One of the truly remarkable ladies in racquetball, Sue Carow of Glenview, Illinois, passed away on May 25, 2001 at the age of 63. Sue was a pioneer in racquetball and an incurable gym-rat at the Lattof YMCA in Des Plaines. She taught lessons, played and practiced constantly, and truly loved the sport. She would play anywhere, anytime — just for the opportunity!
She won the ISRA State Singles Championships several times, in both Open and Age group competition and was an early participant (and feared competitor) on the Women’s Pro Tour (WPRA) in the late 70’s and early 80’s. (Yes, the math is correct, she was “over 40,” although we were not allowed to mention it at the time). She was a lady who played, partied, and lived life on her own terms — while raising a wonderful group of kids as a single Mom. She was inducted into the Illinois Racquetball Hall of Fame in April of 2000 — a well-deserved honor. Those of us who knew her, loved her, and miss her.
More to come.
Revie Sorey has been a mainstay in Illinois racquetball for over 25 years. Revie’s motivation has been unique. He loves racquetball, he loved hosting a party and he loved giving back to the community. His annual Celebrity Classic tournament attracted players from all over the Midwest, year after year. He personally ensured that everyone had a great time, and he donated the tournament proceeds each year to a worthwhile charity.
Lola Markus began playing racquetball at the Park Ridge YMCA in 1968. She reminisced, “Three of my girlfriends and I went onto the court with borrowed racquets in hand and just laughed at each other trying to hit the ball. Finally someone taught us the rules and we began to play more seriously.”Lola played on the YMCA women’s travel team in the ‘80’s and in many local tournaments as well. She was named 1992 ISRA Female Player of the Year accepting the award from then-ISRA President Tom Street. She earned the Al Wetherill Award for sportsmanship in Albuquerque in 2001.
To commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary, Lola and her husband Ray began funding a youth racquetball instruction program at the Lattof YMCA – the program is still going strong today.
Lola has competed in many of the WS/MRA (Women’s Senior/Masters Racquetball Association) Women’s tournaments held annually each January and has medaled in each and every one!
On July 23, 2004, Lola was inducted into the NMRA Hall of Fame at the Masters tournament in West Allis, Wisconsin. The following May, she received the 2005 Peggy Steding Award for Outstanding Age Group Achievement at National Singles in Houston.
”I feel so humbled by it all, and I am so lucky to be able to play this game that I love so much!”
2013 update: Although the number of players in her age group has no longer made it worthwhile for Lola to travel to national tournaments, she continues to play frequently at the Lattof YMCA and assists Art Michaely with his events.
John O’Donnell, Jr. (who retains the “Jr.” out of respect for his deceased father) is a Lifetime member of the NMRA and USA Racquetball; 2011 inductee into the National Masters Racquetball Association (NMRA) Hall of Fame, a Designated Club Pro (2010); an AmPro Certified Instructor (2010); Coach of the University of Illinois Racquetball Team; coordinator of leagues (singles and doubles) for the Division of Campus Recreation at the University of Illinois; andJohn, a retired Air Force Colonel and pilot, served one tour of duty in Korea and two tours in Vietnam. He defended his country for a total of 33 years, rising to the rank of colonel and flying for 24 of those years. John began playing racquetball during his second tour of duty in Vietnam, when he was based in Thailand. He was recognized the Fall 2010 issue of Racquetball magazine in the article entitled “Military Firepower on the Court.Tournaments became John’s passion beginning in the late ‘80s. Many, many medals paint the picture of John’s prowess in his racquetball career. John is the holder of seven US Open titles and four National Singles titles. On the state level, John has captured numerous ISRA State Singles titles from 1997 to the present. He was named ISRA Male Player of the Year in 1995 and 2011.
Possessing the energy of a person half his age, John represents racquetball with class, dignity and hard work on the local, collegiate and national levels.
Retired from his job as Director of Facilities at the U of I Division of Intercollegiate Athletics in 1994, John conducts numerous free clinics each year at the facility. He has run two tournaments sponsored by the NMRA and currently serves as a member of the Ektelon Collegiate Advisory Staff. John is the ISRA Board of Directors South Zone VP and serves as its Rules and Referee Commissioner.
John and his wife Arlene live in Champaign/Urbana, IL.
The induction ceremony was conducted on the Glass Court itself with a huge crowd of friends and family turning out to remember Diane DeArmas and to witness her posthumous induction into the ISRA Hall of Fame.Diane’s husband Joe DeArmas graciously received Diane’s Hall of Fame award on behalf the entire DeArmas and Jaskier families. Barb Vagedes spent a few minutes talking about Diane, remembering what a generous and loving person she was. Geoff Peters; Diane’s daughter Carrie Jaskier Spaeth; and Joe also gave moving tributes to Diane, speaking of her love of racquetball and her many contributions to the sport.
TJ Ferro wore many hats in Racquetball (all of them backwards)! To remember TJ is to remember how much he impacted racquetball through his dedication to many activities within the sport.
Player – TJ was an accomplished tournament player who held numerous State, Regional and NMRA titles.
ISRA – TJ was a member of the ISRA Board of Directors for 17 years and was committed to the sport of racquetball through furthering the aims of the ISRA. He regularly attended Board Meetings and contributed input on a wide range of topics affecting Illinois racquetball. He ensured that his employers supported our tournaments with sponsorships and significant donations of food for multiple tournaments (even beyond the State events) over at least a dozen years.
NMRA – TJ served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Masters Racquetball Association and supported their tournaments on the local organizing committees.
Ektelon –TJ had Ektelon logo tattoos on both legs! He worked for Ektelon doing demos and clinics to introduce a great number of players to the sport. It is estimated that he conducted over 250 clinics (excluding all of his JTI work) to grow the sport of racquetball. In addition, he served as a product tester and ambassador for Ektelon over the years.
JTI – TJ was the founder and visionary behind the initial creation of Junior Team Illinois (JTI) in 1996. The Team has over 100 alumni, ranging from regular weekend players to Pro Tour players Andy Hawthorne, Ben Croft and Krystal Csuk. The junior team has been an integral part of what the ISRA has become to racquetball in Illinois. The clinics and weekly coaching that TJ contributed were instrumental in making it successful. He also pioneered the concept of having kids teach kids – where the more accomplished juniors became junior coaches and supported the development of the next generation.
TJ lost his battle with lung cancer on December 20, 2009. He passed peacefully with his family, partner Marty, and beloved dog Shadow at his side.
Summerfest match play halted temporarily at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, July 24, 2010, and everyone gathered in the Glass Court lounge to celebrate Cheryl Gudinas, the newest inductee into the ISRA Hall of Fame. ISRA President Laurel Davis conducted the induction ceremony, citing Gudinas’ impressive playing record over the years that has helped put Illinois on racquetball’s national map. Cheryl’s eight National Singles wins in Women’s Open/Team Qualifying (the most recent was 2010 in Houston) ties Michelle Gould’s record. She was World Champion in 2000, 2002, and 2004; US Open champion in 2002 and 2004; and National Doubles champion in 1995 and 1996 (with Michelle Gould) and 2001 (with Kim Russell).Cheryl’s gracious acceptance speech at her induction named many in Illinois who have coached and trained with her during her career. Her mom and dad, Pat and Bill, were on hand to witness the induction as were many who have watched and enjoyed seeing Cheryl achieve racquetball greatness over the years.
After the ISRA Annual Awards were presented on the evening of April 2nd, the standing room only crowd of family and friends turned their attention to the Hall of Fame induction of Dave Negrete. Laurel Davis presided over the ceremony, and several racquetball colleagues and friends came forward to deliver celebratory remarks citing Dave’s contributions to racquetball over the years, including Diane Bunker, Chris Evon, Cheryl Kirk, Geoff Peters and Dan Bertolucci.Along with Dave’s impressive competitive accomplishments, his life-long service to racquetball and its players spans local, state and national levels. Dave has been a player, instructor, club manager, club owner, tournament director, USA Racquetball Board member and Commissioner of the IRT. He helped gain support for creation of the new all-Lucite court and brought to reality his vision for bringing the Pro Nationals to Schaumburg, and to Navy Pier, and also to an outdoor venue in Denver. Dave was a recipient of the coveted Joe Sobek Contributor Award in 2009 at National Singles.
Many racquetball players and alumni were on hand to witness Marshall, Waldo’s induction into the ISRA Hall of Fame, including some members of the “Fruit Juices” (a group of players who competed with Marshall on the north side of Chicago on Saturday mornings for over 30 years) including but not limited to Gay Kenna, Jim Cartwright, Jerry Paris, David Blitstein, Cindy Flores-Mocarski, Gary Peckler, Joan Hohs, Barbara (Edelstein) Burnes, and Ed Burnes.Marshall has been one of Illinois’ premier senior players for many years. He made it to the finals 13 years in a row in the Senior/Age Divisions, winning 18 titles, and additionally holds six Regional titles.Marshall started playing racquetball in the mid ‘70s at Four Flaggs Courthouse in Niles. At that time he became a mentor to future pro player Jack Newman. Marshall was known for his outstanding sportsmanship and was the first recipient of the ISRA Player of the Year Award in 1979. He is renowned for his fierce competitiveness and extraordinary skills as a racquetball player. Also an avid 16” softball player, Marshall was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame.
Chris Evon is a remarkable individual and an extremely talented racquetball player. She is known for her great sportsmanship, skill and modesty in the State of Illinois as well as throughout her career competing in Pro level and National championships.Chris won the Ektelon Player of the Year Award in 1988, the Illinois Female Player of the Year Award in 1989, the WPRA Steding Cup Award, which is awarded to the person who contributed the most on and off the court) in 1988 and 1989, the WPRA Sportsmanship Award, and the USAR John Halverson Fair Play Award. She was a WPRA board member and served as President from 1987 through 1990.
Some of her career highlights are as follows: Illinois State Singles Champion 1983, ’84, ’85, ’87, ’89, ’90, 2011; Illinois Regional Singles Champion 1984, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, 2008, ‘09; AARA Nationals Singles Champion 25+ Age Division 1987; Silver Medalist, Olympic Festival Team Competition 1989; National Singles Open Consolation 40+ 1998, 1999; National Singles Open Consolation 45+ 2003; National Singles Open Consolation 50+ 2008. She won National titles in Women’s Doubles in 1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2001, ‘03, ‘09, ‘10; and Mixed Doubles in 1992, ‘94, ‘95, ‘01, ‘08, ‘09 and ‘10.
Chris has been a constant promoter of women’s racquetball throughout her career. She continues to compete at an amateur level both locally and nationally.
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Art Shay was instrumental in promoting racquetball through his photography, having come up with the idea of cutting a hole in the front wall of a racquetball court to take photos of the players from that unique angle. He was the only photographer able to depict racquetball in its purest photographic form by capturing beads of sweat dripping off a competitor, the muscle striations of a player’s legs, the joy on the face of many in victory. Art’s photo of Jerry Hilecher flying through the air hitting a forehand winner is considered the greatest racquetball photo ever taken. He has written and had published eight books about racquetball. He “ghost wrote” the first book on women’s racquetball with Jeanie Sauser back in the ‘70s.Art started playing one-wall handball at James Monroe High School in the Bronx, New York. From there he went on to play four-wall handball through the mid ‘60s, when he transitioned to racquetball, enjoying the faster pace and excitement of the sport. Art was adept at playing racquetball as well. He won the 1979 Illinois Masters Division, beating Bob Troyer, and won the 1982 Golden Masters Division as well. At some point in the 1970s he beat pro player Steve “Bo” Keeley, but only (as reported) after Steve had stuffed himself with three bagels at breakfast.Art was the founding father of the “Fruit Juices” 30 years ago, a group who gathered to play on Sunday mornings. Art was inducted into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame in May 2012.
The saying goes that behind every successful man is a great woman, and it holds very true that with the Triple S, Gay Kenna was the one who organized the tournaments, preparing the draw sheets and taking entries. She said her first tournament was one of Art Michaely’s, one of the State events and held at the Buehler YMCA. It was there that she was “hooked” into being an avid racquetball supporter attending and running so many events.Gay was the Louis Zahn Award winner in 1981 (now the Distinguished Service Award) and was the first woman to receive the award. She was also the ISRA Treasurer and Secretary for 5-7 years back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.Gay was the “worker bee” who handled the tournament entries, typed up the articles for the Racquetball Today newspaper, sat and ran the tournament desk and followed up on the myriad of details necessary to run tournaments that frequently had 200-300 competitors including a Men’s C division with a 64 draw. In addition, she was a regular participant herself and played at the Women’s A level in dozens of events.
Art was involved with the Chicago Racquetball League (CRL), later re-named the Metropolitan Chicago-land Racquetball League, since its inception in 1972. In the organization’s first three years, it grew to 16 teams, and then in 1976 it blossomed to 32 teams spanning from Waukegan in the north to Tinley Park in the south.In 1976, the commercial clubs formed their own league, but in 1979 the Chicago-land Handball/Racquetball Association, made up of all of the Chicago area club owners, asked Art to take over the entire league again. Under Art’s direction, the league grew to its largest number of teams at 120.Art did this as a sideline to his regular job as Director of the Leaning Tower YMCA. In Art’s words, ” I did the league because of a commitment to racquetball. I love the sport, and I love the people in it, so even though my real job was running an efficient Y, I found the time for the league.”
From the start, a number of racquetball manufacturers supported the league by providing balls, shorts, shirts, or gym bags…among them were Seamco, AMF-Voit, Wilson, Ektelon, Leach, and Vittert. When the league was at its maximum of 120 teams, Wilson donated 360 dozen balls to the league. The league had generated enough prestige and recognition that sponsoring firms received wide exposure from their involvement. This was also due to Art’s relentless skills in negotiating a favorable relationship with the leagues and sponsors.
Art runs a challenge court every Monday night at the Lattof YMCA. He also runs two tournaments a year with a doubles event in February followed by a singles event in March. Art’s philosophy is “give back to the players as much as possible,” so he endeavors to keep entry fees low to encourage participation. There is plenty of hospitality as many of the women bring in dishes on their own, plus everyone gets a tournament souvenir.
Over the years, Art has been directly responsible for introducing thousands of players to our sport, and he continues those activities today.
Art Michaely won the Louis Zahn Award (now the Distinguished Service Award) in 1980.
Tom, Al and Phil are considered to be the founders of the Illinois State Racquetball Association. They were business partners in an insurance agency and created a company called Triple S Promotions to give structure to their efforts to develop and promote the fledgling sport of racquetball. They were all avid players, “possessing two backhands amongst the three of them,” and you would find them running and playing in
every event held in Illinois during the 1970’s and most of the ‘80’s. Some of their accomplishments include:
- Set the formal structure of the ISRA, including developing the Constitution and Bylaws of the Association
- Commissioned the ISRA logo – in use to this day
- Brought the ISRA Traveling League into the association – prior to that time it was an independent organization
- Wrote and published ‘Racquetball Today,’ a racquetball newsletter
- Developed major sponsorship programs with manufacturers and beer companies that allowed them to profitably run tournaments of up to 1,000 players
- Wrote the rules for playing racquetball without a referee
- Started the ISRA Newsletter
- Brought pro tournaments to Chicago – all the top name players in Chicago in the ‘80’s
- Set up the Referee Certification Program upon which the AARA modeled its program
- Served as a role model and mentor for neighboring States such as Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana
As a State organization, we simply would not be here if these folks had not had the passion to develop the rules and the infrastructure to make racquetball a competitive sport in Illinois. Their promotion of racquetball was a major part of the ‘80’s boom of the sport.
Tom Street won the Louis Zahn Award (now the Distinguished Service Award) in 1978.
Al Shetzer won the Louis Zahn Award (now the Distinguished Service Award) in 1984.
Herb Grigg traveled from state to state in the ‘70s through the ‘90s playing racquetball in the Men’s Open and Age divisions and won many, many tournaments nationally, regionally, and in Illinois. He faced many competitive partners like Marshall Waldo and Bruce Nelson at state and national tournaments. Herb would travel from Rockford where he lived to the Chicagoland area to play in pretty much every tournament there was on the calendar. Although some of the older records are hard to find, we were able to uncover some of Herb’s accomplishments over the years: winning the ISRA State Singles Men’s 35+ Advanced divisions in 1986, 1989 and 1990, winning the Men’s 40+ in 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1995, and many more, including one National 45+ title in 1991, all contributing to his well-deserved induction into the ISRA Hall of Fame.
Bill Lyman’s contribution to racquetball can be summed up in one sentence – he has won 38 titles through his play at State, Regional and National tournaments from the years 1980 through 2014, and he continues to play regularly. Also, Bill in his past has been a Junior Travel League coach, USRA Most improved Player, US Olympic Festival North Team Staff member, Illinois Junior National Team Coach, four-time team member of the Chicagoland Travel League Championships, four-time ISRA Player of the Year, an ISRA Governing Board member for 15 years, co-tournament director of many state doubles and singles tournaments as well as many club tournaments, and the Club Racquetball Pro at Oak Park YMCA, Naperville Courts, Wheaton Sports Club, Oak Park Athletic Club, Lifetime Fitness, and Oak Park Tennis & Fitness.
Jean Sauser was a leading force in Chicago racquetball. She was a professional, ranked in the top eight from 1975-1979. She won the AMF Voit/Datsun Racquetball Classic in 1978 and was a semi-finalist in six major professional tournaments between 1975 and 1979. Jean also was a racquetball teacher and editor. She has written many books on the sport, such as “Inside Racquetball for Women” and “Racquetball Strategy.” R.W. Kendler, President of the United States Racquetball Association, called “Inside Racquetball for Women” the most effective method of teaching racquetball he had ever seen. Jean also wrote and produced an instructional video entitled, “How to Play Your Best Racquetball” with Communications Concepts. She has been interviewed in hundreds of publications in the past such as the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Sports Illustrated, and Glamour. Jean was part owner of the East Side Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon, and then went on to become the promotions director for Charlie Clubs in Joliet, Illinois.
All of our racquetball community here in Illinois is familiar with Nancy Kronenfeld and her contributions to the sport of racquetball. Nancy has been in the past, and continues to be, a fierce competitor in the Open division at many tournaments, winning seven Gold medals in Women’s Doubles, four Gold medals in Mixed Doubles, 2 Silver medals in Women’s Doubles, and one Silver medal in Mixed Doubles at USA Racquetball National Doubles Tournaments. She has won numerous other medals, including one Gold in Open and third place in Open in the largest State Singles tournament (over 30 women in the Open division), and she was won several gold medals in age group divisions from age 35 on up to 60, all at the ISRA State Singles Championships. Nancy considers her biggest accomplishment in racquetball to have been a part of forming the Women’s Senior/Master Racquetball Association. She was on the initial Board and just recently resigned her position after 23 years. Nancy is also a recent winner of the ISRA Female Player of the Year Award.
Denny McDowell’s contributions to the sport of racquetball are many, but a notable one is that he was the manager and a teaching pro at a club in Bloomington for seven years. He coordinated and managed leagues, clinics, and in-house tournaments as well as ran several city tournaments and some central Illinois regional events during that time. Denny competed and won many times from 1976 to 1988 in ISRA State Singles and Doubles tournaments, featuring three consecutive ISRA Open Singles championships beginning in 1981. He also won the 1981 ISRA Men’s Open Doubles with partner Dave Negrete and won once in the Men’s Open 30+ Doubles with partner Chris Rockhold. Other playing highlights include competing on the NRC professional tour for several years with a high point of a quarter-final finish at the St Louis Pro-Am stop in 1978, 1st place in the 1977 NRC Detroit Motor City Pro-Am Open division and 1980 NRC Atlanta Pro-Am Open division, and 1st place in the 1978 USRA Midwest Regional Championship.
At the age of 13, John Negrete picked up a racquet and started playing racquetball. Early on, he attended a junior racquetball camp put on by his brother Dave at the Schaumburg Court House. After that experience, John says he was hooked and continued to play and practice, being able to watch and learn from some of the best racquetball players in the Illinois area, as well as being able to watch the pros compete. He considers himself largely a self-taught player, having spent countless hours on the court drilling and playing. John loved the game so much that he began teaching it at the age of 15 to other juniors and adults, and he continued teaching for 15 years. One of his students was Juan Martinez when Juan was just 8 years old. He worked at the Woodfield Racquet Club in Schaumburg in the 1990’s and eventually became part owner of what became the Woodfield Athletic Club. John promoted racquetball by running tournaments, teaching clinics, giving private lessons, and running travel teams and leagues. He played on the IRT Professional Tour from 1985 to 1997, qualifying in five events. After attending college, John relocated to Orlando, Florida, and to this day he continues to compete in the sport.
Bob is a retired Professor of mathematics at Lake Forest College, and began playing racquetball in 1969-70 transferring his handball skills to the game of racquetball after moving to Chicago from Chapel Hill, NC. Bob is one of the most accomplished Masters players to ever hit the courts here in Illinois. In a career spanning 12 years from 1973-1984, Bob had over 20 titles in State, Regional and National Masters tournaments. This was a combination of singles and doubles tournaments with partners Ed Lammersfeld and Al Hanke in doubles. He also had ten 2nd place finishes in the same time period in Masters play.
(photo by Juan Martinez)
Jack began playing racquetball in 1977 at the age of 13. His mother taught him how to play at Morton Grove Park District. He quickly progressed to playing with his father, Mike, at Four Flaggs in Niles and then was mentored and sparred with ISRA HOF member, Marshall Waldo. In 1981 Jack received a full scholarship to Memphis State University in racquetball. In 1982, per Woody Clouse, Jack was the National Juniors Champion, National Intercollegiate Champion and the AARA National Champion, being the only player to ever hold all three titles in one year. 1982 – Member of the 1st USA National Racquetball Team. In 1983 – Began his 13 year Pro Career.
(photo by Juan Martinez)
Dave picked up his first racquet as a 13-year-old in 1970 at the North Suburban YMCA in Northbrook, Illinois. When he hit 30 years old in 1987, he began a long, often-dominating run in age bracket draws (30, 35, 40, 45, 50) during the era when those draws were large and full of outstanding seasoned players.
Up to his 2016 HOF induction, with 46 consecutive years (a rare achievement) playing competitive tournament racquetball in Illinois as well as regional and national events, Dave accumulated 130 titles, including 16 Illinois State singles, 15 Illinois State Men’s & Mixed Doubles, 11 Midwest Regionals, 10 Midwest Senior/Masters, 2 World Singles, 1 World Doubles, 2 Illinois Player of The Year awards, and dozens of age bracket division titles playing the yearly cycle of Illinois racquetball tournaments.
Dave’s credits his biggest fan, his wife Shelly, with challenging him to play tournaments “inspired.” Known as a gracious match winner or loser, Dave was never one to berate referees or opponents. His decades-long motivation to practice exceptionally hard was influenced by the strength and depth of the field of competition. He never took any opponents for granted.
Dave taught and promoted racquetball from the early 80’s up to and forward of his 2016 ISRA Hall of Fame induction. Players from across the country know him as a long-time Illinois state player and racquetball ambassador. Over several decades, Dave has participated as a sponsor of many ISRA events and serves as an ISRA Auxiliary Board member.
(photo by Juan Martinez)
More to come.
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