By Chris McClintick
A few nights before the inaugural U.S. Century Doubles Championship in 2008, tournament founder Kit Tatum received a phone call from Palmer Page, the former US SQUASH CEO. Page was concerned that the tournament, requiring nothing more than the combined ages of each team being 100 years or greater, might become a health hazard.
“You know Kit, you’ve got some eighty-year-olds playing with fifty-year-olds: someone’s going to die this weekend, are you prepared for that?” Page warned Tatum. Thus, the Legends division was born—requiring one player to be at least sixty years of age—in an attempt to balance out the teams.
In the six ensuing tournaments, the Century Doubles—now Championships rather than Championship—has expanded further with Masters (70+), Grand Champions (80+), A, Women’s, and Mixed divisions.
Retaining its New York City headquarters at the University Club of New York and co-hosted by the New York Athletic Club, the Union Club of New York, the Racquet & Tennis Club, and CityView Racquet Club, the February tournament flourished this year with the largest event to date featuring ninety-six entrants.
The social-spirited tournament, chaired by Randy Goodleaf, was created with egotistical intentions, jokes the ever-affable Tatum.
“The original intention of the tournament was very selfish: the older I got, I thought we needed to create something that I had a hope of winning,” Tatum said. “And I still plan to, when we introduce the 100s! Each year I’m strategizing, plotting and keeping very careful track of ages. I missed my opportunity with Randy—I think we have too many years between us now.”
As in its previous iterations, the centennial tournament exemplified the meaning of US Squash’s motto ‘Fit for Life’ through the required age difference of teammates and opponents alike. Such was the intention and meaning behind any Century tournament according to Tatum.
“The other intention was that we were just trying to find a vehicle to bridge the generations,” Tatum explained. “So that the twenty-year-olds could play and learn from the masters who still play the game in their seventies and eighties. So that it’s all one big family and the younger players can meet the legends of the game, and it’s worked very well.”
Teams were comprised of siblings, parents and their kids, club-mates, former and current professionals with enthusiasts, and more. Although they did not compete, the most notable entry of the tournament with the largest age difference was that of doubles legend Victor Elmaleh, ninety-six, and Victor Waite, four.
Elmaleh & Waite serve as an enduring example of the Century Doubles’ ethos of camaraderie, friendship, and an equal appreciation of squash and life.