Landmark Tour Event History
A note before you read: Racquetball's older pro tour history is rife with politics.
This is meant to be more of a historical document, not a judgement on the
events that occurred during tour transitional phases. This Information is
gleaned from MANY sources (some impartial, others biased).
Also, for an overall history of racquetball year by year, see the USRA historical section at
Mar 2015: #5 (at the time) Ben Croft forced to undergo Shoulder Surgery to repair a SLAP Lesion in his racquet hand.
He misses the last few events of the season, costing him rankings points but not a top 8 protected ranking. He returns
for the first event of the 2015-16 season in Overland Park but has to retire in his first match back.
Nov 2014: veteran Chris Crowther retires from the tour. Crowther reportedly lost his sponsorship and made the
decision to no longer travel to tournaments. Crowther was active on the tour dating to 1996 and was a full time tour player dating to
2004. He retires with a 160-162 career IRT record, having made two finals, a handful of semi-finals, and twice finishing 5th for
a season (in 2010-11 and 2012-13).
10/5/12: Ruben Gonzalez plays his last pro tournament, being eliminated in the Round of 32 at the 2012 US Open. His career spans an amazing 30+ years on tour, with Ruben first appearing in a pro tournament in 1981. Amazingly, he was already 29 when he first started playing pro racquetball, an age at which some players have already retired. He retires at the age of 60.
1/13/12: Shane Vanderson's planned retirement at the end of the 2011-12 season is broken by the website 40by20.com. Vanderson will finish his career with a string of 9 straight top10 finishes on the tour, having peaked at #5 on three separate occasions. Shane never won a Tier 1 event but did make two finals during his second season on tour full time. Since he's routinely made the semis of tournaments but was never able to break through the top 2-3 players on tour. Vanderson was present at the first 2012-13 event though, sparking questions about whether or not he's really retired.
5/24/11: Jack Huczek abruptly announces his retirement from the pro tour, one week prior to the end-of-season Grand Slam Ektelon Nationals. Huczek retires as the sports most decorated player, with over 40 National titles at various age groups. Huczek had one pro tour title but spent the majority of his career in the top 2. He also made the finals of half the tournaments he ever entered.
3/11/11: Tour Legend Ruben Gonzalez signs a deal with Ektelon to return to the professional tour on a "farewell tour" with the goal of reaching the top 10 at the age of 60. He will play his final event at the 2012 US Open. This is probably a tall order, as a quick look at his match results from the past three years show that Gonzalez's main competition for a top 10 spot (the likes of the Herreras, Charlie Pratt, Moreno and Landa) will prove to be tough competition. Update May 2012: Ruben wasn't successful in his quest, finishing the year ranked #16 on the tour.
1/31/11: Regular touring pro Mitch Williams announces his retirement after failing to recover from a
left shoulder injury. Mitch was perennially ranked in the top 10 for the past 5 seasons but struggled
against the top competitors on tour. He had two of his biggest wins every this season (over Alvaro in
Kansas City and over Rocky in Cali) but he decided to rehab and recover. Perhaps we havn't seen the last
of Mitch on tour.
10/20/10: The US Open, in its 15th iteration as Racquetball's marquee event, moves out of Memphis and host
facility The Racquet Club for the first time. The 2010 event is in Minneapolis, with the Target Center
LA Fitness as the marquee/central club.
4/19/10: Kane Waselenchuk finishes the 2009-10 season undefeated, a first in the history of the pro racquetball tour. Kane won 9 of the 10 events on the season (he missed one event due to illness) and finished 34-0 for the year. More telling than his undefeated record was his "games" record, an astounding 102-3 for the season (in other words, he only dropped 3 games the entire year (two to Rocky in the finals of St. Louis and Sarasota's events and a third to Jack in the final of the opening Denver event). Not since Marty Hogan's epic runs during the late 70s has the tour seen this level of dominance.
4/18/10: Jason Mannino plays his final event as a full time tour player. Jason finishes his active playing career ranked 4th on the tour and having won the only tournament of the 2009-10 season NOT won by Kane. Jason was the year-end champion in 2003, Won two US Opens and one Pro Nationals title, had 22 career tour tournament victories and a career .700 winning percentage (placing him 10th in the history of pro players). His Longevity in the game is the stuff of legends, having competed well into his 30s and ranking only behind Swain and Ruben in career tour appearances. Mannino's legacy will be as perhaps the greatest retriever in the history of the game, as well as one of its best technicians (surviving and competing without the use of a power/drive serve game during the reigns of power players Cliff, Sudsy and Kane). He transitions to a new challenge in his racquetball career; taking over as the 8th commissioner of the IRT during a time where economic downturns have forced major sponsors out of the game and cancelled marquee events.
11/24/09: After taking over the tour and providing stability for 8 years of continued growth, Commissioner Dave Negrete (rather abruptly) steps down as commissioner of the tour. Tour Veteran Jason Mannino is immediately named his successor, and announces that he will retire from full-time competition to focus on tour Management.
4/23/09: After a 2 year suspension and a season's worth of qualifying and working his way back to the top, Kane Waselenchuk regains the #1 ranking on tour prior to the 2009 Allentown event. Kane is in the midst of perhaps the finest professional season ever, having only taken one loss during the season to date. Winning out in Allentown and Pro Nationals will also propel Kane to having the best career W/L percentage in database events. Additional results at this tournament (Huczek and Carson losses early) also guarantee Kane his 4th pro title. [ 5/11/09 Note: Kane did indeed win out the season and overtook Hogan for both the best season and highest career W/L). ]
9/18/08: IRT Qualifying hopefuls Anthony Herrera and Jansen Allen become the first competitors on the
new all-Lucite glass court erected at Skyline Park at the 16th Street Mall for the 2008 Motorola World
Championships (pictures coming online). Local news item is here.
Tournament also is the debut for multiple-junior olympic champion Jose Rojas at the age
of 17, who qualifies for the main draw with wins over tour veterans Fillipini, De Los Rios, and Odegard before losing to Beltran 8,5,(1),11 in the round of 16. Is he the next Jack Huczek?
5/8/08: the IRT signs a deal to feature live streaming online video of all IRT events on espn360.com. Press release is here. This deal also includes tape-delayed broadcasts on ESPN Classic of grand slam matches, starting with the 2008 Pro Nationals.
3/31/08: A new all-Lucite court, funded by 2 chicago Businessmen, is completed after 3 years of work and will be showcased at the IRT Pro Nationals. It has all four glass walls (with a "twin view film" on the front wall for the players to be able to see the ball) and can be setup in any venue with seating on all four sides. The press release is here.
Mid 2007: Dave Negrete Announces new sponsorship deals with both Motorola
and Verizon Wireless. Motorola will be the name sponsor of a third Major Championship
to kick off the 2007-8 season in Colorado Springs.
Mid 2007: the IRT enters into a broadcasting agreement with the Tennis Channel
to show matches from its major events. The Tennis Channel shows quarters, semis
and finals from the Mens 2006 US Open, semis and finals of the womens draw from
that same tournament, and continues to show productions done by Shawn Royster's
company Royster Productions.
Early 2007: the Classic Pro Racquetball tour
is launched by Steve Lerner, Mike Coulter and Hank Marcus (is Brian Pointelin involved?). The tour is designed to
showcase the players in the sandwich generation of 80s and 90s retired pros who played
between the Legends Tour players and today's active players and to take over for the failed
Legends tour. It features the likes of
Ruben Gonzalez, Bret Harnett, Cliff Swain, Woody Clouse, Gerry Price, Steve Lerner,
Mike Ray and canadian Mike Ceresia.
November, 2006: Cliff Swain announces his retirement from active touring
on the pro circuit to focus on his burgeoning restaurant/bar in Florida. This
caps off an amazing career that included 6 year end titles (most of any player)
and spanned from 1983 to 2006. Cliff was ranked #1 or #2 on tour continuously
from 1992 to 2003 and stayed in the top10 for close to 20 consecutive seasons.
July, 2006: Sudsy Monchik un-retires and joins the tour full time again, but
his comeback is plagued by injury and he stops playing the tour regularly at the
end of the 2006-7 season.
May, 2006: Kane Waselenchuk, 3-time defending champion, tests positive for
two banned substances after his win at the Canadian Nationals in may,2006. He is
banned for 2-years from all Canadian events, and as a side effect, all IRT and
USA Racquetball sponsored events. See this link for the official press release summarizing his suspension from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES).
August, 2004: Sudsy Monchik announces his retirement from the tour,
capping a career that included 5 #1 rankings in 6 years, but which was
derailed by injuries the last three seasons. He retires inarguably as one of the
top three players in history.
March, 2002: Legends Tour created, includes Hogan, Peck bros, Harnett
initial members. Ruben Gonzalez, Cliff Swain invited to join May, 2003. Brian Pointelin was
the commissioner for a while, but was ousted in yet another Marty Hogan power struggle, and
the tour ceased operations in the April 2006 timeframe.
October, 2001: Kane Waselenchuk becomes the first non-American to ever win
a Professional Racquetball Tournament.
March, 2001: Player revolt (led by Derek Robinson and including several of
the top 8 players), brief start of Racquetball World Tour (RWT),
overthrow of Hank Marcus, Dave Negrete installed as commissioner, IRT becomes
a 501(c)3 non-profit org. See this pdf of www.irt-tour.com's webpage from April 2001 for the "press release" announcing Marcus' outster and Negrete's appointment.
Aug 98: Executive Board of players created
Mar 96: Plans announced for premier US Open, a joing AARA/IRT venture to
Create a "Grand Slam" of Racquetball. Doug Ganim, head of Ohio racquetball and
former touring pro, selected to be the tournament director. Also the premier of
the "Portable Court," constructed by Randy Stafford. Promus Hotels signs on as
title sponsor. First US Open occurs Nov, 1996, with Sudsy Monchik beating Andy
Roberts in the final.
Jan 96: IRT joins forces with Womens Pro Tour, creating WIRT.
Sept 95: the USPRA web site (Glenn Carlson) comes online, holding info about
the Mens and Women's pro tours. (formerly http://metro.turnpike.net/C/cyberkid/uspra.html)
May 95: plans announced to put www.irt-tour.com online with tour rules, data.
Aug 94: IRT Satellite Tour is introduced, to bring touring pros to smaller
Jul 93: Rball returns to TV on ESPN for first time since Catalina tour
Oct 92: IRT begins relationship with Fibromlyalgia Research. IRT Also signs
on with Penn Racquetballs as the official tour Ball. Tour sponsored by Transcoastal.
Aug 92?: VW Credit, Inc (VCI) signs on for $100,000 to sponsor tour events.
Relationship created because VCI's Director of Marketing was Mike Ray's Father.
Jun 92: Hogan announces retirement, capping a pro career with wins spanning
1975 to 1992.
Oct 91: Marcus signs VW Credit Inc to underwrite a 3 tourney series to be
televised, TransCostal to sponsor 4 event "Grand Slam" of racquetball.
Aug 1991: Hogan voted off the IRT Executive Board, an indication that players
were rebelling against the control he continued to exert over tour despite
Aug 1991: tour renamed to International Racquetball Tour (IRT).
Aug 1991: Killshot magazine launched, devoted solely to Pro Racquetball coverage.
Aug 1989: season, Hank Marcus hired as Commissioner. (Marcus formerly the Oregon State president).
Apr 1989: Hogan revives Men's pro tour: forms Mens Professional
Racquetball Association (MPRA). Official 88-89 tour only has two events, with
Hogan being crowned winner.
Nov 1988: Hiser resigns under pressure from a coaliton of people, including
Hogan, Yellen, Charlie Drake (former founder of the Catalina tour) and John Delaney.
(CEO of VCI). Issue was over control of tour; Hogan led coalition wanted a return to invite-only
tour (ala Catalina). Entire tour cancelled; only 2 of orig 10 events occur.
Tour crumbles, no events held for months.
Aug 1988: Hiser forms new "World Professional Racquetball Tour." Name change
coincides w/ new TV contract and 10 guaranteed stops. Finals were played
USRA rules (2 games to 15, tiebreaker to 11, win by one) for TV length purposes.
Financial backing from NYC club owner Tom Cavallaro.
1985: Stoddard resigns from RMA Tour. Jim Hiser takes over.
1984: Racquetball Manufacturer's Association (RMA) forms a new tour,
with Drew Stoddard as first Commissioner.
Sept 83: Catalina tour ends, Pro events become open invite events again.
Players form "PRO" (Professional Racquetball Organization) to help organize
May 82: NRC declares bankrupcy, Pro tour folds due to internal Politics, kendler dies.
1982: Drew Stoddard, Jason Holloman start Int'l Racquetball Magazine
Sept 81: Kendler fires most of NRC staff in cost-cutting move.
Summer 1981: Drake forms Catalina Pro tour; it was a closed tour of 12 players, US only,
invite only. Strandemo and Hogan? championed a Players Union. Action forced Myers to
return to Canada to form the Canadian Professional Racquetball Organization (CPRO),
which ran til 1987. 1981-2 year featured three Major Championships.
With demise of NRC, points awarded in 7 catalina events, dp and ektelon nat's and
the Lone star classic.
1978; Hogan wins first year end title
1978: Hogan starts a run where he made 62 straight finals, winning 56 between 1978
and 1981. This includes both NRC "official" events and an number of local tournaments
that were not on the NRC calendar (but which usually included the full slate of top pros).
1974: NRC offers prize money, a real tour. IRA also holds pro events.
1973: First year with a Pro tour: National Racquetball Club (NRC) formed when Kendler
breaks away from IRA (resigns 4/73, forms NRC 6/73). Top 16 amateur players
selected to start the tour? IRA also holds pro events til 1976, nearly
1969-73: IRA Champ considered World Champ
1968: International Racquetball Association (IRA) founded by Robert Kendler.
IRA is (over the years) eventually renamed American Amateur Racquetball Association (AARA) and then
United States Racquetball Association (USRA).