The fourth-annual Character in Sports Day at the 2017 United States Open was highlighted by honoring Hall of Famer Mark Talbott with the Callahan Award.
The day included a new twist: the students from local programs SquashSmarts and Girls Inc. practiced on the courts at the Kline & Specter Squash Center at Drexel. A cohort of PSA players—Olivia Blatchford, Alan Clyne, Fares Dessouky and Ali Farag—joined thirty SquashSmarts boys at the practice, giving them a first-hand look at life on the professional tour.
Then a festive and emotional reception took place courtside in the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Kevin Klipstein, the president and CEO of US Squash, welcomed a large crowd. Throughout the 113-year history of US Squash, Klipstein said, the association has celebrated the core values of squash: courtesy, fair play, graciousness and an abiding sense of respect and fellowship with opponents. Because of the uniqueness of squash—unlike most other racquet sports, squash opponents physically share the same space—sportsmanship is a core value of the game.
He acknowledged the many former winners of sportsmanship awards in attendance, including Deb Harrison and Amy Milanek (Feron’s Wedgwood Sportsmanship Trophy); Julia Buckholz, Gilly Lane and Dent Wilkens (DeRoy Junior Sportsmanship Award); Ali Farag and Gilly Lane (Skillman Award); Catalina Paez (Richey Award); Princeton’s Sean Wilkinson, Hamilton’s Jamie King and Williams’ Zafi Levy (Sloane Award); and Princeton’s Gail Ramsay (Chaffee Award).
Kristen Callahan, Bob Callahan’s wife, spoke about how close they were with Mark Talbott. “I know Bob would say what I say: Mark is stellar.” Callahan. The Hall of Fame Princeton coach who died in 2015, was renowned for inculcating a profound sense of sportsmanship in his players; no coach in college squash history had more players win the Skillman Award than Callahan.
Ned Edwards, the Hall of Famer, then introduced his longtime colleague and friend. “Mark was the most successful player in U.S. history and the most beloved because of his sportsmanship. He set the bar so high, as the No. 1 hardball player. He showed that you could be the best person on court and still call double bounces, not look for lets, always clear.”
Accepting the 2017 Robert W. Callahan Men’s Sportsmanship Award, Talbott spoke about his longtime friendship with the Callahans. He said that his squash-playing father, Doug Talbott, had been a big proponent of sportsmanship. As a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, Talbott also said that this was his first time seeing the Open at Drexel and how impressed he was with the event.
Arguably the greatest American squash player in history, Talbott won more than two hundred and fifty squash tournaments during long singles and doubles career in the 1980s and 1990s. He won three National Singles titles and seventeen major singles titles. In 2000 he was in the inaugural class of inductees into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame.
He was renowned for his sportsmanship. He was a paragon of graciousness on the court. Twice in major tournaments he took points away from himself by calling a winner down, losing games as a result. In 1991 the men’s hardball tour awarded him the Sharif Khan Sportsmanship Award. From 1996 to 2004 Talbott coached the women’s team at Yale, leading the Eli to the national title in his final season there. Since 2004, he’s been the coach at Stanford. Both Yale and Stanford women he coached have been awarded the Richey Award for individual sportsmanship. and in 2013 he was given the Chaffee Award for team sportsmanship.