Pandemic-schmandemic. Unwilling to be kept down any longer, an intrepid group of racketeers ventured out from New England last week to visit their counterparts down the Eastern seaboard in the City of Brotherly Love. A team of six made a midweek, 24-hour tour, fitting in a full slate of doubles matches against a simultaneously gracious and ferocious side from the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, followed by a rousing dinner in the historic RCOP pub, and, after a post-prandial sub-tour of the city that went purportedly into the wee hours, even more racquets the next morning before bolting for the air and train terminals—back before coworkers or loved even ones had a chance to take note of their absences.
ROCP head professional Rob Whitehouse, essential to the success of this event, wasted no time upon receiving the Challenge, and marshalled the host team, which was in and of itself cause to make the trip. Philadelphia is widely known throughout the racquets kingdom for two features (not counting the flesh-melting steam room in the men’s dressing room): the finest racquets court extant, and racquets players that—perhaps owing to their preference for their own court—rarely see the light of day on Tour. The New Englanders set out to see just who is playing down there nowadays, and their curiosity was rewarded with a day of good play and great fun. Representing the RCOP were Tim Carroll, Bill Hozack, Fab Freddie Bristowe, veterans Jon Crowell & Dick Tanfield, Old Tonbridgean Andrew Dick, and The Secret Weapon: Old (hmmm) Cheltonian Mimi Davis—the RCOP’s talented resident fellow.
Prior to the day’s racquets, pundits would have bet on young Bristowe to lead the charge. They would have lost that wager, however, as the Philadelphians rallied behind the steady play of two-handed backhander Mimi, who served as an impassable backboard for those trying in vain to sneak the ball down the left-hand wall. Not to be left out, however, Freddie contributed pace, athleticism, and the congenital effervescent Bristolean spirit, as he alternated between matches and feverish pecking on his laptop outside the court to meet an academic deadline for the better part of 6 hours. The U Penn sophomore went a long way toward substantiating the whispered expectations for his future greatness in this great game of ours.
Veteran Tourist Lucas Walsh led the visiting side, comprised largely of seasoned ambassadors of the game from Boston and Newport, including Dave Tedeschi, Scott Paskerian, Phil Stockton, and Kendrik de Koning. The team’s average athletic ability and good looks were both significantly raised by the T&Rs new squash and rackets professional, George Sawrey-Cookson. Southpaw George, fresh from the NARA professionals’ retreat just weeks earlier at the RCOP, is keen to pick up where his father Toby left off a just a few years ago, when the former Clifton College pro dazzled Philadelphia both on court and off. He will not disappoint.
The thesis behind the Tourist Tour is simple: Interclub travel and play fosters new and deepened relationships among club players, works as outreach for those host club members who maybe haven’t been on tour yet, and works as well for those veterans who want to supplement their NARA and T&RA schedules with a bit of extra “work.” It’s also good for one’s rackets. Lastly, it gives one’s spouse or significant other a much-needed midweek break, whether or not they are fully aware of the Tour’s details, or perhaps even the break itself.
The formula is simple: The Touring side issues a “challenge” to the target host club for the following program:
Mid-week; one night stayover; arrive early afternoon for continuous play into the evening; casual dinner out on the town (or in-house, as the RCOP facilitated); more play in the morning with any gas left in the tank; crawl to flight/car/bus/train home; sleep at desk the following day, refreshed for the weekend ahead; provide synopsis to NARA to share with fellow racketeers.
As of press time the New England Tourists were rumored to be penning a challenge to the Motor City’s DRC for a tour to take place early in the new year At the same time, they are expecting to receive a challenge from an as yet to be named visiting side before long, standing ready to roll out the red carpet in Boston, so that another team might earn the right to bear the title: “Tourist.”