The grand old thing is bigger than the Stanley Cup and older than any other squash trophy in existence. It has the thousands of names engraved on it, dates and scores and champagne stains. It is the symbol of squash excellence and of patriotism and no small rivalry between the two countries on either side of the forty-ninth parallel. It is the Lapham-Grant.
Actually it is two trophies. In 1922 Henry B. Lapham of Brookline, Mass., a member of the Boston Athletic Association, presented a massive chalice to be awarded to the winning country in a men’s squash singles competition between the United States and Canada. The first contest was played in Boston and the U.S. won, eleven matches to two—thus launching the oldest annual international squash match. Three times, in 1924, 1927 and 1959, England sent a squad to compete and once, in 1927, they even were victorious.
In 1945 Alastair Grant of Montreal donated a similar trophy for doubles competition and in 1953 the two events were combined into one gala weekend. It is played one year in the States, the next in Canada. The Lapham has been fought for eighty times (it ran during the Second World War, one of the few annual tournaments that did) and the score so far: U.S. forty-nine, Canada thirty and England one. For a while Canada struggled mightily. They didn’t win a Lapham until 1929 and didn’t win one in enemy territory until 1940 in Hartford.
The Grant has been a bit kinder to our friends in the great white north. It has been contested forty-nine times: Canada twenty-five, U.S. twenty-four. Although they didn’t win their first until 1953 and their first away in 1968 in Wilmington, Canada bravely gained ground in the 1970s and in 1982 got the overall lead for the first time.
The Lapham-Grant has been played in two dozen cities, everywhere from Indianapolis to San Francisco to Wilmington and Hamilton to London to Vancouver. The top city for Canada has been Toronto. It has been held there thirteen times (the most popular U.S. city: Rochester).
Strangely, though, none of those thirteen times has it been at one of the premier clubs in North America, the Toronto Cricket Skating & Curling Club. In February 2001 this fact was rectified and the 80th Lapham and 49th Grant were held there among sweeping brooms and triple salchows. Canada won the Lapham in runaway style, 13-2; the Grant, as usual, was tight, with Canada winning 9-6.
Both countries try to put together teams that are competitive but also balanced with sociable bon vivants and always heavily tilted towards amateur players. For years it was clear that if the very best of both countries competed, the U.S. would romp to victory; nowadays one would have to acknowledge that, looking at the PSA and ISDA rankings list, Canada would cakewalk. Since the singles was entirely softball, Canada did have a distinct advantage due to their much longer familiarity with the international game. A few matches were close. Both Kevin Jernigan and Jim Zug were squared at one-all before faltering and Peter Linder put up a gallant fight before going down in five. The two victories for the U.S. were Eben Hardie, outgoing-U.S.S.R.A. president and Jim Young.
One notable award given out each year is the Eric P. Finkelman Award “Presented annually to the one who dares to contribute more than the bare requirements at the Lapham-Grant weekend.” The award is named after a Vanderbilt law student who broke some bones in 1982 while mooning from a school bus. Usually the award is given for hijinks or outrageous behavior, but this year it was given to the U.S. captain, Mike McGorry who was bageled 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 in his match against Namsoo Oh (he served just twice in the entire match).
In the doubles it was much closer. Canada rushed to a quick 7-2 lead after the Saturday matches, but on Sunday, reminiscent of the U.S.’s Ryder Cup comeback, the Americans fought back and brought the score to 7-6. But the final two matches went to Canada 3-1 and they retained the mammoth trophies.
A new division was added this year: the Lawrence-Wilkins trophy, given in honor of Barney Lawrence of Kitchener, Ontario and Howard Wilkins of Wichita, by Edgar Bracht of Toronto . Lawrence is the famous raconteur who has played in fifty straight Lapham-Grants; Wilkins is the nonagenarian, Yale ’29, who still works every day and was last seen winning the U.S.85+ hardball nationals in 1996. The age requirement for this “legends” doubles trophy is over-seventy. Despite the efforts of Darwin Kingsley, former executive director of the U.S.S.R.A., who played in two of the three matches, Canada swept to victory 2-1.
By E. Stacey Miles