Welsh Master Open 2017
Over the weekend of 8th-10th December 2017 the 2nd Wales European Squash Masters Open took place in the Welsh Capital, Cardiff.
The tournament was hosted jointly at the Sport Wales National Centre and the nearby Cardiff Squash Rackets Club. Another strong entry of 120 of Europe’s best squash players over the age of 35 congregated for the Wales leg of the 2017 European Squash Federation’s (ESF), European Masters Circuit. The festive atmosphere in the Capital, combined with the tournament hotel again being the City Centre Angel Hotel, seemed to be a big attraction with the entrants, many of whom played in the inaugural Wales Open a year earlier.
The tournament this year got off to a difficult start when organisers were alerted that a number of players travelling from the Czech Republic had missed a flight connection in Amsterdam on Thursday evening and would not arrive until later Friday after their first matches had been scheduled. Urgent rescheduling of matches and airport transfers went on late into Thursday night and thanks go to those who didn’t go to bed until solutions were found. Thanks also go to those opponents who were affected by schedule changes for their understanding and flexibility.
Following a hard day’s squash with some fiercely contested matches, many players gathered at Cardiff Squash Club for an evening buffet and some musical entertainment provided by the multi-talented squash player, Shaun O’Donahue, who is clearly just as useful with a microphone in hand as he is with a racket. A super end to the Friday evening although as our ‘organised’ singer began to clear away the sound equipment, his microphone was commandeered by the Wales 60+ captain Alan James, who’s clearly a frustrated public performer at heart. He clearly felt he couldn’t miss an opportunity to give the late-night crowd a rendition of Calon Lan, a well known Welsh rugby hymn followed by his extremely clever ‘squash’ version of Yesterday. The crowd were in hysterics and a standing ovation followed for both performers, much to the relief of the organisers!
Saturday matches began early, providing a challenge for some in just shaking off their prior night excess and getting to the venue on time, let alone trying to chase a very small black ball around! In reality though, some fantastic matches ensued during the day, closely followed by an extremely entertaining evening at the Castle Bar, a traditional Welsh pub beneath the Angel Hotel. This year, for those who wanted to participate, there was a festive fancy dress competition. Surprisingly, there were numerous entrants and the competition soon became a two-horse race with Nick Guard, the Masters Committee Chairman being asked to decide a winner between an amazing inflatable Santa outfit worn by Sue Smith and an equally amazing outfit worn by Alison Goy. The Masters Chairman thinking Alison was wearing a chicken costume declared Sue Smith’s Santa outfit the winner for being more festive. A turkey-gate inquiry followed, after the crowd felt that Alison’s ‘TURKEY’ costume should have been the winner. Nick has now been educated in the differences between chickens and turkeys, but the winner remains Santa! The fancy dress competition together with dancing long into the night, Magic Jeff with his amazing card tricks, a raffle, a multi lingual welcome from Simon Bourge, the main tournament sponsor and a highly polished MC performance from Mike Workman and more Welsh singing from Alan James and Ceredig Emanuel, made it a very memorable evening for the many who attended. It is also rumoured that in the early hours when most were heading for their rooms, some players sneaked out of the hotel and continued their enjoyment in the conveniently located bars and night clubs a few metres away. They shall remain nameless, but needless to say none of them featured in the prize giving ceremony the following day...no surprise there!
Again, an early start for some on Sunday morning saw some players regretting their antics the night before, but also saw a number of locally based players fail to arrive following severe weather overnight, with snow and flooding causing chaotic transport disruption to the main routes into the Capital.
None the less all of the significant players were present and began battling out the final stages of the tournament, right up to the early afternoon finals which provided the spectators with some fabulous matches. In particular, the men’s 40+ final between Paul Johnson and Jon Gallagher must be mentioned for the sheer quality and effort shown from both players. Unfortunately for Paul he suffered a shoe malfunction at a critical point in the match and coming off court to beg for a correct size replacement shoe, could only acquire an extremely pretty pink ladies shoe to complete the match. Jon eventually came through to win a fantastic final 3-2 but the sight of Paul with his one pink shoe will not be forgotten for some time!
Following the final matches, presentations to the winners, runners-up and third place players in each category were made, followed by the traditional speeches from the 35+ men’s and women’s winners, who both thanked Mike, Lynne and their team of organisers and volunteers, Masters committee members, all tournament sponsors, referees and venues for contributing to another successful Wales Masters Open. Before heading home, there was one final twist to come when the crowd demanded Alan James sing his squash version of Yesterday one more time. Another standing ovation followed and finally everyone headed home very carefully through the inclement weather surrounding Cardiff.
We look forward to welcoming the European Squash Masters family back to Wales in December 2018 for some more exciting squash and Christmas festivities.