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Top squash pros compete at Minturn Racket and Trout club

Ian Cropp
Special to the DailySome of the world's best squash pros duke it out at the Minturn Racket and Trout Club last weekend.
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MINTURN – Some of the world’s best professional athletes were in Eagle County last weekend, but they weren’t on the slopes.They were on the court – the squash court.Six teams of the top doubles squash players competed in the Minturn Racket and Trout Club Pro Invitational, with Paul Price and Mark Chaloner taking the crown.In addition to the pro draw, there was a Pro-Am draw in which pro Gary Waite matched up with Jim Brinkerhoff to take first.”It was terrific,” said Brinkerhoff, tournament organizer and club developer. “You’re out there with the best athletes in the world, and they are hitting the ball as hard as they can.”Friday, the pairs battled each other in two pools for a chance at Sunday’s championship.”We had Damien Mudge, the No. 1 player in the world on the right side of the wall, and Gary Waite, the No. 1 player on the left side of the wall,” Brinkerhoff said.

In the end, however, neither of the two No. 1s advanced to the finals.Price (No. 20) and Chaloner knocked first knocked off Mudge and Todd Binns, then Scott Butcher (No. 17) and Dean Brown.In the other pool, Doug Lifford (No. 18) and Viktor Berg (No. 5) beat Morris Clothier and Tyler Millard (No. 12), then knocked of Waite and Jeff Mulligan to advance to the finals.Much like every match in the tournament, the finals went the full five games.Price and Chaloner were down, 14-10, trailing two games to one when they fended off several championship points to come back and win the final two games.An offer not to refuse

The idea of a squash tournament in Minturn hit Brinkerhoff a bit by surprise.”Two of my friends who are pros on the tour put me on the pro doubles association calendar and asked if I wanted to have a tournament, so I said yes,” Brinkerhoff said.He wasn’t the only easy sell.”It was really cool because all the pros I invited sent RSVPs saying they’d love to come,” Brinkerhoff said.With a world-class court and facilities at the club, the players didn’t even have to leave Minturn, although obviously some couldn’t resist the slopes.”After we won our morning match (Saturday), Gary Waite said to me, ‘I’m going to take my girls skiing.’ I told him we had another match at 5 p.m. and not to wear himself out,” Brinkerhoff said.Waite didn’t have any problem in the pair’s evening match, which didn’t come as a surprise to Brinkerhoff.

“Gary’s an amazing athlete. He once biked from Toronto to Montreal in one day,” Brinkerhoff said. “He has another switch. He can take it to another level.”Even those who didn’t hit the slopes enjoyed their stay in the area.”A lot of times the guys will play then disappear,” Brinkerhoff said. “Some of the pros said it was the best time they’ve had on tour.”Next year Brinkerhoff hopes to bring the tournament back.”It’s kind of neat having another unique sport here in Vail,” Brinkerhoff said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or icropp@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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