En Bref #1
Everything you never
knew you needed to know about the North American Open ...
When Gus told us that the club was family orientated, I thought,
yeah, of course it is. Well, it actually IS family orientated.
You have young kids & babies everywhere! And all the kids are
behaving perfectly, with games organised for them in a special
room when needed.
Also, members are extremely responsible parents, who keep their
children interested with what is happening, the matches, the
players, etc, but while teaching them the etiquette, not moving
between rallies, no talking, etc.
And honestly, the kids make the place, they bring that sparkle
of amazement in the eye, of smiles all around, and of movement
too… Loving it.
This was my first ever visit to this tournament, hence my first
time at the Country Club of Virginia. This Racquets facility is
really very well designed. You enter by the shop - where I work
- that is right next to the snack facility, and overlooking the
A little corridor away, and you are where the three squash
courts are, one traditional glass back wall, and then two
courts, not far away from each other, with one characteristic,
they have one side wall made of glass too!
Makes the viewing very easy, opens the room a lot too! Excellent
idea I think. Only in America…
HELP AT HAND
ended the draw, a tall and impressive Tom Wallace talked
quickly with the boys. “If you need something, ask Gus [Cook],
and he’ll give it to you. Now, if you WANT something, you talk
to me, and I’ll see what I can do…”
I knew that man was somebody I was going to get on with fine…
And I did. Quickly, he set me up with a space and an internet
connection - well, he basically gave me his spot - and showed me
the basics, as in, where I could get my cupper of tea.
Like I said, a man to my heart.
I was able to observe him most of the morning, the way he
interacts with members as well as with kids. His staff, Jemma,
Gary, Jim, and the others obviously enjoy working with him.
Members respect him and ask for his advice or help on a regular
basis. The kids worship him and just won’t let him alone. He
seems to have the perfect balance between kindness and
And as he is the Racquet Boss around here, no wonder Gus was
able to organise this stunning tournament - where ALL the 32
qualifiers are actually billeted by Club Members - and where the
players are appreciated and looked after like the pros they are.
You want something here? Just ask for Tom, and he’ll make it
happen for you…
we all know that I’m not the brightest of the bunch, especially
when it comes to machines and stuff. But COME ON!
On my first day here, I went to have a bath. No stopper. So, I
call the operator who sends me an engineer right away.
The man goes into the bathroom, and just does “clac” on the
little bit of metal on the bath tub. And the bathtub starts to
Excuse me, but in the rest of the world, the stopper is ON TOP
of the bleeping bathtub, not UNDER it! Pfffff. They were trying
to confuse me, and they did a bleeping good job of it!
Oh well, I guess that confirmed the man’s idea that women are
really not that clever…
As I’m writing these words, you lucky Europeans are sleeping a just
sleep, while we, Americans, have just finished our evening meal.
It’s about 3am in my body, although the clock only marks 10pm…
I arrived here last night. ”Why did you come to America”, asked the
Customs Lady in New York, where I had to stop to connect to my final
destination. “To watch some squash” I replied. “Really? And why were
you here last month?” “The same”. She looked at me funny, and
thought, those frogs, what are they up to now, squash, what does she
come up here for, to watch them grow??? Still, she let me go
through. Some of you may come to regret her decision…
If I don’t mind the jetlag too much, I’m really not mad on the
connecting flight over here. Instead of just changing flight, like
in the rest of the world I know of, here in the US you have to go
through customs, and pick up your luggage, and check in again, and
go through the security again, and undress, and take your computers
out of the box again, and your shoes, which by the way have been
x-rayed so many times they are now developing traces of
radioactivity, and then put everything on, in, and out, to get to
your final destination. Come on!!!!!!
Still, the terminal change was rather painless, thanks to Tom, our
new travelling agent, who insisted I should connect at Newark,
the “other” New York airport, which is smaller than the normal JFK,
and extremely user friendly, well sign posted. And I eventually got
to Richmond in a painless last leg, we were eight in the plane, my
luggage waiting for me as I stepped onto the tarmac, as it travelled
on the previous Newark/Richmond flight! Lucky thing, I actually had
to wait more than two hours in Newark…
I was extremely grateful, impressed not to mention honoured that
tournament director Gus Cook took the pain to come to pick me
up himself at past 11.30pm. With the complexity and tiredness that
comes with such an organisation, the fact he took the bother to come
round and welcome me himself was immensely appreciated.
But I guess what I really remember about those first hours here, in
Richmond, Virginia – Americans always specify the name
of the state/country after a town name, like Paris, France, which
always makes me smile – is my entrance to the Jefferson Hotel.
It’s purely magnificent, and the History and tradition that envelops
you here is just something beyond anything I’ve experienced in any
of the stunning hotels we’ve been lucky enough to get invited to in
so many countries in the world…
Not only is the place breathlessly grandiose, but what a service.
The kindness, the helpfulness, the smile and the ready to help
attitude is second to none I must say, and after a not so warm
experience in New York a few weeks ago, I am enchanted by the
Jefferson Experience, and I’ll try and make you visit it in a bit
more detail as the week advances if I can…
In a few hours, I’ll discover the Country Club of Virginia,
where we are playing the Qualifiers, then the University of
Richmond – an extremely reputed University I’m told – for the
main draw, and Steve from Whitley Bay, UK & myself in Richmond, will
try our best to make you live this event “as if you were there”.
The North American Open is about to be “SquashSited”…