Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

In their fathers' footsteps

Top names in squash are Hooker and Turk, just like 25 years ago

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HALIFAX -- Fans at the squash venue at the Canada Games can be excused if they think they've entered a time warp when looking at Team Manitoba's draw.

The names "Hooker" and "Turk" are the two top-ranked players on the male side, just as they were 25 years ago.

This year in Halifax, it's Jake Hooker and Connor Turk wearing the province's colours, following in the footsteps of their fathers, Michael Hooker and Gene Turk.

The two dads were regular combatants in the semifinals and finals of local tournaments in the 1980s, as well as teammates on the provincial team, and both admit to enjoying the continuation of both the rivalry and partnership.

"It's great to see the young boys have taken on the same game that we love," said Gene Turk, the long-time head pro at the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club. "And they happen to be our kids."

"It takes me back, absolutely," said Michael Hooker. "It reminds me of when I used to compete. It's a really good feeling. I'm watching him compete at the same level that I used to. It's wild."

The boys, for their part, are aware of the family rivalry primarily because fans at squash tournaments keep telling them about it.

"Connor and I have never really talked about it but there is a little bit of pressure to live up to the name," said Jake Hooker.

"It's kind of fun. Whenever Connor and I play in a final, we get a little bit of attention because of (our last names). A lot of the guys down at the Squash Club know my dad and played against him, so it gives the rivalry a bit of an edge."

"I don't really think about the rivalry when I'm playing Jake," said Connor Turk. "I'm just playing. But it's pretty cool how it all worked out like this."

While Gene Turk held the upper hand over Michael Hooker during their careers, it's becoming a different story with the boys. After always coming up short against Connor during their first few years on the court, Jake hasn't lost to his long-time rival in more than a year.

Team Manitoba's boys' squash team finished sixth at the Games, two spots ahead of where the girls' team placed.

The Turk-Hooker rivalry could continue for years to come, too, but on the doubles court. The Turks recently beat the Hookers in the club championships at WSRC.

The father-son connection can be found with the squash team's coach, Trevor Borland, too. He was No. 1 in the province for about a decade, starting in the late 1990s. A generation earlier, it was his dad, Rick, who was the gold standard.

Borland said it's very common for top players today in Manitoba and across the country to come from a squash family.

"It's our biggest feeder system, where we get most of our athletes," he said. "If you're a good player, the chances are good your parents played."

Borland said much of it has to do with the availability of facilities. There aren't public squash courts like there are for tennis so if your family is already going down to a club with courts, it's much easier to gain exposure to the sport.

"You never see squash on TV," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2011 A34

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