saturday afternoon, Waite and Brinkerhoff squared off against Mudge and his tourney partner, Andrew Reid, for a quarterfinals match.Thanks to the giant reach and impressive agility of Mudge, he and Reid knocked out last year’s champions.”I picked on Jimbo,” Mudge said. “And Andrew, my partner, stepped up nicely. He was a little out of sorts in the first game.”While Waite surely enjoys having Mudge on his team, he doesn’t quite get the same enjoyment watching Mudge track down balls he hits.”It’s a challenge to get the ball away from him,” Waite said.

Waite, who plays in about 15 pro-ams a year, enjoys taking part in the events.”We have a greater appreciation for the people who support the game,” Waite said. “So when guys want to get out there and play hard, we give them a hard game.”As for Waite’s thoughts on his matches against Mudge?”They’ve all been memorable,” Waite said, without delving into detail. Brinkerhoff started playing singles squash 10 years ago, but found himself lured to the doubles game.”For me it’s a lot more fun,” Brinkerhoff said. “It’s more social, there’s more humor, and more interesting points. It blends in well.”But it’s still competitive.”It was disappointing not to play some more,” Brinkerhoff said after the loss.

The court is inside a cabin that serves as the clubhouse of the 14-home area. For the tournament, the clubhouse garage was transformed into a typical pro team locker room where each player had a wooden locker.Upon entering the clubhouse, the viewing area with ample seating gives way to the court. While there aren’t many amendments you can make to the actual court, which was built by industry standard Anderson Courts, there are high ceilings lined with logs. Outside the clubhouse is a social area that includes a pizza oven, a fireplace and a hot tub.Unlike other pro-am’s, the one in Minturn has a summer-camp feel, as competitors and their families stay right there for all the activities. And there is only one court, versus a large club with many surfaces and tons of competitors.”It’s very social,” Brinkerhoff said. “It builds a lot of camaraderie.”Today, the teams square off for the pro-am, and pro finals. Waite and Mudge, who have won just about every tournament under the sun multiple times and were the No. 1 pair for seven years, will be back together to take on Clive Leach and John Russell.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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