Sudbury offers a somewhat unique PSA Tour stop
by Randy Pascal
The City of Greater Sudbury will play host to countless different sporting events over the course of a calendar year. Few, if any, can rival the
atmosphere and relatively unique traits of the Northern Open Squash PSA Tournament.
It still comes as a surprise to many in this city that the annual April tradition, celebrating eight years of associating closely with the
Professional Squash Association (PSA), is able to offer a purse of $10,000 – U.S. dollars, no less.
The qualifying round kicked off this past Monday at the Sudbury YMCA, with “Round of Sixteen” play opening on Thursday. In addition to a
handful of Canadians, local products Mike McCue (#88) and wildcards Charles de la Riva Jr and Ryan Abresch, the field includes talent
from the likes of England, France, Jamaica, Wales, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States.
Safe to say that it is a pretty massive undertaking for local organizer Leslie McCue, now in her third year as leader of this crew, taking the
primary reigns from long-time Sudbury squash advocate and coach, Brian Clarke.
“The biggest hurdle is the financial piece, approaching sponsors and such, but I knew that it was difficult,” said McCue, who has lent a helping hand to
the tournament since its inception back in 2010. “What’s been wonderful is that people have been very willing to participate.”
“And I’ve been lucky, having Mike (her son) as my right-hand man. He looks after the PSA, taking care of a lot of the details.” Still, it is the feeling
of family that embraces every visitor to the inner confines of the YMCA squash courts that is absolutely unmistakable, evident every single time I have
stopped in for updates and interviews over the course of the short but impressive history of this PSA stop.
“I think the way we put it on is unique,” acknowledged the elder McCue. “We have food every night, and it’s for everybody, spectators and players alike.
We’re very hospitable – I think it’s the Northern Ontario hospitality – and we care.”
“I think we do a really good job to show the players that they are welcomed. We look after them.” The responsibility of players’ care, however, extends
beyond McCue and her committee, if for no other reason that the visiting athletes will almost always leave Sudbury having created new and lasting
friendships, taking up short-term residency with local folks willing to open their doors to them.
“All over North America, players are billeted, and I think in Europe as well,” explained McCue. “You pick them up at the airport, provide them with a
bed, provide them with some healthy food, transportation to and from the venue.”
“It’s a commitment,” she continued. “You have to have the space, you have to have the desire to open up your home, but I’ve always enjoyed it.” It’s a
commitment that Jeff Perry and his family have embraced for some seven to eight years now.
“Being part of the squash community, which is a close-knit community with lots of friendships and great people involved, we all kind of have each
other’s back,” stated Perry. “When events like this come along, we all pitch in and do what has to be done to make it a success.”
Taking in anywhere from one to three players each April, Perry has come to appreciate the not-so-subtle differences between the Sudbury Squash League
participants, and those who will call Sudbury home for one week of the year.
“I wouldn’t say that I am a great squash player, but we spend some time on the court and have some fun with it,” he suggested in opening. “But I could
not believe, and still don’t believe to this day, just how much these guys eat. They’re like human garbage cans,” he stated with a laugh.
“These are world class elite athletes, and they’re very advanced in their training and nutrition and lifestyle and rest period – and it shows on the
court.” And with several familiar faces from previous tournaments typically dotting the lineup of talent in any given year, the shift from billet to fan is
“I have to admit, there is definitely a form of bonding that takes place, albeit in a very short period of time, especially when you get repeat
players,” said Perry. “You do tend to develop a little more of a relationship.”
The Sudbury PSA template appears to be working. Ranked at # 313 in the world standings, Dan Bergin of Wales returned for his second visit to
Northern Ontario, despite the fact that he must head right back across the Atlantic immediately following the tournament, and the fact that the likelihood
of his leaving here ten thousand dollars richer is something of a long-shot.
“My goal here was to qualify for the main event and get into one of those four (qualifier) spots,” noted the 21 year old. An opening round victory over
David Cromwell (#198- USA) on Monday was followed by a second round loss to Fernando Magdaleno (#274 – Mexico), leaving him one victory short
of his goal.
Still, Bergin is confident he is on the right path, thanks to some recent changes in his game. “I started with a new coach (former world #3 – David
Evans), and I feel like we have made quite a lot of improvement in a small period of time.”
“I’m using a different technique on my forehand. It’s quite a dramatic difference. I’m bigger than the other guys, so I don’t do a lot of running. I
seem to hit a ball a little bit better, maybe. He’s teaching me that when I hit the right shot to the back, to the follow on to hit in the front.”
It is this very intense commitment to their craft that is part of the appeal to the likes of McCue and Perry and the countless other regulars that are
filling the stands all week long at the “Y”. “The squash community is very social,” said McCue.
“They appreciate the sport, they appreciate the athleticism of the players, because they play squash themselves. They appreciate that we put this event
on, that we bring people out who are not squash players. It’s a highlight for a lot of the local squash community.”
It’s a highlight that they are anxious to share, in their own unique way, with the remainder of Sudburians.