Masters Champions Crowned at Solihull Arden

The iconic British Open Squash Championships were instigated in 1930 and from 1965 started Masters (or age group events) adding five year groups until the current over 35 to over 80 events were established. This year the Masters events had Men’s Championships from 35 to 80 and Women’s events from 35 to 70.

Staged in conjunction with the Professional Squash Association Platinum event and with the support of Dunlop, the Masters were at Solihull Arden Squash Club and also West Warwickshire Sports Complex. It was a truly international event with nearly 300 players from 20 different countries. Five days of fantastic Squash culminating in The Finals, for the coveted British Open titles.

Women’s Over 70. Played in a round robin the top seed Pauline Douglas of Scotland was a class apart. A twice World Masters Champion and five time British Open winner she swept all before her. Catherine Woodhart came second.

Women’s Over 65. A group with two World Masters Champions and very competitive. Jill Campion of Wales plays a very measured game using height and length while Karen Hume is a powerful striker of the ball. They always have great battles and this was no different. The first two games went to Jill 13/11, 12/10. and then the third for her fifth Open.

Women’s Over 60. Another World Masters Champion showing her class in this group was Mandy Akin of Kent. Played in a pool of players Akin was unbeaten taking her tenth British Open. The runner up from Finland was Sari Niemisto who beat a field of Internationals.

Women’s Over 55. Wales No. 1 Helen Barnard was the player to beat and no one could. Multi-racket sport maestro Izzy Bramall recovering from injury could not stop the athletic Barnard in the final. 3/0 and another title to Wales. A first for Barnard.

Women’s Over 50. A strong group where the players have wins against each other. The stand out player is Rachel Calver and she took on National Champion Louisa Dalwood. A fantastic contest won in four by Calver but the middle two game went to 12/14. 19/17. and it was all close with great squash from both players. A second British Open for Calver.

Women’s Over 45. Top seed Catherine Ruffle was unbeaten last season and a ‘Player of the Year’. But she could not make headway again Joannah Yue-Hitch of Singapore who played a flawless game to nullify her opponent’s speed and retrieving. 3/0 and a first title to her.

Women’s O40. Selina Harper is already a British Open winner but her match with Natalie Hudson-Davenport was always going to be a close contest. And so it proved, with one player gaining the ascendancy then the other. It went to the fifth and it was Natalie that prevailed for the title.

Women’s Over 35. Leonie Holt the Warwickshire County Champion was top seed here and was unstoppable through the pool matches. Kirsty West nearly matched her but in the final match it was Holt who emerged the stronger on the day. A four game win and the title.

Men’s Over 80. Our game’s Elder Statesmen, the over 80s played in a round robin of four. Once again National Champion Anthony Clifford prevailed but was given a shock by Ken Reid of Scotland winning in five. Leo Kingston came second by virtue of his 3/2 win over Reid.

Men’s Over 75. National Champion Larry Grover had removed former Champion Barry Featherstone and may have felt confident, but defending Champion Ian Ross the Scotland No. 1 had other ideas and playing intelligent squash dominated the match. A third British Open for him.

Men’s Over 70. The England Squash Masters Chairman Stuart Hardy versus Veterans Club of GB Chairman Ian Graham, a former Open and National Champion. After a cagey first game, that went to Hardy, he powered through the next two to take the title – in his fifth British Open final.

Men’s Over 65. Allen Barwise is the National Champion and was clear favourite here having beaten Nick Gollaglee comfortably last season. But Gollaglee’s idiosyncratic lob and drop game was on song and with some incredible shots he came through 11/9 in the fifth for his first title.

Men’s Over 60. Darren Withey once again had removed eight time Champion Freddie Johnson of Sweden and must have felt this could be his year. Former Open Champion Eammon Price is always the most efficient of players having once again edged out the all action Alex Betts in five, was in no mood for compromise. His ball control was superb and he allowed Withey nothing. 3/0 to the Hertfordshire man.

Men’s Over 55. Some very tough matches all through this draw but the last two were England’s Gavin Roger-Lund who played a lot of his Squash in South Africa, and Wales No. 1 Steve Evans who had removed defending champion Stephen McLoughlin. The Englishman was in superb form in the final and took the title in straight games.

Men’s Over 50. It looked like any of the top eight could win this event. Five of them were Irish Internationals and two got through to the Final. Former National and Open Champion Nick Staunton is a superb player mixing up the game with clever angles and deception. Fitter than of late he nullified Dara O’Flynn’s powerful hitting and ran out a worthy winner.

Men’s Over 45. Two finalists here who have battled with each other numerous times. Top seed and Champion for the last two years Matt Holland met England Captain Mick Biggs. It is always a hard match but Holland has the edge. They shared the first two and Biggs went ahead in the third. But Holland found his range and sneaked it 15/13 before taking the fourth. A third British Open for the Colets player.

Men’s Over 40. The Wimbledon Club pro Phil Rushworth has been in three British Open finals and this year, as top seed he was not going to lose another one. Playing beautifully controlled squash he just had a bit too much for 2023 National Champion Tim Richards. Two hard games to the Surrey man and then the third for the win.

Men’s Over 35. Some absolutely superb squash in this group. The semi final between Chris Hall a many time Warwickshire Champion and Tim Vail was a classic. The sublimely skilful Vail took a brutal match in five. In the final Devon’s James Snell was the defending Champion was also ESM Player of the Year. He had a walkover in the semi as his opponent was injured. In the final as he was just too good and Snell took the match in straight games.

Thanks were made to the Professional Squash Association who had supported the event and sponsors Dunlop.

Also, thanks were made to Solihull Arden Squash Club and West Warwickshire Sports Complex, the England Squash Referees, the ESM Committee who ran the event and the incomparable Event Manager Brian Brock.

Stuart Hardy, Chairman