Last month the ninth U.S. Father & Son was held and it was no surprise that Chris and Carson Spahr won their first open title. Spahr has long equaled junior excellence.
Christian C.F. Spahr, Jr., known to everyone as Kit, was the top junior in the country in the mid-1950s, winning the tournaments that existed before the U.S. national juniors was created in 1956. Kit went on to become a leading left-wall doubles player, taking titles at every single major doubles event—the William White, the Tennis & Squash Invitational in Buffalo, the Gold Racquets, the Johnson and the Greenwich Invitational. He won two U.S. national mixed titles (with Gretchen Spruance) and came out on the losing end of one of the greatest matches in U.S. national men’s history. In Minneapolis in the 1964 finals, he and Claude Beer squandered a 2-0 lead, saved two match points in the fifth and then lost on double championship point. Kit tragically died from pancreatic cancer in 1991.
His three sons, Chris, Terry and Wesley, all played squash at Haverford School and Merion Cricket Club. “I started when I was four or five,” Chris Spahr said. “I started smacking it around with my dad on sawed-off racquets that he had whittled down and slapped a terry-cloth grip on. In fact, my father was really my only coach as a kid, as I had just one formal lesson.” Like his father, Chris was a top junior and went on to Franklin & Marshall where he was a three-time All American and a No. 2 player on the team that was ranked No. 2 in 1987.
After working in life insurance and building boats in Mount Desert, Maine, Chris found himself teaching squash for two weeks at Apawamis. A job opened up at the Field Club and in September 1990 he became the pro there. He launched the Greenwich Junior Open to huge heights—at one point there were over a hundred pros playing in it, with four pro-ams, singles, doubles, men, women. “I always used to get sick in late January, the week after running it,” Spahr said.
In October 1999 Chris moved north to the University Club of Boston where he’s been the head pro ever since. He runs a massive program there, with the club’s six singles and two doubles courts constantly filled. Chris has won the U.S. national 40+ and 45+, each once, on the right wall partnering with Doug Lifford.
Chris and his son Carson came down to their first U.S. Father & Son at the Racquet & Tennis Club in New York in 2008 when carson was 10. They won the U13 event and repeated the next two years. “It is a great draw,” chris said. “First and foremost, the idea is have it be a positive experience for the boys, so the father’s don’t crank it too hard or run around to get every last shot.” When Carson was 13, they took the U17s. “In that draw, the boys are often as good as the fathers, so it is definitely all-out,” Chris said.
Last year, they played in the open draw of the Father & Son and lost in the semis in five games to the defending champions Geordie and George Lemmon. It was a close, five-gamer, 15-12 in the fifth. The draw was pretty tough—the other three teams in the semis were all former open champions.
Carson, meanwhile, has matured into a fantastic player. In doubles, he has won three titles with Chris in the Massachusetts state father and son doubles and he and his sister Caroline, now 12, have won the state siblings draw. In singles, Carson is a sophomore at Milton where he leads the team. He was ranked sixth nationally in the U15s last season. This year much was expected of him in the U17s but in the late summer he became ill with chest pain. Hodgkins Lymphoma was diagnosed, and Carson underwent a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. That ended just before Christmas. He recovered enough during the winter to start playing again, and this past march he came in third in the U.S. U17 nationals. It was a remarkable comeback but knowing the Spahrs, one you would expect.
To top it off, last month Carson and Caroline both went to the National Junior Doubles in Wilmington for the first time. Carson got to the finals of both the U17 boys and the U17 mixed, while his sister won both the U13 girls and U13 mixed draws.