PONTEFRACT’S status in the squash world and its contribution to it has never been greater and the last few weeks have provided ample evidence of that.
Most significant has been the appointment of James Willstrop (pictured) to the presidency of the PSA, which is the professional players’ association.
Elected by the players,Willstrop adds to an already impressive Pontefract presence on the board. Lee Beachill is the chief operating officer, Richard Bramall is the legal advisor and Claudia Schurmann, newly arrived at Pontefract from New York, is PA to Alex Gough, the chief executive.
Willstrop’s role on the board is to represent the views of the players but it will not affect his playing career.
Pontefract’s Katie Smith has been selected by England for the European under 19 championships in Switzerland next month when Kirsty McPhee will be assistant coach to the England team.
Smith recently reached the final of the England under 19 championships where she lost to the world class Emily Whitlock.
She adds to Jack Cooper’s selection at England under 15 level.
Yorkshire won inter county championships at under 19 boys and girls and under 15 boys. Smith was in the under 19 girls team and Cooper in the under 15 boys team.
In the under 19 boys, all five players - James Earles, George Wileman, Tamindar Gata-Aura, Alex Hodgetts and Sam Burton - are coached at Pontefract.
Earles,Wileman and Gata-Aura are in the Yorkshire League Premier side and Burton, although from York, is a regular at the club.
In the final, Yorkshire beat favourites Gloucestershire 3-2, Gata-Aura, Hodgetts and Wileman providing the wins.
Remarkably Wileman was 2-0 and 10-8 match ball down before recovering for a win that had seemed most unlikely.
Pontefract Courtcraft, the club’s National League team, won its fourth consecutive match, beating Nottingham 4-1 but the successful run came too late to clinch a place in the play-offs after a tardy start to the season because of the unavailability of key players.
Vanessa Atkinson and Neil Cordell played well to give Pontefract a 2-0 lead and Simon Parke, who has performed consistently to a high level, beat Lewis Walters with surprising ease.
Willstrop made it 4-1 but did it the hard way, having been 10-5 down in the fifth to Eddy Charlton before staging a dramatic recovery to win 13-11.
Willstrop goes to London this week for the Canary Wharf Classic at the Wintergarden, a tournament in which he has an outstanding record.
He won the inaugural event, has won it twice since and last year played one of the greatesty matches of all time in the semi final, losing to Nick Matthew when cramp over took him at 12-11 in the fifth after two hours, seven minutes.
He is seeded to meet Matthew in the final this week but Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, recovered from injury, new British champion Daryl Selby and world number eight Peter Barker will provide strong oppositon.