Isle of Man Squash Rackets Association’s Masters tournament took place at the NSC last week.

This year organisers decided to combine the over-50s and o40s categories, with the highest placed o50 and o40 players taking the respective titles. The same strategy was used for the o70s and o60s age categories.

Alongside the Masters, an open tournament was held for players too young to enter the age-restricted tournaments.

This was divided into an A grade competition for those with a playing level exceeding 3,500 points and a B grade event for those with a lower playing level. Players were allowed to play in a maximum of two events.

Overs-70s and Over-60s

There were five players competing in the o70s and o60s event.

The top seed and youngest player was Steve Baker, the other players in seeding order were Richard Haley, Les Callow, Gerrit Du Toit and Phil Shaw. The latter are over 70 so they would be battling it out for that title.

All five players were allocated to one group and each played against each other once. The matches in this category went according to seeding on the whole.

Long-time sparring partners Callow and Shaw had a five-game match, with Callow just clinching it in the end. Du Toit produced a fine display to push the much younger Haley all the way to five games, but narrowly failed to get the winning point.

The deciding matches to determine the top and second spots were between Baker and Haley at over-60s level, with Baker gaining another 3-0 win to claim the top spot. Callow and Du Toit duelled to decide the o70s champion, with Callow coming out on top in another five-game match to take the title.

Overs-50s and Over-40s

There were 12 players entered into the o50s and o40s competition, seeded and split into four groups of three with each facing the other players once.

When the group stage finished, the four players winning their groups entered a Monrad competition to decide the winning places. The four group runners-up also used the same system to determine placings five to eight and the group losers did the same thing to determine positions nine through to 12.

The top seed for this event was the evergreen Ashley Sandyford-Sykes followed in seeding order by Malcolm Levy, Hamish Thornton, Steve Baker, Lyndon Cheetham, Dave Freer, Douglas Jacobsson, Richard Cretney, Richard Haley, Dasa Brynjolffssen, Steve Pitts and Phil Whittam.

The top three over-50s were Sandyford-Sykes, Baker and Cheetham, while the top three over-40s were Levy, Thornton and Freer.

In the first round, Stone Art Squash team-mates Baker and Cheetham, seeded four and five respectively, had a good match. Cheetham has hit a rich vein of form recently and beat his higher-ranked opponent in five games to upset the seedings.

The results in the play-offs for the five to 12 placings went according to seedings but the matches of note were Freer versus Cretney plus Pitts against Haley. These were both real humdinger, with Freer and Haley coming through the five-game encounters by the skin of their teeth.

The leading players in the groups consisted of two overs-40s and two o50s. Malcolm Levy met Hamish Thornton in the 040s final who took it in turns to win games, with Levy winning the final game to take the match 3-2.

Unfortunately Sandyford-Sykes had to withdraw from the tournament which meant Cheetham claimed the o50s title, with Sandyford-Sykes taking the runners-up spot.

Open tournament - B Grade

The B grade was contested between 11 players, with a preliminary round for six competitors before the three losers went into a round robin group.

The three prelim winners and the top five seeded players all entered a Monrad-style competition to get an overall ranking.

Ben Peach was the number one seed, followed in seeding order by team-mate Damien Loughrey, Harvey Douglas, Lance Wyllie, Michael Fernandes, Dave Freer, Alan Macnair, Phil Butler, Steve Pitts, Phil Whittam and George Rumney.

The prelim round losers entering the round robin were Pitts, Whittam and Rumney. Pitts had two cracking five-game matches in this group as he lost to Strix captain Rumney but managed a win against Whittam.

In the Monrad stage, the only seeding upset occurred when Michael Fernandes beat Jaguars team-mate Lance Wyllie in five games, winning 13-11 in the last.

The play-off matches brought an improvement in placing for Freer who overcame the higher-ranked Wyllie in five games to claim fifth place. Atlas Group Arrows player Butler also improved his ranking by one place after beating Macnair in four.

The semi-final matches saw the top seeds and Cannell Print team-mates Ben Peach and Damien Loughrey progress through to meet in the final. In the final the youthful Peach looked fairly controlled and comfortable, taking a 3-0 victory over Loughrey.

Open tournament - A Grade

There were six players in the A grade competition, all ranked in the top 10 in the island while all bar one had represented the Isle of Man at international level.

The players were seeded and split into two groups of three. When the group matches had finished, the two leaders had a play-off, as did the second and third-placed players, therefore they all ended up with a ranking of one through to six.

The first group consisted of top seed and tournament organiser Thom Whiteway who was joined by two over-40s Malcolm Levy and Hamish Thornton. The other group consisted of o50s player Sandyford-Sykes who was joined by two younger players, Pat Fitzpatrick and Jason Crease.

In the first group, Levy had two five-game matches. He went two games up against top seed Whiteway but the latter showed his fighting qualities to dig in and take the next three to win 3-2.

His match against Thornton had the same 3-2 scoreline but this time it was in Levy’s favour. The second group was topped by Fitzpatrick who was pushed hard by Crease in their match.

The third and fourth place play-off was between Levy and Sandyford-Sykes. The former had yet another long attritional five-game match, but came through it on top to claim the bronze medal spot. Thornton was fifth spot as Crease had to withdraw with a knee injury.

The final brought together two of the best under-30s players on the island, Whiteway and Fitzpatrick who are the future of Isle of Man squash.

These players had yet another close encounter, with Whiteway winning in four games by the score of 11-7,14-12, 4-11 and 13-11 to become the open A grade winner

The tournament prizes were presented by Bill and Brian Karran, the brothers of the late Dave Karran who was a very active squash player, well liked and remembered fondly by those who knew him.

Isle of Man Squash Rackets Association continues to be very grateful for their ongoing and faithful support.