The 2017 UKAF Individual Squash Championships were hosted by the Army Squash Rackets Association, held at the Aldershot Garrison sports centre. Aldershot provided a great venue with 6 glass back courts, proving ideal for a busy few days of squash. The tournament ran smoothly with excellent organisation by Lt Cdr RN Robin Young and Wendy Pattison.
The men’s first round got off to a flying start with Capt Sam Miller playing against the up and coming Bdr James Burke. There were some high paced long rally’s and some lovely forehand nicks but Sam the more experienced played came out on top with a 3-0 win. The second game on court was the experienced assassin WO2 Lenny Westover and the newbie Trooper Paul Jones. Lenny got off to a slow start of which Paul took full advantage going 2-0 ahead, but Lenny was able to turn the game around and came back to win 3-2. Third on court was the Army’s Sgt Nick McGrath and Royal Navy’s LCpl Ryan McKechnie. A fast paced game with Nick chopping the ball and Ryan returning near on everything. Ryan just taking it in the end with a close 3-2 victory. The fourth game got off to a flying start with Royal Navy’s Sub Lieutenant Steve Warren playing the RAF’s Valleys boy Cpl Simon Williams. This was a good game to watch, Steve winning 3-0.
Next on was Nick and the Royal Navy’s big bearded Owen Goodridge. This was an awesome game to watch and the closest match yet going all the way to 5 sets but Owen just getting the better Of Nick taking the fifth 11-9. The final game in round two was Cpl Simon Williams (RAF) and Sub Lieutenant James Pyne Royal Navy. A close game and very similar style of play but Simon coming out on top with a hard earned 3-1 win. The third and final round then got underway as Sam Miller took on the RAF’s fist pumping Phil Rea. Sam tortured Phil pushing him to all four corners. A 3-0 victory to the Army. Next on Ryan McKechnie and Owen Goodridge both looking tired from previous games. Ryan, retrieving everything, proved too much for Goodridge taking a 3-0 win. The last game Simon Williams and James Pyne both looking like they had heavy legs with some long rally’s but the more experienced Simon clinching a 3-1 win.
The quarter finals then got underway with Sam Miller punishing his opponent, Simon Williams, with a 3-0 win. Next on was Lenny Westover and Owen Goodridge both hitting nicks and sending each other in opposite directions, Lenny proved the stronger player winning 3-0. Nick McGrath and Paul Jones were up next with both players extending the rally’s but Nick, just back from the Army’s San Francisco tour, was slightly too strong for Paul taking a 3-1 win. The final match of the quarter finals was James Burke and Steve Warren, both looking sharp in the warm up. Some nice tight squash but James proved to be more accurate and consistent winning 3-1.
The men’s final was an all Army affair with Lenny Westover taking on the reigning champion Sam Miller. The match drew a large crowd who were treated to some excellent squash. Lenny fought hard but was unable to match the skill of Miller, who took the win 3-0 retaining the trophy.
In the ladies competition Capt Rosie Hamilton kicked off the tournament with a comfortable 3-0 win against the RAF’s Flt Lt Annabel Bacon. The Army ladies continued to dominate across the board on day one with Capt Rosie Hamilton, Capt Michelle Higgins and Maj Elaine Radcliffe all coming out on top of their leagues, not dropping a game all day.
Day two of the competition kicked off with Elaine vs Rosie in an all army semi-final. Elaine, on top form, played some of her best squash but despite some very close games, couldn’t quite take a game from Rosie. Next on court the Army’s Michelle Higgins beat the RAF champion Flt Lt Claire Graham 3-0, to set up an all army final. LCpl Jennifer Spencer, the Army’s newest player, beat Lt Danielle Welch (Navy) to secure 5th place in her first tournament. Elaine continuing her top form beat Claire Graham 3-0 in the play off to finish in 3rdplace.
The ladies’ final is becoming a regular affair with Michelle Higgins taking on the reigning champion Rosie Hamilton yet again. With both ladies playing some excellent squash, the score line was tight throughout the match. However Rosie was able to step up her game when it counted denying her opponent a game. Rosie took the win 3-0 retaining her title.
Men’s Under 25
In the Men’s under 25 event the army fielded a team of five up and coming young players, including two players; LCpl Ollie Barker and LCpl Joe Nicholson, making their debuts at the tournament. Despite some of the higher seeded players not being available, the Army had strength in depth.
On day one the Army’s Cfn Adam Smart sailed through his matches, gaining the maximum amount of points and simultaneously giving away none. In the quarter finals Cfn Adam Smart took on the RAF’s SAC R Santamaria in a very entertaining match but it once again Cfn Smart had that extra gear to secure his place in the semi-finals. Ollie Barker, making his team debut, had a great day finishing second in his league, well deserved for his efforts. Despite his incredible performance in the group stages LCpl Ollie Barker couldn’t manage a win against SAC O Hill, placing him into the 5 – 8 play offs.
Lt Jono Griffiths had his work cut out from the start, drawing the RAF’s No.1 and Royal Navy’s No.2 players, he put up a heroic fight making them work for every point.
With the Army occupying 3 of 4 places in the 9 – 12 play-offs, we were in danger of taking the dreaded bottom seed. Lt J Griffiths vs LCpl J Bayliss, with Bayliss struggling to find form, it was clear to see where this match was heading, the first game however, was closer than expected with Bayliss coming close to winning, but it was Griffiths who kept a cool head and brushed his opponent aside. LCpl J Nicholson vs SAC(T) M Trokis, both opponents played a similar style of squash which made for an interesting game, the long rallies in the first game split the men from the boys with Joe clearly having the better set of lungs, in the end victory for the Army.
On day 2 Cfn Smart took on SAC O Hill in the first semi-final match. Still on his war path, Adam was quick to dispatch his opponent with great shots and drive to win. LCpl Barker ended up placing 7th, a great result for his first event. Lt Grifffiths and LCpl Nicholson had an amazing five set match but Griffiths came out on top, finishing 9th and Nicholson finishing 10th. LCpl Bayliss battled hard not to finish last and succeeded placing 11th.
In the final Cfn Smart was seemingly unstoppable, getting off to a strong start. However his opponent fought back and managed to turn the game around. Smart lost 3-1, taking the runner up spot, proving he is one to watch for the future of Army squash.
In the Masters competition all three services provided 4 seeds, albeit some absent regulars. The first round of matches saw the top seeds of each league win 3-0. The second round saw much closer games but generally the lower seed prevailing. On conclusion of the league stages all 4 Army seeds had made it through to the Quarter finals. Unfortunately the draw saw them play each other meaning only two would progress to the semi-finals. Maj Rich Green (1) beat Maj Russ Bothwick (4) 3:0, and in a much closer affair that brought day one to a close WO1 Nick Palmer (2) edged out Capt Mick Ford (4) 3:2.
On day 2 Maj Russ Bothwick had a walk over against Cdr Jeff Fillmore to move into the 5&6 seed play off. Capt Mick Ford beat Chf Tech Paul Pilkington 3:0 to ensure it was an all Army affair. On this occasion Maj Russ Bothwick took the spoils and the 5th spot. In the semi-finals Maj Rich Green progressed to the Masters final, cruising to a 3:0 win against WO Jim Dicks. WO1 Nick Palmer had yet another close 5 set match, after taking a 2:0 lead against the No:2 seed Chf Tech Bez Beresford, he narrowly lost the next 2 games. A hard fought 5 setter gave him 3 match ball opportunities which just wouldn’t fall his way and the game finished 16:14 to the No:2 seed.
The Masters final saw Maj Rich Green take on Chf Tech Bez Beresford. In a clinical display, not only happy with a win, Green was determined not to give up a single point. Long rallies, tight shots and a few displays of acrobatics thrown in, Green was determined to give a master class. The 3-0 result seemingly inevitable.
In another Army victory, Mick Ford miraculously managed to get through the tournament injury free!
At the prize-giving ceremony Major General Tryone Urch CBE very kindly presented the trophies. He thanked the BFBS for their support as the UKAF squash sponsor.
Champion - Captain Sam Miller (Army)
Runner Up - WO2 Lenny Westover (Army)
Captain Rosie Hamilton (Army)
Runner Up - Michelle Higgins (Army)
Men’s Under 25
Champion - SAC Stephens (RAF)
Runner Up - Cfn Adam Smart (Army)
Champion - Maj Rich Green (Army)
Runner Up - Chf Tech Bez Beresford (RAF)