Phil is one the top players in the local league and a regular supporter of the ‘Bat & Chat’ sessions at Pontefract Squash Club for anyone wanting to get into the sport.
This month he was in Rimini, Italy to play in the European Veterans Championships – an event with 4,000 entrants (even with the Russians excluded) in a huge tournament of experienced players, including a fair smattering of former professionals and world ranked players of yesteryear.
Phil said: “It is always a shock to turn up on practice day and find that, playing in 30 degree high humidity in an Italian July, the ball behaves very differently to a nippy November in Castleford! But you have to adjust quickly, or you’re out before you know it.”
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Although he did well in Budapest four years ago, pre-Covid, Phil knew the singles would be tough, as he had missed five months with knee pain and recently had an operation to fix it.
He explained: “I was very lucky to recover just in time and got through the group stage and won my first round, but then came up against a Hungarian that won the World Vets a couple of years ago. I was not sharp and he was too good.”
However, Phil took on the men’s doubles competition with his good friend, Ray Hurst, from Barnsley, and the pair of them went on to enjoy considerable success.
He went on: “We have played Yorkshire County doubles for two years and have yet to be beaten.
“Our styles match perfectly; Ray has a tricky game, with different rubbers on each side of his bat. It keeps opposing attackers off balance, while my strength is attacking defensive players and any loose shots.”
And so it proved. Three group match wins, followed by five knockout match victories put them through to the quarter-finals; one win away from what would be a guaranteed medal.
“We almost lost in the previous round to two Germans even trickier than my partner Ray! But we both hit good shots from 8-8 in the fifth to prevail.”
The two Austrians they faced next were class players and the Yorkshire pair lost easily in the first game.
“But it is how quickly you learn that matters”, said Phil. “And our tactics in the following games were almost perfect, robbing them of any chances to play their best shots. We won 3-1 and were hyper in the taxi back to the hotel!”
The semi-final was the end of the line. “Our opponents were both ex-professionals, one of them top 50 in the world, and just a bit better than us in every department. Even so, we were both delighted to come away with a hard-earned medal.”