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Kahler and Watt Defend Home Turf at West Penn
December 15, 2015
Despite being somewhat overshadowed by a Grand Prix Series event being played on the same weekend, the West Penn provided every bit as much drama and great paddle on both the men’s and women’s sides. The local team of Scott Kahler and Casey Watt came out on top of the men’s draw while Kelly Fischer and Jessica Guyaux of Sewickley, PA, continued their incredible streak of nine straight women’s championships.
Taylor Abbett and Michael Katz, also of Pittsburgh, won the men’s 95+ division.
The festivities began on Thursday when the women took to the courts in the Fox Chapel area in what can only be described as perfect paddle weather – cool and grey. Lori George and her team of volunteers, led as always by Annie B., at tournament control did an awesome job with the 55-team draw.
One of the most entertaining matches of the tourney was the Sewickley v. Sewickley semi-final between Fischer-Guyaux and Nathalie Lemieux and Betsy Joseph. Lemieux-Joseph took some time to settle in to the match and ultimately fell in two sets, but Joseph’s mid-point running commentary had all four players in stitches.
Congrats to all winners and finalists, and thanks to all players from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Georgia, Toronto, Cincinnati, and Boston for participating.
The ladies warmed up the courts for the men who began their quest for top honors on Saturday morning in both the main draw and the 95+ division. It was great to have players from Indy join the draw and to see the support they received in their first Region IV event.
Indianapolis’ No. 1 seeds Ryan Baxter and Ricky Heath breezed into town and sailed into the semis against some really strong teams, including Tyler Noland-Dan Hersh in the round of 16 and A.J. Khurana-Mike Wagner in the quarter-finals. The quarter-final match that saw eventual champs Kahler and Watt defeat another stellar Indy team in Brian Hagman and Zach Held, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, was one of the highlights of the men’s draw.
Just before the semis on Saturday evening, a crowd of 300-plus gathered at Fox Chapel Racquet Club to pay tribute to Martin Sturgess and his contribution to platform tennis in Pittsburgh, across Region IV, and the APTA community. Wayne Dollard gave a fantastic tribute to Martin, who then took to the mic to thank everyone for their support.
Martin encouraged everyone to stay true to the roots of the incredible game of paddle and the camaraderie that he had enjoyed throughout his time as an active player, tournament winner, coach and teacher to hundreds, and promoter of the game. A new trophy was unveiled – The Sturgess Cup – that from 2015 forward would be awarded to the winner of the men’s open draw.
The way Baxter-Heath were playing, it was tough to imagine that they would be challenged – even by the 2nd-seeded team of Kahler-Watt in the finals on Sunday morning. But in a bit of an upset, the local Pitt team would be the first to hold The Sturgess Cup after winning in two extremely well-played sets, 7-5, 6-4. When the players left the court, all four were thanked by the spectators for an impressive display of paddle.
Thanks to all the players – particularly those who traveled from out of town; volunteers Lori George, Scott Kahler, Wayne Dollard, the WPPTA executive and, of course, Martin Sturgess for making the West Penn 2015 week so memorable. Special note of thanks to the staff of Fox Chapel Racquet Club for their above-and-beyond service and support.
More Photos of the Women's Finalists Groups