The first major tournament of the 2011 Pro Squash Tour, the Westchester Open, will draw top competition to Westchester clubs from January 31 to February 4. Fifteen players representing nine countries will include international champions, many local favorites, and a 14-year-old junior with a No. 1 U.S. ranking who will take on the pros.
Rye’s Bernardo Samper, who took a leave from Westchester Country Club last year to play the tour full-time, will be a familiar face at the event. Samper, who reached a career-high ranking of 57 in the world, won the plate championship at the tour’s inaugural event last year at Westchester Country Club. This year, he faces young Mason Ripka in the first round at the New York Sports Club in White Plains on Jan. 31. Ripka, 14, is from Manhattan and trains at the Pyramid Squash Club in Tuckahoe that is owned by Gamal and Katja Amir of Rye. Ripka has 18 titles under his belt and is ranked seven in Europe.
Another favorite is Shahid Khan, a distant relative of the famous Khan squash dynasty, who teaches many Rye players at Club @800 Squash & Fitness in Rye Brook. Other local pros include Ned Marks, head coach at St. Luke’s School; Kush Mahan from Kenya, teaching pro at Pyramid Squash Club; Ahmed Hamza from Egypt, head pro at Greenwich Field Club; JP Sardi of the U.S., another teaching pro at Pyramid Squash Club; and Raj Nanda from Australia, head coach at Hackley School, who played an exhilarating plate final against Samper last year. Other top contenders are Bradley Ball from England, the recent Connecticut Open Champion; John White, former world No. 1, Scottish National Champion and recent Philadelphia Open Champion; John Rooney, two-time reigning Irish National Champion; plus several other touring pros from New Zealand, England and Egypt.
The Westchester Open will take place as follows: January 31, New York Sports Club in White Plains; February 1, Club @800 Squash & Fitness; February 2, Bronxville Field Club; and February 3 and 4, Pyramid Squash Club. Early round tickets are $20 and $30 per person, and later rounds $40. For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.prosquashtour.net or call 800-595-4849.
– Georgetta L. Morque