After a 67-year hiatus, the Lapham-Grant Matches returned to Philadelphia and The Merion Cricket Club the weekend of April 10th – 13th. The Lapham Trophy was last hosted by Merion in 1947 and the local squash community was eager to see the return of this prestigious international competition.
And it was a triumphant weekend for Team U.S.A., which won three of the four trophies – an especially sweet outcome, having been swept by Canada in Vancouver, BC last year.
The Lapham Cup matches for men’s squash singles between the United States and Canada are believed to be one of the oldest amateur sporting events between two countries, having been played every year since 1922. In 1945 the Grant Trophy matches for men’s doubles was inaugurated, followed by the Crawford Cup matches in 1999 and the Lawrence-Wilkins Trophy matches in 2001. These four events, now held at the same time and venue each year, are hosted in alternate years by the United States and Canada.
The Lapham Cup was the one trophy won by Canada, with a score of 13-10. However, the U.S. men redeemed themselves with a resounding win for Grant Trophy with a score of 24-13. The U.S. women dominated in the Crawford Cup competition for singles and doubles, winning 27-6 overall, sweeping the doubles 18-0. In the Lawrence-Wilkins legends doubles, the U.S. won in a close 11-8.
“Philadelphia is a squash town and it was great to have so many fellow players travel across the continent to participate in this year’s competition,” said Tracy Greer, Event Chair. “The captains succeeded in building teams with representation from across Canada and the United States, and the depth of talented players in Philadelphia helped the U.S. field a strong team.”
“The matches were competitive and brought a lot of old friends together,” said Molly Pierce, co-captain of the U.S. Crawford team. “In squash, as an adult, you rarely get the opportunity to play on a team, rooting for your teammates and sharing their successes.”
The weekend was packed with squash. Radhika Cobb, co-captain of the U.S. Crawford team called it, “the perfect combination of intensity and fun.” The captains from both sides of the border worked hard to provide all players with several matches. Although the schedule was a challenge, the number and quality of the matches made for an exciting weekend.
Guts and glory filled the weekend as members from both teams played with passion and sportsmanship in hopes of bringing the trophies back to their respective countries. “While the age range varied, the enthusiasm in all the matches was that of a junior squash tournament,” said Gilly Lane, co-captain of the Lapham and Grant teams. Fellow captain, Mark Pagon said, “Although the final match score in the Grant was decidedly in favor of the U.S., a slew of matches went 3-2 and the competition was closer than it seems. In the Lapham division, Canada proved that singles has not died for players after college and they showed us by winning the trophy.”
The Lawrence-Wilkins teams, affectionately dubbed the Bengay Brigade, arrived with some creaky joints and a medley of chronic injuries. In spite of these impediments, they played spirited matches with ample evidence of skill and chicanery. “These wily veterans know the use of a senior let and many of the games went down to the wire,” Peter Day, co-captain of the U.S. Lawrence Wilkins team said. When the dust cleared, the U.S. team had scored an underwhelming victory to capture the coveted Inuit-inspired trophy.
With the bulk of the play completed Saturday, players could address the Saturday night dinner-dance with characteristic zest. No strangers to a party, this group lubricated their extremities with libations and cut a mean rug on the dance floor. After two packed days of matches, both teams focused their energy on the dance floor late into the night, making the Sunday morning matches arrive early. The lively social gatherings throughout the weekend provided ample fodder for selecting the recipient of the Eric R. Finkelman Award for Questionable Behavior.
The traditions that make this event unique were on display during the closing ceremony and awards ceremony Sunday. The victorious teams drank champagne from the Big Cup and first-time participants received the customary Lapham-Grant ties and scarves, and the Finkelman Award was announced. By unanimous consensus, Jay Umans was selected as this year’s distinguished award winner. Jay, we won’t reveal your credentials here, but you know why…
“The venue couldn’t have been nicer. The Merion Cricket Club in early April is lovely and something that all players were lucky to experience. The warm temperatures, greening great lawn, spring bulbs and flowering trees capped off a great event.” Radhika Cobb said. The Organizing Committee was especially grateful to the members and staff of The Merion Cricket Club who provided an exceptional facility for this great event, packed with great competition, sportsmanship, and comraderie.