Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Pro-am  2004
15-18 Jan, Calgary, Canada, $10k

18-Jan, Final:
[4] Cameron Pilley bt [5] Alex Stait  15-9, 9-15, 15-8, 17-15

Pilley wins on "Championship Sunday"
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary
On what was called "Championship Sunday" in North America as a result of the NFL's conference final playoff games, it was fitting that the final of the Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Pro-Am was played on this day as well ... full story

17-Jan, Semi-Finals:
Test of Will follows Upset
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary
Saturday's semi-final showdown at the Talisman Energy Banker's Hall Club Pro-Am featured what many called an upset followed by a test of willpower ...

17-Jan, Quarter-Finals:
Calgary Comebacks
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary
Friday's quarter-final action at the Talisman Energy Banker's Hall Club Pro-Am can be summed up using one word...Comeback

Full House In Stampede City
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary
It was standing room only as main draw action got underway at the Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Pro-Am in Canada's Stampede city, Calgary, Alberta.

Cameron Pilley
photo from Squash Australia

Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Pro-Am 2004
1st Round
Thu 15
Fri 16
Sat 17th
Sun 18th
[1] Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
15/4, 15/9, 9/15, 15/5
Philip Barker (Eng)
Jonathan Kemp
15-6, 15-10, 15-7
 Glenn Keenan
Jonathan Kemp

11/15, 17/15, 15/11, 15/6

 Cameron Pilley
 Cameron Pilley

15-9, 9-15, 15-8, 17-15


Alex Stait

[7] Glenn Keenan (Aus)
15/12, 15/8, 15/12
Ben Howell (Eng)
[4] Cameron Pilley (Aus)
15/9, 15/5, 15/8
Shawn De Lierre (Can)
Cameron Pilley
15-2, 13-15, 15-9, 15-10
 John Rooney
[LL] Nick Kyme (Ber)
15/12, 15/10, 15/6
John Rooney (Irl)
Andre Holderegger (Sui)
15/2, 15/6, 15/5
[5] Alex Stait (Eng)
 Alex Stait
16-17, 9-15, 15-10, 15-11, 15-12
Lee Drew
 Alex Stait

15/13, 15/11, 15/10

 Jan Koukal

Matthew Guiffre (Can)
15/13, 10/15, 15/9, 15/11
[3] Lee Drew (Eng)
Ian Power (Can)
9/15, 15/7, 12/15, 15/6, 17/15
[6] Jan Koukal (Cze)
Jan Koukal
13-15, 12-15, 15-14, 15-8, 15-14
 Eric Galvez
Eric Galvez (Mex)
6/15, 15/13, 15/12, 15/9
[2] Ben Garner (Eng)

Qualifying Finals:
Eric Galvez (Mex) bt Nick Kyme (Ber)  15-11, 15-5, 15-9
Andre Holderegger (Sui) bt Tony James (Aus)  4-15, 15-13, 11-15, 15-11, 15-13
Philip Barker (Eng) bt David Phillips (Can)  15-12, 15-13, 15-7
Ian Power (Can) bt Robin Clarke (Can)  15-5, 15-9, 15-7

Qualifying 1st Round:
Eric Galvez (Mex) bye
Nick Kyme (Ber) bt A J Janzic (CAN)  15-11, 15-13, 15-7
Andre Holderegger (Sui) bt Michael Auer (Can)  15-9, 15-5, 15-6
Tony James (Aus) bt Bob Ballinger (Can)  15-9, 15-11, 15-8
David Phillips (Can) bt Patrick Bedore (Can)  15-4, 15-7, 15-10
Philip Barker (Eng) bt Mohsen Mir (Usa)  15-12, 15-7, 15-4
Robin Clarke (Can) bt Joe Forster (Can)  11-15, 15-12, 15-6, 15-3
Ian Power (Can) bye

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18-Jan, Final:
Pilley wins on
"Championship Sunday"
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary

On what was called "Championship Sunday" in North America as a result of the NFL's conference final playoff games, it was fitting that the final of the Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Pro-Am was played on this day as well.

After four days of great pro squash action only two remained. Australian Cameron Pilley the events #4 seed and Englishman Alex Stait seeded #5. You could not have had two more different players squaring off against one another. Pilley has the typical squash physique, he's long and lean. Heck he's only 21 yrs old, hasn't even filled out yet. Stait on the other hand is exactly the opposite. He short and stocky, cut pretty much from the same cloth as Peter Nicol only a righty. Some say advantage to the smaller guy as the tall player has to do more bending and lunging to retrieve. I say long limbs mean less court to travel, more volley possibilities and with that the opportunity to put more pressure on your opponent. That's my theory. Here's a test.

Once again every available nook and cranny behind court #3 was occupied. It was Pilley who appeared the most calm and relaxed as this one began. There were many long grueling rallies early on as both players attempted to get into a rhythm and find their length. Pilley took the opener 15-9 thanks in large to many drop errors off of Stait's racket. If he wasn't finding tin he was popping them up and Pilley was more than willing to make him pay. The young Aussie said "I was very excited and ready to go immediately. I felt like I controlled the opening game however I was also fortunate as he made quite a few errors to help me along."

Game #2 started out exactly the way game #1 ended. Pilley was up 6-1 thanks to a sloppy short game from Stait and this one appeared to have blow-out written all over it. However, hold on a minute, Stait finally found the game that got him to this point of the tournament. Stait went on a very impressive 8 point run to lead 9-6. Pilley leveled at 9 and then a long tough rally ensued. Very rhythmic squash, up and down, attack the poor length with a drop, lob crosscourt to regain the T. I counted 24 exchanges with both players having to back wall boast to prolong this rally. Stait wins it by nicking with a forehand drop and gains confidence. He then runs out game #2 15-9 and levels the match. Stait said, "I had a bit of a slow start which has been normal for me at this tournament. I was down early and thought I was going to get beaten easily to be honest and then just made it hard. Started taking it short better and won the game."

The third game was point for point all the way to 8-8. Then Pilley assumed total control and thanks to some great forehand nicks and tight rails cruised right through to the end taking this pivotal game by a 15-8 margin.

He commented, "I really played well in the third I began using my lob a lot more even though I knew he has a good volley. I wanted to keep him off balance and changed the pace a bit." Stait agreed saying "I felt him slowing it down a little and thought he might be getting tired however I got a bit over anxious and he pulled through."

The fourth and final game was a real see-saw affair. Stait jumps out 3-1 and Pilley fights back to level, We're tied at 4,5,6,7,8, and 9. Stait then slots in some tight attacking boasts that catch Pilley off guard, and to be honest are unretrievable, to lead 13-9. It appears that game #5 is coming.

Pilley has other ideas and begins a run of his own. He marches back to lead 14-13 and is serving for the match. Stait levels to stop the bleeding and Pilley calls three. The players swap points to keep it even at 15 and Pilley pushes in two winners to take the game 17-15 and the match 3-1. What was going through Pilley's mind being down 9-13? He said, "I really didn't want to play in a game #5. I was starting to really tire but knew he was tired as well. I just told myself that there wasn't going to be a game #5 and hit some good shots and came away with the win."

An excellent final game and a very well organized tournament that will no doubt grow into something even bigger next year. For his effort Pilley will pocket $1250 US and travel south to Virginia. Stait will take his second place winnings and attempt to qualify for the upcoming tournament in Sweden.

PS: And as for the "football", New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers won through to the Superbowl.

17-Jan, Semi-Finals:
[4] Cameron Pilley (Aus) bt [1] Jonathan Kemp (Eng)  11/15, 17/15, 15/11, 15/6
[5] Alex Stait (Eng) bt [6] Jan Koukal (Cze)  15/13, 15/11, 15/10

Test of Willpower follows Upset
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary

Saturday's semi-final showdown at the Talisman Energy Banker's Hall Club Pro-Am featured what many called an upset followed by a test of willpower.

First up #1 seed Jonathon Kemp against #4 Cameron Pilley. No statistical advantage heading into this one as both players had only dropped a single game so far. These two have squared off before, last July to be exact, and Kemp rallied from a 2-1 deficit to take the match. Was revenge on the Aussies mind? You bet, and he even had a strategy.

Pilley said "I remember him having a decent backhand drop and heading in I wanted to keep the ball away and play more to his forehand."

Well if game #1 was any indication this might have been the wrong strategy as the Englishman was in total control early on. Kemp said "I had a good start to the match. I was feeling good, started off well and I felt I really dominated the opening game." Kemp took the first 15-11 however that would be the only game this match that he emerged as the victor. Pilley came out on fire in the second and quickly established an 11-6 advantage. Kemp rallied and at 15 all something special happened for Pilley. He found his length.

The Aussie evened the match, rode the momentum, and wrapped this one up in 61 minutes.

Post match he said "Well it was a battle in the first two games. Towards the end of the 2nd game and right thru the 3rd and 4th I was hitting good length consistently. Once that happened I started to control the T and also the rallies."

Kemp agreed and was gracious in defeat saying, "He played very well and was hitting the ball nicely. He deserved it." Pilley will be tough to beat in tomorrow's final.

Now to the mental battle.

Back to Back five game victories and a never say die attitude gave Czech Jan Koukal his rightful place among the final four. In round one the #6 seed won 17-15 over Canada's Ian Power and on Friday it was a comeback of mammoth proportion that saw him outlast Eric Galvez 15-14. His opponent the #5 seed Alex Stait has had no easy ride either. He also needed a five game comeback in his quarter-final to reach the semis. So who are you picking? Obviously the first game would prove to be key with two players who perhaps had very heavy legs.

Stait said, "I knew going in that the first game was crucial and I wanted to make it as tough on him as I could. It was a really hard game but I managed to sneak it 15-13." Stait never looked back after game #1 wrapping this up in three straight.

I asked him if he thought that Koukal finally ran out of steam and if that was the difference? He replied, "I think we both went on court tonight with no legs left. It was just a question of who was mentally stronger and thankfully I won in three."

Yes indeed, this 46 minute match is exactly what the doctor ordered and should provide Stait with some much needed R&R as he takes to the show court one more time.

17-Jan, Quarter-Finals:
[1] Jonathon Kemp (Eng) bt [7] Glenn Keenan (Aus) 15-6, 15-10, 15-7
[4] Cameron Pilley (Aus) bt John Rooney (Irl)  15-2, 13-15, 15-9, 15-10
[5] Alex Stait (Eng) bt [3] Lee Drew (Eng) 16-17, 9-15, 15-10, 15-11, 15-12
[6] Jan Koukal (Cze) bt [Q] Eric Galvez (Mex)  13-15, 12-15, 15-14, 15-8, 15-14

Calgary Comebacks
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary

Friday's quarter-final action at the Talisman Energy Banker's Hall Club Pro-Am can be summed up using one word...Comeback

The action began at noon local time and I was pleasantly surprised at how many people had "afternoon meetings" taking place outside the back wall of the show court.

First up was the Cameron Pilley/John Rooney showdown. Pilley, after breezing past Canuck Shawn De Lierre in Round 1, came out determined to make a statement and the young Aussie did exactly that. He took it to Ireland's John Rooney and won the opener by a 15-12 margin. Rooney, not to be deterred, responded and leveled the match. In my opinion game #3, when the match is tied 1-1, is the pivotal game. The guy who wins this one normally has the momentum and if in shape chances are will close things out in the fourth. That's exactly the case here. Pilley won the third and followed with the fourth to take this 80min encounter. Our first semi-finalist has been confirmed.

It's now almost 1:30 local time and the cell phones are being turned on, ringers set on vibrate mode as "the meetings" are taking longer than anticipated. An all English affair is next up as the #3 seed Lee Drew goes head to head with #5 Alex Stait. Game #1 was excellent. Nothing to chose between the two as it was point for point all the way to 16-16. Drew takes the 1st 17-16 and punctuates things by grabbing the second as well. So here you go. You're down two games to love against a higher ranked opponent. Oh well it's just not my day today could be thoughts easily flowing through the mind of Stait, I'll get him next time. Wrong. Cue the comeback. 15-10, 15-11, 15-12. Oh yes it's beautiful. Match to Mr. Stait after an epic 1hr 50min battle. This match will not be forgotten by either player for a long, long time.

After a nice buffet dinner it's time for the evening matches.

Match of the quarter-finals (taking place in front of a jammed and I mean jammed pack gallery) has the Mexican qualifier Eric Galvez looking to add the scalp of Jan Koukal to his collection. Galvez has really been impressive at this event and yesterday after dropping the first game roared back to take the next three ousting the #2 seed. This match was as close as you're likely to ever find and went the distance. Galvez starts off by taking the first two games by the smallest of margins and has match ball staring him in the face in game #3. I don't know if divine intervention came into play or what but the young Czech dug in and took the next three games 15-14, 15-8, 15-14. Those 14-14 set 1 calls are gutsy and so was the way that Koukal came back to win this 115 minute encounter. Talk about drama, this one had exactly that.

Last up, and a gentleman who hasn't been talked about much, was the #1 seed Jonathon Kemp. This guy has quietly been taking care of business. It's easy to overlook the favorite in the early rounds however I watched his first round match with great interest and to be honest he is the guy to beat at this event. He hits the green-dot altitude ball (no double yellow being played with here) with just a bit more pace, length and tightness when compared to the other players. Aussie Glenn Keenan found this out first hand. Kemp breezed into the semis showing fine form and it will be interesting to see if Pilley has anything left in the tank to combat this Englishman's all-around solid game.

Semi-final action begins at 3PM local time.

16-Jan, Round One:
Full House In Stampede City
Ryan Barnett reports from Calgary

It was standing room only as main draw action got underway Thursday at the Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Pro-Am in Canada's Stampede city, Calgary, Alberta.

Once again Tournament Director Bob Ballinger plus his plethora of volunteers have done a tremendous job organizing and as a result the event has grown year after year. Ballinger says, "The Bankers Hall Club has now hosted an International tournament for the third time in a row. I must say that Talisman Energy has been there from the beginning and without their support it would of been extremely difficult if not impossible to have made it happen. The tournament started as a PSA Challenger Event then evolved to Super Satellite status and now we're a One Star. Basically the prize money has increased each year and as a result so has the calibre of player that's coming from around the world. The tournament continues to get better and better."

I agree. If Thursday's first round action is any indication of what's to come then the local squash fans (myself included) are in for a real treat. These guys really leave it all on the court. The $10,000 US in prize money and available rankings points provide the obvious motivation.

This first night of action was not kind to the Canadian contingent. Ian Power, Matthew Giuffre and Shawn De Lierre all booked main draw slots but all were defeated by their higher ranked opponents.

Thursday afternnon saw Matthew Giuffre take to the court. Hindsight is 20-20 and as things turned out Giuffre was very fortunate to be playing in this event period, and perhaps shouldn't have bothered. You see, he was entered in the Dayton tourney and retired in Game #3 of his final qualifying round match due to injury. Obviously he was also entered here. Now that's a big NO NO by PSA rules as the two events overlap. By rights Giuffre should not have been allowed to play as he had double- booked so to speak. PSA Executive Director Gawain Briars was summoned to make a decision and decided to make an exception as he granted a "one-time only" Regardless whatever happened injury wise (speculation has it as a badly infected toe) in Dayton factored into this match as Giuffre was sent packing after 4 tough games by the #5 seed Alex Stait.

Now I was picking Shawn De Lierre as the dark horse based on our conversation Wednesday. De Lierre had done all the right things. He arrived in Calgary 4-days prior to his first round encounter, became acclimatized, got used to the courts and bought me a beverage. It's high altitude in this neck of the woods and many a player having a hit here for the first time will comment that it seems hard to catch your breath.

De Lierre was ready to go but Aussie Cameron Pilley was the better player on this day wrapping things up three straight. I was told De Lierre's shin problems refuse to go away which would explain a lot.

Ian Power (Jonathon's kid brother) had the match of the night session as he squared off against the young and extremely fit Czech Jan Koukal.

This one not only went the distance but went right down to the wire. In game #5 with Koukal up 14-12 Power managed to save two match balls and Koukal called set three. The players traded points to keep it level at 15 and then controversy. Two strokes followed against Power and Koukal escaped with a 17-15 victory. Post match Koukal commented,

"It's 14 all in the fifth and can go any way so I was far from being in control and I thought so was the referee. There were quite a few bad calls from both sides so in the end he was consistent but thankfully in a good way for me." Power took the defeat hard as he really played his heart out and thought he deserved a better fate.

He said "I'm obviously disappointed with the very end of the match as I don't feel like those were winning situations that he was awarded two strokes on to go from 15 all to 17-15. With all the consistent play I put out in the match to have it back-fire on me in the end was bad. I'm impressed that I was able to hang in there with such a fast and fit competitor." For what it's worth from my perch the first stroke call was questionable but the second was obvious.

The upset of the first round involved #2 seed Ben Garner. Appropriately nicknamed "The Radish" for his red hair and "Richie Cunningham" appearance Garner started off well taking the first game easily by a 15-6 margin. Qualifier, and one of Mexico's finest players, Eric Galvez refused to be rattled. After the first game kicking Galvez stepped it up a notch and in true work-man like fashion promptly won the next three to set-up what will be quite an intriguing match-up with the aforementioned Koukal.

All of the other matches went according to the seeding with one exception. Brazil's Rafael Alarcon was slotted to play Thursday afternoon and had made the same mistake as Giuffre having double-booked with the Dayton event. Anyways Alarcon called Ballinger to say that he wouldn't be playing in this match however he didn't give 24hrs notice for his withdrawal. Another PSA violation, one that no exception was granted for, thus Alarcon receives the goose egg for ranking points. Ballinger wasn't permitted by the PSA to change the draw and the old "Lucky Loser" factored into play with Nicholas Kyme of Bermuda being the beneficiary.

The old Irish eyes were smiling as John Rooney had little trouble and will take on Pilley in their quarter-final encounter.