Merion Celebrates Golden Anniversary William White Invitational In Glorious Fashion 
By Rob Dinerman, for

Dateline January 9th, 2012
--- Held to single digits in the fourth game of their quarterfinal, trailing two games to love in their several-hours-later semi and confronted with a daunting 10-5 deficit in the fifth game of the final, two-time (2008 and 2009) U. S. National Doubles champions Trevor McGuinness and Whitten Morris resolutely bootstrapped their way through every challenge all weekend and emerged victorious late Sunday afternoon with a fifth-game tiebreaker conclusion to a Men’s Open Doubles final (over recently-crowned Gold Racquets champs Shane Coleman and John White) that represented the cap-stone of a wildly successful milestone 50th edition of the William White Invitational, hosted as always at the cathedral of squash, the Merion Cricket Club, in suburban Philadelphia. Deservedly known as an annual “gathering of the clan,” with competitive draws for every possible squash constituency, the tournament this year seemed to out-do even itself, with a record turn-out of entries, teeming galleries and a weekend-long buzz that perhaps played a role in the amazing number of late-match rallies and down-to-the-wire fifth games that played out over the weekend-long squash “happening.”

   The riveting 12-15 15-13 15-10 11-15 18-16 marathon gave the McGuinness/Morris duo their fourth William White title in the past five years, their only (literal) misstep having occurred a year ago when, leading their final-round opponents Imran Khan and his brother Asad 15-6, 6-2, Morris sustained a severe grade-four right-calf tear while accelerating to the front wall, instantly terminating play and effectively sidelining him for the remainder of the 2010-11 season. Their record five-straight final-round appearances are all the more remarkable for the five completely different teams they have opposed at that stage – 2006 White Open champs Alan Grant and Bill Doyle in 2008; Eric Vlcek and Yvain Badan, who had won an ISDA Challenger tournament in Pittsburgh just three months earlier, in 2009; Tim Wyant and Pete Karlen in 2010; and, as noted, the Khan brothers in 2011 and the Philadelphia-based Aussie natives Coleman and White (who themselves were two-love down Friday night against Ed Chilton and Jack Wyant, before defeating Dylan Patterson/Addison West in the quarters and Gustav Detter/Morris Clothier, quarters winners over the defending-champion Khans, in the semis) this past weekend.

   McGuinness and Morris arm-fought their way through the fifth game of their Saturday-morning quarterfinal against 2011 U. S. National Doubles semifinalists (by beating Gary Waite and Morris Clothier last March in Chicago) Jacques Swanepoel and Dent Wilkens, with a tin-defying McGuinness reverse-corner providing the last salvo of that 15-12 tally. They then rallied from two-love down to overtake Wyant and Josh Schwartz, also 15-12 in the fifth, later in the day, this time with a shallow Morris forehand rail dying in front of Wyant at match-ball and seeming to exemplify how good McGuinness and Morris have become at complementing each other and divvying up the responsibility and the credits. Each seems to have a knack for picking the other up when necessary and they truly are a compelling example of a team that is visibly more than the sum of its formidable parts, to a degree that, as much as any more tangible quality, may have constituted the margin of their airtight trio of consecutive five-game victories on this occasion, especially in their eleventh-hour charge through the end-stages of that final-round fifth game, in which a McGuinness reverse-corner winner got them to match-ball and Morris countered a White double-boast with a deft backhand drop shot to the front-left to seal the outcome, a delicate final swing that markedly contrasted to the two hours’ worth of predominantly searing high pace that had preceded it.

   Nearly all of the doubles tournaments had at least one defining five-game match – Tom Harrity and Doug Lifford were down two games to one in the 40’s semifinal against Tournament Chairman Scott Brehman and Dominic Hughes before winning those last two games and following up with 3-1 final over 2001 U. S. National Doubles runners-up Dave Rosen and Eric Eiteljorg, overtime-in-the-fourth semis winners over Vlcek and Rick Wahlstedt. Geordie Lemmon (whose son, B. G., a high-school senior, partnered Xander Greer to the Under-25’s title) won the 50’s with Jamie Heldring in a 3-2 final vs. Ned Edwards and Rich Sheppard, with Heldring also taking the 55’s event with Peter Stokes at the final-round expense of Hobie Porter and Bill Strong.

   Kit Tatum, returning to the competitive arena after missing a year with a shoulder injury, and Jay Umans won the 60’s final in a fairly straightforward four games over 1973 Princeton captain Mark O’Brien and Bill Eyre, but the 65’s final would have gone to a fifth game had Len Bernheimer and Tom Poor been able to win the fourth-game best-of-nine tiebreaker, which instead went to Peter Hall and David Potter, five points to two. And in the Women’s Open tourney, Narelle Krizek, the reigning U. S. National Doubles champion with older sister Tarsh McElhinny, and former Merion pro Lee Belknap, had to rally from two games to love down in their semifinal with Amy Milanek and Dawn Gray in order to reach the final, where they fell in a close four (two overtimes) to defending champs Dana Betts and Emily Lungstrum, who are frequent semifinalists on the WDSA women’s pro doubles tour, and who in the semis of this event won, also in four, over Joyce Davenport and Suzie Pierrepont.

   The hardball singles tournaments were equally closely contested and filled with route-goers. In the Open flight, both 2000 and 2001 Open winner Rob Dinerman (who trailed John Ehlinger 2-1, 14-12) and Merion pro Mike Bull (who, like Dinerman, had to eke out a simultaneous-game-point fourth  game before eking out the fifth of his semifinal against Harrison Sebring) were right at the brink before both wound up being overwhelmed 3-0 by Sunny Hunt in the semifinal and final round respectively. In the 50’s final, Harrity, returning to tournament play just four months after undergoing right Achilles tendon surgery in September, dropped a first-game tiebreaker to Jeff Welsh and let multiple-match-points  (up 14-11) get away in the fourth before calling no-set and burying a forehand reverse-corner winner. In a terrific 60’s draw, top seed and reigning U. S. National 60’s champion Tefft Smith also saw a 14-11 lead, in his case in the fifth game, evaporate, courtesy his frequent late-rounds opponent Paul Chan, five-game semis winner over Henry Steinglass, who somehow conjured up a 6-1 match-ending run to 17-15 against his longtime nemesis Smith, whom Chan closed out with a perfect forehand straight-drop from up front on the final exchange. Ted Marmor and Charlie Baker took the 70’s and 80’s round-robin categories respectively, in each case in decisive fashion.

   There was considerable speculation preceding the Women’s Open softball final as to whether Pierrepont, a WISPA top-30 pro for several mid-2000’s years who had handily defeated Amanda Sobhy when the two had met 26 months earlier in the Weymuller qualifying, would be able to duplicate that result, and when instead the Harvard freshman (and 2009 World Junior champion) dominated their rematch, it graphically confirmed the massive and swift strides that the powerful southpaw (who also teamed with Natalie Grainger last winter to win the Turner Cup, a major WDSA event) has made during the interim. If she (along with Doubles Under-25’s winners Colleen Fehm and Chole Blacker) is the face of the future of American women’s squash, the familiar face of the recent past is Demer Holleran, winner of four of the previous 10 William White Women’s Open Doubles tournaments (in 2002, 2003 and 2005 with Jessica DiMauro and in 2008 with Margaret Rux) and holder of more than 30 U. S. Nationals at the Open level (hardball/softball singles, Women’s/Mixed doubles), who teamed with Jody Law to win the Women’s 40’s final over Maryann Crowe and Tracy Ball Greer.

   Sobhy was joined in the softball-flights winners circle by British star Daryl Selby, currently ranked No. 11 on the PSA pro singles tour, who won the Elite Eight pro draw with yet another five-game final, over Colombian torch-bearer and recent Pan American Games gold medalist Miguel Angel Rodriguez, and by Men’s Open winner Gary Power of Harvard, who won his final in straight games over Dani Greenberg of Penn. With the intercollegiate dual-meet schedule about to hit its most hectic stretch, several Ivy League coaches wisely entered a number of their varsity players into both the men’s and women’s Open flights as a way of readying them for the next seven weeks of constant college competition.

   As Brehman presided over the trophy presentations that immediately followed the thrilling Men’s Open Doubles final before an absolutely packed and appreciative gallery, he emphatically declared that the match just concluded had been the best he had ever witnessed in his 20-plus years of being associated with the White tournament. Few would dispute Brehman’s view on this matter, and almost everyone who was on hand at any point of the remarkable three-day squash extravaganza that had just ended would have agreed as well that, if any event 50 years along and its host club would legitimately have yet ANOTHER half-century of enthusiasm and excellence to look forward to, it would have to be the William White Invitational and the Merion Cricket Club.



Back To Main