It’s March, so it must be time for the Northwest Open in Bellingham. This was a special one, as it was the 40th Annual Northwest Open. Directors Wanda Collins and Brian Porter went all out to make this a very special event for the participants from the moment they checked in. The festivities began for entrants at the first desk. Waiting for them was a bag-o-swag. In the reusable gift bag donated by Haggen grocery stores was a bevvy of goodies: chocolate bar, coffee mug, sweat towel, icy/hot pack, pen and pad, bag of pretzels, two bottles of water and a bottle of Gatorade, first aid supplies and more. Was that it? Nope! Saturday from 11:00 to 7:30 was a silent auction that featured over 100 items donated by members, friends and family, and other generous donors. Saturday evening there was a fresh salmon dinner prepared by Rod Rhoades, Mike Collins, sponsor Don Cummins, and Wanda’s amazing support staff. The auction, an annual fundraiser for our junior members of the Washington Junior Racquetball Association, raised over $2,200.00. Proceeds go to help juniors in their entries into various tournaments as well as with travel expenses to regional, national and international events.

Oh, and there was racquetball. The tournament drew over 140 participants from Washington, Oregon, Alaska, British Columbia and as far away as Hawaii and New York. Play began Thursday evening with a handful of matches, with the matches hitting full stride at Bellingham Athletic Club on Friday. Saturday’s matches were played at BAC and the Ferndale YMCA (thanks to Jessie Scott for an amazing job keeping things going out at the satellite site). Sunday’s matches did not disappoint the large crowds on hand.

In the Open Singles, Taylor Knoth defeated Jimmy Lowe in the Men’s final. Taylor’s victory was a payback from Jimmy and Jeff Stark defeating Taylor and Dan Cramer in the Men’s Open Doubles final earlier in the day. Knoth has been traveling to quite a few IRT stops, and his improvement shows! The Women’s Open Singles final was an incredible match between Cheyenne Hayes and Grace Hughes. There were some incredible rallies with both women covering the entire court to get some great shots. The games were much closer the 15-4, 15-6 score would indicate.

Men’s Elite Singles was won by Matt Porter, and Women’s Elite Singles by Cathy Epperson. The Men’s A final (yes “men’s”), featured two up and coming juniors, Jake Birnel of Bellingham and Connor Culhane of British Columbia. The two juniors tore through their matches to reach the final, only having played 2 tiebreakers between them. The final was a fierce battle, with Birnel winning 15-7, 9-15 and 11-9. Possibly the match of the day. Jasper Jackson ventured down from Anchorage, AK to take home the top prize in Men’s B, beating Ryan Elmore in the tiebreaker final.

Women’s A Singles round-robin was won by Cathy Epperson, with the deciding game actually being played Friday in her match with Pat Lew. Lew finished second due to that early tournament loss. Epperson came out a double winner in both Elites and Women’s A. This could be her swan song in A’s, as she moves up the competitive ladder. The Women’s B Singles title was won by junior Hollie Scott. Hollie’s improvement is very noticeable – watch out, ladies! Way to go! Jennifer Coate, runner-up in Women’s B was the winner in Women’s C/D Singles. No more C division for her.

In the men’s age divisions, Vince Kitely won Mens 30+ O/E, Mark Peterson won Men’s 40+ A/B, and Mike Meadows won Men’s 50+ A/B. Unfortunately there were no women’s age divisions this weekend.

Switching gears to doubles. On the Women’s side, Wanda Collins and Vicki Panzeri teamed up to win the Women’s Open Doubles round robin. Women’s B/C was a battle. Three teams went into the final matches with 2 wins. Leslie Underhill and Lisa Jamsran came out of the tiebreaker with the top prize. Mixed Open doubles was won by host Wanda Collins and her partner Vince Kitely, who did not drop a game. Mixed Elite/A was won by Dea Marshall and John Coate with a tiebreaker victory over Joann Johnson and Gary Olson.

Men’s Open Doubles went to the team of Lowe and Stark. Local father-and-son team Don and Jake Birnel took home the Elite Doubles final in two games. The Men’s A doubles came down to one of the last matches of the tournament, with Andy Andrewson and Michael Finley coming out on top in the round robin. The duo of Ryan Elmore and Michael Craig walked away with the Men’s B title. Men’s C was a round robin but it the title boiled down to a head-to-head match late on Sunday, with Richard O’Keefe and Mark Rattenbury defeating locals Jairo Batres and Adrian Burns. Nice to see the Men’s C players come out to play some doubles!

The very last match of the tournament was also one of the hardest fought. Lisa Jamsran narrowly defeated Ann Wolf 11-10 in the tie-breaker. They didn’t get off the court until 6:45 Sunday evening.

Special thanks go out to Wanda Collins, Brian Porter, Olivia Nichols and Lori Turley (and their support team) who ran a fun and on-time event for this 40th Annual Northwest Open. Wanda announced plans that this was her last round as director/coordinator after 35 years. Thanks for the memories, Wanda. The crew taking over next year has a high hurdle to reach. Thanks to major sponsors Elite Electrical, Waddell & Reed Financial Services, and Walton Beverage. Thank you Bellingham Athletic Club for the facilities.

See everyone at Washington State Adult and Junior Singles Championships, April 8-10 at the PRO Sports Club in Bellevue. Sign up now online at

1 Comment

cathy epperson · March 30, 2011 at 8:57 pm

thanks for the thorough and detailed update of the tournament. love….love hearing about all the details! thanks!!!

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