Dr. Hyder began this softball tournament in 1969. This being the 46th year he and his wife are still to be found in the center seats for the final. The tournament is unique as it draws top PSA stars but under no sanctioning body. As a result of no ranking points, no pressure, a fairly decent payout for a couple days, etc., it tends to be a lot of fun – if the player plays in the “spirit of the Hyder.”
Running alongside the Hyder professional level is an amateur draw that fills the gallery with parents, teens, weekend-warriors and fans. It’s a happy tournament — the spirit of the Hyder.
I can’t say enough good things about Chris Gordon. In any match-play, at all, Gordon brings it – always. I’ve never seen him play less than 100% as he leaves everything he has on the court. And this match would be no different; Chris played hard for the crowd. But, maybe more importantly, he plays hard for himself. His integrity. His honor. Chris has class.
So, let’s get to the match. Game 1 starts pleasant enough. It’s friendly, quiet, business-like, with only 4 routine decisions with no complaint. We get the gambit of routine shots, beautiful play by pros at this level, and all seems to be progressing into a wonderful match and lovely Sunday afternoon. Gordon eventually moves on to win 11-8. And, the first one’s in the books. Out of nowhere, the 2nd begins with a tight-dropapalooza. Tight drop followed by tight drop followed by crushing cross-court, retrieved, re-drop, tight drop. Edge of your seat stuff. Eventually, the drop-fest ends with a Ramy-like backhand cross-court nick for Gordon to go up 3-1 and from there he’s never really threatened in this game.
He’s never really threatened as there’s clearly something going on with Illingworth. While it is possible he could be a bit tired from ending a 5-gamer the previous night around 9:00 pm, and we’re playing at 1:00 the following day, but it really looks like what’s happening is indifference. Mr. Illingworth appears to want to be anywhere else but here. Gordon playing steady, consistent, passion-fueled quality squash, in the spirit of the Hyder, he eventually takes the second comfortably 11-6. The third begins and almost immediately the complaints start to mount up. Complaints over absolutely nothing. Basic, routine lets. No one at fault, just basic.
Gordon up to this point has yet to say a word. He’s all business. Illingworth is fluctuating between caring and not caring, playing and not playing, effort and no effort. Most effort is toward complaining. The 3-referee system is working very well and only one call went against him after a let on a ball Gordon was out of position to have reached. But, his mood is lackluster, mixed with spurts of real quality of play we know Julian can produce. Ironically, this is Illingworth’s best game as despite his grumbling he’s brought the game to 8-all.
A routine stroke for failure to clear and he’s checked out. Given up. Little fight left. Manages one last point but is mentally already in the showers. Soon after, Gordon takes the third 11-9 and Illingworth now does exactly that, walks out the door and heads straight to the showers.
Congratulations to Chris Gordon; you’re all class.
Brad Burke photos by Mike Pepper