Profile Of Treddy Ketcham

by Rob Dinerman

December 23, 2001 - Probably no individual has established a more visible persona in the squash world during the past 50 years than William Tredwell Ketcham. Affectionately known as Treddy, he has been President of both the New York MSRA (1959-61) and the USSRA (1965-67), and has served as American captain in the annual U.S.-Canada Lapham-Grant competition and Tournament Chairman for more than 35 years(and counting) of the Gold Racquets Invitational, hosted every year in Cedarhurst, Long Island during the first weekend in December; and is the donor of honorary cups at virtually every competitive level.His ever-present and energetic involvement have combined with a gregarious hail-fellow-well-met personality to make him one of the most beloved figures in the sport and a welcome fixture at every significant event.

Born in New York City on August 2, 1919, Ketcham started playing squash at age 12 at the Rockaway Hunting Club (host site for the Gold Racquets) under the tutelage of two professionals, Leif Nordlie and later Johnny Smith, during his grade-school years at Lawrence Country Day School. He then followed his father and uncle to the Hill School in suburban Philadelphia, whose squash teams he played on, before attending Yale (also his dad's alma mater), where he rejoined two contemporaries from his Rockaway junior years, Worthy Adams and Ewing Philbin, as solid members of several Eli Intercollegiate Championship teams.

After volunteering for military service several months after his graduation in 1941, he then spent five years in the Marine Corps, a time Treddy recalls with great fondness and respect, and the distinction and devotion with which he served during World War II culminated in his receiving the revered Navy Cross for heroism at Iwo Jima in 1945.

After returning to the States, he completed the three-year program at Yale Law School and spent several years each first with the New York law firm of Davis Polk and then in France and London working for the government. This latter experience overseas landed him a prestigious post as Special Counsel of the IBM World Trade Americas Far East Corporation beginning in the mid-1950s (when he permanently returned to New York and began his squash career in earnest) and continuing until his retirement at age 65 in 1984.

Ketcham was both a proud product and staunch advocate of a period in squash's evolution when camaraderie was more important than competition, when the amateur ethic was truly an honored doctrine and when great fulfillment was derived from giving something back to the game that gave one so much pleasure. It was out of respect for that (sadly dated) credo that he would donate the President's Cup "to that person who has made a substantial contribution to the game of squash racquets" while USSRA President; establish the MSRA counterpart to that honor, the Board of Governors Award, during his MSRA Presidency; present the WPSA Man Of The Year Award to North American squash's foremost professional organization in 1971; bestow a Junior Award for improvement and sportsmanship several years later; and initiate the Ketcham Cup as a doubles-oriented companion-piece to the longstanding New York-Philadelphia-Boston Lockett Cup Tri-City competition.

This latter contribution points up his well-known interest in doubles, which he feels entails a degree of strategy and teamwork that made the game more appealing to him than singles. It is worth noting in this context that Ketcham, far from being merely a vocal proponent of doubles, was a highly proficient practitioner of this discipline as well; in fact, during the decade-long period from 1965-74, he won the USSRA Senior (50-and-over) Doubles Championship seven times with four different partners(both all-time records in this age group), and the Eddie Standing Trophy "for sportsmanship combined with a high level of play" which he received at the MSRA Annual Banquet at the conclusion of the 1961-62 season accurately reflects both his long-recognized good-hearted comportment and his sometimes overlooked racquet acumen.

Though now well into his ninth decade and just a few years removed from serious health problems that arose in late 1996 and plagued him for the first half of the following year, Ketcham remains extraordinarily active and engaged on a number of widely varied fronts; indeed, the interview I conducted with him late this fall had to be scheduled several weeks in advance to accommodate the brimming nature of the schedule he continues to maintain.

Since 1987 he has been President of his squash stomping ground at Rockaway, of whose annual invitational, as noted, he is still the Chairman; many of squash's most prominent players make their annual pilgrimage to Long Island as much for the opportunity to support their old friend and see him in his element as for the always-competitive tourney that awaits them.

Ketcham is currently the American representative for the Jesters, Chairman of The Friends of Yale Squash and a Trustee for the USSRA's highly successful Endowment Fund, in all of which capacities he has served for more than 25 years. He is also a Vice President of the International Lawn Tennis Club and a member of the Board of Governors for the Prentice Cup, a biannual tennis competition matching up six members from current Yale and Harvard squads (three from each school) against a similarly composed Cambridge-Oxford group, with each country alternating as host. The players are selected both for their ability and for their goodwill ambassador standing, and Ketcham, himself the fairest and most highly regarded of players during his own lengthy era, has an important role in determining the composition of the U.S. team.

Like a diligent farmer whose months of toil yield a full and plenteous harvest, Ketcham has in recent years been reaping the deserved rewards for all his years of friendship and enthusiasm. In 1998 the now-thriving NISRA Intercollegiate Doubles Championship, which he had practically singlehandedly revived a decade earlier after a lengthy hiatus, was named in his honor. And just this past year at the annual ceremony at Franklin D. Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate in upstate New York honoring FDR's famous Four Freedoms speech, in which each of the four major services are represented by one of its former heroes, Ketcham was chosen to carry the banner for the Marines Corps which he served with such distinction nearly six decades ago, and was given a medal in recognition of his valor.

Though forced for the last several years to walk with the aid of a cane, Ketcham's mind remains as nimble and sharp as ever, and the gentle quips, fond reminiscences and still-keen interest in the latest tournament result or squash development are the hallmarks of one whose spirit will be forever young. One of the few Honorary Life members of the USSRA, he was also inducted last year into the Squash Hall of Fame. His strongest squash memory, characteristically, is not of his titles or the many awards he has both given and received, but rather of what a wonderful time he had playing the game for so long (though it is not in his nature to be bitter, one of his few regrets is that he is no longer able to go back out onto the court and play some more) and of the multitudinous friendships and relationships throughout the country, and indeed the entire world, that he has formed during his 70 years of richly-diversified involvement in the game.

I left our interview with the strong conviction of how fitting it is that this immensely generous and benevolent man, who has himself been such a good friend to the game, has gained so many friendships from it, and continues to do so even at this ripe stage of his life; this fact, in addition to being completely poetically just, contains as well a valuable object lesson from which many in today's me-first squash generation can learn a great deal.

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