Kiva Classic

A former World Champion has called the Kiva Classic, “the best age group doubles tournament in the US.” Is the accolade for the high level of play in Hardball Doubles, Softball Singles and Hardball Singles, or is it for the high level of hospitality that has been a hallmark of this tournament for the past 19 years? Both, is the resounding answer! Some of the best doubles players from 29 states, Canada, Mexico and South Africa travel to this high altitude squash Mecca in the New Mexican Mountains for competition and camaraderie.

(Left, L-R) Sam Khan and Chris Spier couldn’t hold off Eric Wohlgemuth and Kevin Jernigan in the 40+, while (Right, L-R) Paul Fisher and Michael McBean met with the same fate in the 80+ final won by Ed Helfeld and Scott Fraser
(L-R) Sam Khan and Chris Spier couldn’t hold off Eric Wohlgemuth and Kevin Jernigan in the 40+.

Tucked away on a side street, not too far from Santa Fe’s Plaza, the Kiva Club is housed in a quirky unmarked adobe building that houses some of the best squash courts in the Southwest. Much of the almost week-long festivities are focused around the Club’s casual, centrally located dining room and lounge where friendships are made and renewed. Dedicated and helpful volunteers, headed up by Tournament Director David Dodge, work hard to make players and guests welcome and comfortable and to keep the matches on schedule. There are receptions every night. On Thursday one of the local players hosts everyone at his home for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Friday’s party is at the club and has become famous for home smoked salmon and ribs. The atmosphere is festive and lively with great matches being played on the doubles and singles courts. Saturday’s lunch is the ever popular Green Chile Chicken stew and the reception is typically held at a nearby gallery, usually that of Kiva member, Gerry Peters.

The Kiva Club courts are built with solid, on end maple walls and sprung floors. This combined with the 7000ft elevation make for a lively ball. Games are played with intensity in all age groups. Some of the best matches to watch this year were played early in the week in the well-attended 80+ HB doubles division. Many of these players have won US and Canadian titles and play at a high level. Deft hands, hard drives, precise reverse corners and feathery lobs were matched against great movement and retrieving.

(Right, L-R) Paul Fisher and Michael McBean met with The same fate in the 80+ final won by Ed Helfeld and Scott Fraser.
(L-R) Paul Fisher and Michael McBean met with The same fate in the 80+ final won by Ed Helfeld and Scott Fraser.

Notable matches in doubles were turned in by Kevin Jernigan and Eric Wohlgemuth of San Francisco, who were just too good for Sam Khan of Denver and Chris Spier of Santa Fe. Martin Casdagli repeated as winner of the 50+ but with a different partner, David Barker of Santa Fe: their semifinal match against Dan Allard and Ingus Silgailis of Canada when to overtime in the 5th. The team of Gary Johnson and Habib Rahman of Portland (OR) made the trip worthwhile by cutting a wide swath through the 55+ Doubles. Joseph Fitzpatrick of Maryland, this year’s Chairman of the US National Hardball Doubles Tournament in Baltimore, teamed up with Bill Simpson of St. Louis and did not drop a game to win the 60+. Likewise, in the 65+ draw, Bart McGuire and David O’Loughlin prevailed against another strong field that included Cass Quinn of Canada, Richard Rice of Rochester and Mike Tramutt and Taylor Quick of Denver. John Amos and Graham Sharman won the 70+, continuing a perfect season, after a win in San Francisco in October. Past winner Dave Matthews teamed with Ed Lockhart to win the 75+. In the 80+ draw Ed Helfeld of San Francisco and Scott Fraser of Canada proved to be too strong for Michael McBean of Quebec and Paul Fisher of Austin.

In Softball Singles, Charles Amm of South Africa took home another title in the 40+. Although Ingus Sigailis from Canada was unknown before entering the tournament, he will be remembered as the dominant player in the softball draw, making cracking drives—followed by soft drops—look easy, and his opponents confused. Jug Walia continued as the 60+ softball winner, a tradition he has maintained for the past five years.

Hardball singles had several strong draws in the 50’s, 60’s 70’ and 80’s. Jim Gibbons won the 50’s and 60’s. Ed Helfeld was able to bookend his Doubles trophy with a win in the 80+ HB singles.

Competition is what brings everyone together; friendships are why everyone comes back, year after year.