Final Match Recap
By Tim Prigo
Kane Waselenchuk def. Rocky Carson 11-8, 11-4, 11-3
Game one- Carson appeared strong at the beginning of game one. Not only did he score the first two points but he prevented Waselenchuk from scoring when he was in the box. Waselenchuk started by lobbing to Carson’s forehand where, in part due to Carson’s outdoor expertise, hit strong offensive overheads. Waselenchuk only started to score points when he switched to a drive serve targeting Carson’s backhand. Both players were serving well, but it was Carson who had the aces, and took the lead at 5-2. Carson worked hard to score every point while Waselenchuk was able to tie the game at 6-6 in the blink of an eye. Shorter rallies favored Waselenchuk while longer ones favored Waselenchuk. At 7-7, Waselenchuk hit a serve with such velocity that it shot off the backwall so far that Carson was unable to get a racquet on it. Carson then got in the box and hit an ace of his own, a crack on the left-hand side. Waselenchuk back in the box, scored two quick serve-return-kill rallies for his first game point. Carson timeout. Waselenchuk nailed a splat kill for the win. 11-8, game one.
Game two- Carson hit an excellent 38-foot-shoulder-high shot that would have sided Waselenchuk out if it were not called a skip. Carson was quickly able to get back in the box and score a point by putting down a setup earned from a weak return of serve. Waselenchuk had not gone on a scoring binge thus far in the match, much to Carson’s credit. But when Waselenchuk hit two ace serves followed by a serve-return-kill rally Carson looked rattled and skipped the next shot into the server’s box. Waselenchuk, now up 6-1, began the chords of his familiar song. Carson called a timeout to try and stop the hemorrhaging. No such turn of fate was to be had as Waselenchuk pinched, aced, and passed his way to game point. Waselenchuk turned lax momentarily, and allowed Carson to score 3 points before re-focusing to find an out-of-position Carson that he exploited for a down-the-line pass. Game two, 11-4 Waselenchuk.
Game three- The game began with a Waselenchuk ace to Carson’s backhand. Waselenchuk looked as if he might continue the domination into game three, but Waselenchuk started to miss shots, if only ever so slightly, skipping Carson to a 3-1 lead. With an opportunity to capitalize, Carson faltered. He had many chances to extend the lead and turn the momentum of the match as it was only a matter of time before Waselenchuk would start reconnecting. Waselenchuk did eventually find his groove and began putting everything away in dominant fashion. Feeling the vibe, Waselenchuk treated the fans to multiple behind the back jumping shots that extended rallies unnecessarily. It was as if Waselenchuk knew he had the match in hand and wanted to do a victory lap and say thank you to the crowd. Waselenchuk, fully revved, shot lights-out and captured the tournament title as well as the world #1 ranking. 11-3, Waselenchuk.
Semifinal Match Recaps
Kane Waselenchuk def. Alvaro Beltran 11-1, 12-10, 11-2
Game one- Waselenchuk won the first rally of the match before being sided-out and giving up a point to Beltran. Waselenchuk was not long for the box however, and he began his usual offensive lead by his blistering drive serves. Down 1-6, Beltran was having trouble returning the serve, as he was either getting aced or leaving himself out of position and vulnerable to Waselenchuk’s angles. Beltran called a time-out at 1-9. Waselenchuk hit an ace when time resumed. This was followed by a missed Beltran boast that skipped well before the front wall to give Waselenchuk the first game, 11-1.
Game two- Beltran started hot, and got out in front with a 2-0 lead, employing his body to block out Waselenchuk expertly on many passes. Beltran was not only putting his set-ups away, but he was reading and anticipating Waselenchuk’s pinches very well. Down 0-5, Waselenchuk made his move. Four straight points from four high lob serves. Waselenchuk, known for his drive serves, displayed his full repertoire, hitting nick lobs perfectly. With the score-line tied at 6-6, side-outs were traded back and forth. Beltran took the edge with well-placed shots along the side-wall glass that appeared to give Waselenchuk trouble as he put two into the ground. At 9-7 Beltran took a time-out even though he was serving and scoring points. When time resumed Beltran scored another point to bring him to his first game point. Beltran, with the high lob to the Waselenchuk forehand was sided-out by an over-head kill. Waselenchuk got back in the box and scored four straight points to tie and then take the lead at 11-10. Serving for the match, Waselenchuk resorted back to his battle-proven drive serve to capture the game, which looked to be Beltran’s from the onset. 12-10 Waselenchuk.
Game three- Waselenchuk got out early to a 3-0 lead, and Beltran looked worse for wear. He was having trouble setting his feet properly and skipping his offensive attempts deep in the court. Beltran, who had looked so competitive in game two, was now appearing dejected and at one point let out a primal roar in frustration. Waselenchuk was hitting his serves well and not making mistakes on his set-ups. This combination of Beltran skipping and Waselenchuk keeping focus lead to a 7-2 score. Beltran took a time-out, but this was only to delay the inevitable as Waselenchuk continued to roll when time resumed. At 10-2, Waselenchuk put the match to the books with a down the line winner that Beltran unsuccessfully dived for. 11-2, Waselenchuk.
Rocky Carson def. Jose Rojas 11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 11-0
Game one- Carson began the first semifinal with an ace serve to the Rojas backhand. Carson came out the aggressor, shooting more balls and finding his forehand early. Down quickly, at 0-4, Rojas called a timeout. Carson continued to play offensively and hit for bottom board before Rojas did. Carson also had a good first-serve percentage. Leading at 9-0, Carson was in full command of the game, controlling center court on almost every rally. Rojas finally got a point from a crisp down the-line-pass that he muscled from out of position. Rojas seemed to be out of position for much of the early going but once he found his first point he began to play more offensively minded. Shooting before Carson, Rojas went on a 5-point run that resulted in a Carson timeout. The stop in the action did not help Carson however, as Rojas continued his march forward with two more points. Carson hit a demonstrative backhand for a sideout. At 9-7 Carson was able to survive the late game onslaught and score the next two for the game-one win. Both players made very few unforced errors, as the game saw tides shifts only when kill shots or winning offensive passes were executed. 11-9 Carson.
Game two- Both players traded blows, not allowing any runs. Hesitancy and long rallies characterized the beginning of game two, both players hit more defensive shots than previous with Rojas keeping the slight edge. At 6-4, Rojas hit a lob to the forehand that Carson lost in the glass and skipped at the service box. The momentum of the game changed when Carson began to skip the ball. Not only was he missing out on point opportunities, but he was freely giving Rojas points. Rojas tripped over Carson’s feet in an attempt to retrieve a pass that looked to be un-gettable. This sent him crashing into the sidewall where he stayed for several seconds, much to the alarm of the crowd. A timeout was called and Rojas had some time to regain his composure. Carson was able to capitalize on a slightly hobbled Rojas when time resumed. At, 7-10, it looked like Carson may come back and steal the game, but luckily for Rojas, Carson skipped two crucial shots to hand Rojas the game. 11-7, Rojas.
Game three- Rojas appeared unaffected from his game-two spill, but it was Carson who broke out on a scoring tear. Carson hit two aces and and two off of the backwall kills. Down early 0-4, Rojas took a timeout. Rojas was not able to immediately turn the momentum of the game but did stall Carson from continuing his run. As the game hit a gridlock, Rojas slowly crept back into the game and tied it at 4-4. Carson appeared fearful of losing traction to Rojas and hit more defensive shots than not as a result. Rojas seized the moments and hit kills from deep in the court. The only offensive element in Carson’s game at this point was his serve that sporadically dropped in for aces. Rojas continued to take advantage of the loose ceiling ball shots and garnered game point at 10-9. He double-faulted and then skipped the next rally to allow Carson to tie it up at 10’s. Rojas’s mental lapse at game point proved to be fatal as an emboldened Carson easily won the next two rally’s to steal game three, 12-10.
Game four- Rojas appeared deflated and put 3 of his first 4 setups into the ground. Rojas sensed that his slump may be costing him the match, and called a timeout. At 5-0, the timeout served Carson more than Rojas as he began to score at an even faster rate. Down now 0-7, Rojas was hardly able to get into the server’s box, much less stay in it. Carson was not necessarily going for many rally ending shots, but rather his opponent was putting everything into the ground. At 10-0, Rojas put the final shot of the match into the ground, a shot that symbolized the entirety of the fourth game. Carson with the perfect game, 11-0.
Quarterfinal Match Recaps
by Tim Prigo
Alvaro Beltran def. Jansen Allen 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 11-3
Game one- Beltran and Allen came out exchanging points in the fashion of non-nonchalant kill shots. Both players have a certain ease and smoothness about their styles of play that made for an interesting match-up. Allen got out to the first lead of the match by way of forehand kills and passes, 5-2. Allen and Beltran both began with the half bent drive serve. Allen was able to take a 7-4 in a very slow moving game. Beltran moved to his signature high lob that earned him multiple weak returns that he was able to put away, usually in the corners. With the score tied at 7-7, Allen took a time-out. The time-out proved fruitful for Allen as he regained the serve and with drive z serves scores three consecutive points. At 10-7, Beltran was called for an avoidable hinder that gave Allen the match, 11-7.
Game two- Beltran got out to an early 3-1 lead by ending rallies from cross court passes that did not come off the back-wall. It looked as if the momentum was now on Beltran’s side but Allen answered back with passes of his own. Beltran hit too many balls to Allen’s lethal forehand which allowed the Texan to creep back into the game and eventually take the lead at 5-3. Beltran looked more lethargic than normal, skipping many unpressed shots. Beltran took a time-out. The pause in the action worked to Beltran’s advantage as he finally aligned with his usual melodic consistency. Beltran scored 5 straight points to take the lead, 8-6. The second game, was very tight, side-outs were traded back and forth. After Allen took a time-out, he was able to score two straight, one from a flagrant Beltran skip in the front court. The two inched closer to 11, and remained gridlocked at 9-9. Beltran got 10 by a beautiful down the line kill from 38-feet. Beltran won the game via a skip from an Allen shot from his knees.
Game three- Allen hit a 3 wall boast for the first point of the game. Next, he rolled a knee high shot into the right hand corner to double his score. Beltran got into the server’s box and began having success with hard drives to Allen’s backhand. Beltran scored two points from this targeting. Allen kept the pressure on however, and gained the serve and two more points. Allen had shot particularly well all match and Beltran had missed many of the shots that fans were accustomed to him putting away. At 3-8 Beltran was still struggling to find his footing. Beltran prodded with all types of serves in order to find some point makers and eventually settled into the backhand straight in drive. Allen, finally is able to make the push to 10 with soft touches that put Beltran out of position. Allen hits a hard drive to the forehand and garners a weak set-up which he puts down, only to see Beltran fly across the court to get a racquet on. Allen, with Beltran on the floor, saw the light at the end of the game and hits and cuts off an overhead, allowing as little time as possible for Beltran to get up and regain composure. Allen takes the game, 11-5.
Game four- Beltran served first but continued to struggle in finding the front wall. Allen, alternatively, continued his stellar shooting and found two straight points. This was a true clash of similar styles and thus far, Allen had proved the stronger of the two, completely dominating the beginning of the fourth game. At 1-3, Beltran found his forehand that eluded him for most of the match. He began to connect and went on a seven point run. At 3-8, Allen took a time-out. Allen came back into the court and put on the pressure, attacking offensively at every turn. In the blink of an eye, Allen had put on a scoring exhibition, hitting his forehand for winners everywhere on the court. When Allen hit 6, Beltran took a timeout. Beltran came back in and skipped the next shot. He earned the service back the next rally off a diving kill. Beltran, at 9-7, earned another point from a deep court Allen skip. Beltran is able to run the game out and get to 5th game. 11-9, Beltran.
Game five- If Beltran had struggled to find his footing and his swing for most of the match, consistency finally came in the tie-breaker. The Mexican champion scored 4 unanswered points with velvety smooth forehand kills. His serves also began to drop in and he scored his first ace of the match. Allen needed to make a run, and at 2-5, the match was in danger of getting away from him. Beltran contnued to impose his will and run the score to 8-3. Allen battled valiantly, but this game, being his 10th of the day, one had to wonder if fatigue, both physical and mental was a factor. Beltran, the veteran, proved to be the finisher as he put ball after ball away. Allen looked deflated. At 10-3, Beltran ended the match on a forehand kill. 11-3, Beltran.
Rocky Carson def. Ben Croft 12-10, 11-3, 3-11, 11-8
Game one- Croft began the first game on the offensive, sending Carson scuttling from glass wall to glass wall for difficult lunging gets. Croft jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, drive serving the Carson forehand. The two, as expected, began to enter into long exchanges that saw both players diving as well as utilizing many defensive shots. At 4-2 Croft touched a shot with the flick of his wrist in the front court for a winner that set Carson’s feet in cement. Carson stayed in the game by periodically interjecting points. Croft though, was the one with the offensive gumption as he scored points in bunches. At 3-8 Carson took a time-out. The pause did not help Carson, as he came back and skipped Croft to 9. Carson, in a mark of good sportsmanship, reversed a call that went in his favor to bring Croft to 10. Carson battled back three points and did not let Croft run out the game with momentum intact. At 6-10, Carson put Croft in the danger zone of losing the first game with an ace serve. Croft hit a clean down-the-line backhand pass to earn him a spot in the server’s box for his 4th game point attempt. Croft timeout called. A long rally ensued, Croft had many looks to put the ball and game away but skipped a setup. Croft earned another sideout and continued to struggle as he lost the serve again. Croft skipped another point followed by a Carson crack ace serve. Carson, served a hard drive to the backhand, at 9-10 that Croft was unable to get a racquet on. Tie game, 10-10. Carson continued his offensive march with a cross court pass, 11-10 Carson. Croft caught the sidewall on the next rally and got back into the box but quickly lost the serve as he was not able to get to an off speed pinch. Carson scored the next point with another crosscourt pass that saw Croft, unsuccessfully, dive towards the back wall for. Carson scored 9 unanswered points to take the game, 12-10.
Game two- Carson carried over the momentum from his fierce late game one run by scoring four controlled points. Carson had, up to this point, scored 13 unanswered points. Carson used his body to block off Croft from setting his feet in the front court and sent missiles down the lines. Croft was finally able to break his cold streak with an ace followed by a touch kill down-the-line. Carson stayed in command however, and at 8-2 scored two consecutive points to bring him to 10. Croft looked for any opportunity to gain some control or momentum of the game by intentionally bumping into Carson and making the play more physical. Croft was able to extend the game by minutes and score a point before eventually succumbing to the tide of a flowing Carson. 11-3.
Game three- Croft struck first, 1-0. Carson had put so much pressure on Croft throughout the match that Croft was enticed to hit high risk rollouts. This resulted in skips but also in an offensive display that Croft had not displayed since early in game one. The score reflected Croft’s shots now as opposed to Carson’s. At 4-2 Croft, Croft had hit 4 kills and 2 skips. Croft was making progress as he worked himself back into the match mentally. At 7-2,Croft hit an under-hand backhand in the air for a soft pinch roll-out to give him 8. Croft, with new found confidence, hit winner after winner from the back court to bring him to game point. Clearly feeling his rhythm, Croft hoped over a Carson pinch to hit the ball behind him and between his legs for a game winner that was more statement than necessity. 11-3, Croft.
Game four- Carson lost the ball in the sidewall glass for the first point of the game. Croft carried his confidence into the third game and got out to an early 2-0 lead, swinging with composed purpose. Carson responded with three excellent drive-z serves that kept Croft off-balance, and in one instance, necessitated a dive to get his racquet on the ball. Carson reclaimed the lead at 4-2. Croft got back in the box and began to run around his backhand, and for good reason, as he rolled three straight forehands from the left side of the court. The duo traded points in small runs, neither gaining a large advantage in the score-line. Carson, trailing by one, got a point from a questionable ace serve that appeared to be short. 6-6. Croft ace, 7-6. Side-out. Croft skip, 7-7. Sideout. Croft down-the-line winner, 8-7. Croft was either making it or breaking it late in game three and Carson was counter punching. Croft had difficulty with the wrap around serve and skipped two straight. Croft lost the next point due to the ball hitting his shorts. He lost the match the next rally as he had to pop up a well hit Carson serve that was put away for the match. 11-8, Carson.
Kane Waselenchuk def. Marco Rojas 11-2, 11-2, 11-4.
Game one- Waselenchuk controlled the first game from the onset. His laser beam drive serves kept Rojas hitting from behind his leading leg. Rojas was visibly having trouble adjusting to the velocity of the ball. Waselenchuk peppered both corners of the back-court for many aces and near aces that set him up for methodical re-kills. Rojas had some well positioned passes and offensive pinches but every point, two in all, seemed monumental. Waselenchuk on the other hand burned through the score card. It was also of note that Waselenchuk did not skip a single shot the entire game. 11-2, Waselenchuk.
Game two- Rojas was able to begin the game with an ace drive serve to Waselenchuk’s backhand and then earned another point via an uncommon ceiling ball skip. It looked like Rojas might gain some momentum in this game and take an early sizable lead. Waselenchuk however, was able to get in the box and hit two ace serves followed by a bottom board serve-return-kill. Rojas didn’t score another point. Much like game one, Waselenchuk controlled the game from his serve. His drive serves were delivered with great force, deception, and from ankle height. At 8-2, Waselenchuk dominated the front court and Rojas struggled to catch up with both the serve and the in-rally shots from, largely, the Waselenchuk backhand. Waselenchuk ran out this game quickly and Rojas did not see the server’s box until game three. 11-2, Waselenchuk.
Game three- Waselenchuk skipped the ball in the first rally and then left the right ally open for Rojas to execute a well placed down-the-line for point two. Waselenchuk skipped another off of a drive-serve to his backhand to bring Rojas to a 3-0 lead. When Waselenchuk sided out Rojas in the next exchange, the onslaught began once more. Ace, serve-return-kill, ace. As in the two games previous, Waselenchuk’s serve set him up for kill-shot after kill-shot. Rojas did not make many errors in the technical sense, only that he did not go for as many offensive shots as necessary to put a player like Waselenchuk on the ropes. Rojas jumped out to early leads in all three games but these early game points only acted as coal to help fuel the ‘Kane-Train’ that by mid-game was running at full steam. 11-4, match.
Jose Rojas def. Daniel De La Rosa 11-3, 11-8, 11-7
Round of 16
Rocky Carson def. Andres Ramirez 11-0, 11-1, 11-9
Ben Croft def. Charlie Pratt 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4
Jose Rojas def Tim Landeryou 11-1, 12-10, 11-1
Daniel De La Rosa def. Coby Iwassa 6-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-6, 11-1
Alvaro Beltran def. Alejandro Herrera 11-5, 11-3, 11-7
Jansen Allen def. Danny Lavely 1-11, 3-11, 11-1, 11-2, 11-6
Marco Rojas def Robert Collins 11-8, 11-7, 11-6
Kane Waselenchuk def. Filipe Camacho 11-1, 11-7, 11-1
IRT Pros Return to Chicagoland: 30th Annual Shamrock Shootout, Ben Croft Homecoming
Ben Croft, the “bad boy” of racquetball who is currently ranked fifth on the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) understands the importance of keeping an even emotional keel as he prepares for the stretch run of the 2014-2015 IRT season. But the player known around racquetball circles as the “human crash test dummy” for his willingness to sacrifice his body diving to retrieve opponents’ shots, readily admits it will be difficult to contain himself when he returns to the Chicago area for the 30th Annual Shamrock Shootout March 12-15 at the Glass Court Swim and Fitness Club in Lombard, IL.
“It will be awesome. I am beyond excited, and almost can’t put into words how pumped up I am to come home and play in front of family and home town fans,” said Croft, who grew up in Lake Bluff and played many tournaments at the venerable Glass Court Swim and Fitness Club.
The club has been in business since the late 1970s and is considered the “Grand Palace” of racquetball in the Chicago metropolitan area. It was one of the first in the Chicago area to include a glass-walled stadium court. The spectator friendly court is the club’s signature feature and provides fans with unparalleled viewing of racquetball and handball matches. The iconic club has hosted more than 100 tournaments — local and regional amateur events as well as professional events — over the last 35 years, according to Dan Jaskier, president of the club.
Jaskier said he got the idea to elevate the Shamrock Shootout – a top amateur draw since 1986 – to a Tier 1 event a few months ago. “Chicago deserves an IRT pro stop, and we were able to generate the sponsorships needed to make this a Tier 1 event,” Jaskier said. “Glass is really the only club around that can host a tournament of this magnitude, with our eight championship courts including the signature glass court.”
The most recent professional tour event at the club was about five years ago when the women’s pros visited, although “old timers” like Kerry Spix recalls the days in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the men’s pro tour – including the likes of Marty Hogan Dave Peck, Davey Bledsoe and Mike Yellen competed. “We’ve seen so many great players, both professional and amateurs here over the years. Some clubs have fallen by the wayside, over the last decade or two, but Glass has maintained its reputation as the focal point for racquetball here in Chicago,” said Spix, a club member and regular tournament player.
Among those Chicago area players who have competed regularly at Glass Court Club tournaments are former touring pros Jack Newman, Tim Sweeney, Cheryl Gudinas, Krystal Ackerman (Csuk), Sean Moskwa and Croft. “I have so many fond memories of the Glass Court Club, going back to my teens,” said Croft. “It is a club where, when you first walk in the front door, the courts just dominate. It is a family health and fitness club with all the amenities, including two swimming pools, a track, fitness classes, and cardio and weight training, but at its core it remains a true old-school racquetball facility.”
It is fitting that the newest IRT Tier 1 event is located in the Chicago area, and is set for the 8-court Glass Court Club, many racquetball observers say. “Chicago is one of the best racquetball environments in the country,” said Jason Mannino, IRT president. “It is significant that the IRT pro tour returns to Chicago after a 6-year hiatus because the Chicago area and the state of Illinois has such a strong and rich racquetball history. We hope this can become an annual event, and perhaps even become a Grand Slam event on the IRT tour.”
The last IRT Tier 1 event in Chicago took place in May, 2009 at Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. Kane Waselenchuk won that event. The top IRT professionals, including 9-time world champion Waselenchuk, are expected to travel to the Windy City for the late season event.
Waselenchuk has missed a few tournaments this year due to injury and was ranked second behind Rocky Carson III going into the 2015 Florida IRT ProAm, and likely regained his top rank after defeating #1 Rocky Carson in the finals. Either way, Waselenchuk is considered the odds-on favorite to win this event, but the tournament could be a pivotal battle in the ever-important overall point standings for other players in the top 10. “There are only a few more Tier 1 events left on the schedule after the Shamrock, so this could be a key tournament when it comes to the IRT point standings,” Croft said.
As of February 20th, Rocky Carson III, Waselenchuk and Alvaro Beltran seemed to have a stranglehold on the top three slots in the overall rankings. But a 3-way battle has developed for the important fourth spot in the rankings between Daniel De La Rosa, Croft, and Jose Rojas, respectively. Less than 50 points separate those three competitors, and all three are vying for the coveted fourth spot in the IRT rankings. The fourth ranked player benefits by a more advantageous seed in tournaments, and would not have to face the top seed until the semi-finals.
While all players will be trying their hardest, Croft said playing at the Glass Court Club will provide him with additional incentive. “You always want to win and play your best in every tournament, but when you go back home and compete in front of your family and friends, it is natural to be a little more motivated than normal. I am sure when Kane played earlier this season in the Krowning Moment in Texas, he wanted to play at his very best because he was playing in front of a home crowd,” Croft said.
Croft – a three-time USA Racquetball collegiate national champion – solidified his standing as a top-ranked amateur playing in the Glass Court Club’s seemingly endless array of tournaments. “I can remember my coming of age more than 10 years ago, when I was about 17 or 18. In one of the tournaments, I finally defeated Brian Simpson (a former collegiate national champion). Until then he had beaten me every time, just about owned me. He really schooled me until that tournament when I had a major break through,” Croft said.
Since the 2006/2007 IRT season, Croft has been ranked in the top eight on the IRT Tour, with a top end-of-season ranking of third in 2011.
- Pro qualifying will take place Thursday, March 19, with rounds of 16 and eight set for Friday and semifinal and finals action scheduled for Saturday.
- The pros will conduct a clinic for juniors on Saturday morning
- All amateur entrants will be admitted to view all pro matches free, and prize money for Open Division champions – both men and women – has been increased to $1,000 for first place!
- The tourney’s Saturday night St. Patrick’s Celebration include a Party With the Pros and the club’s traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner
For more information, including a preview of the tournament draw, go to the IRT website at www.irt-tour.com, click on “events”, then click on the link to the Shamrock Shootout.
The event will be televised at www.IRTNetwork.com.
By Don Grigas
Don Grigas is an award-winning journalist who grew up on the south side of Chicago and is now living in Bolingbrook, IL, where he first developed a passion for racquetball. In 1979 Don played his first game of racquetball at the Bolingbrook Park District Racquet and Health Club. Within two years Don rose from a Novice to an Open player, and shortly thereafter became the club professional at the Naper Olympic Fitness Center for more than 20 years until that facility closed in 2007. After winning three state championships in doubles, Don retired from active playing and now writes for the IRT web site, as well as working on other free lance projects.