The Veterans Squash Rackets Club of Great Britain

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A Tribute to Lance Kinder... and an Obituary

It was with great sadness that The Veterans Squash Club of Great Britain learnt that their Vice President, the amazing Lance Kinder, died suddenly on 14th December 2023. Lance had always been one of the greatest supporters of the Club since he joined 40 years ago in 1983. His squash record is immense, playing singles in every age group from Over 45 to Over 80, and the same for doubles with his longtime partner, John Woodliffe. Lance will be sorely missed at all the Club events, even since retiring from actually playing squash only a year ago, he and Jacqui still supported the GB Vets – watching squash matches at various clubs and tournaments, the GB Vets Finals at Colet’s, in November the Festival of Squash at RAC Woodcote Park, and the night before at the 60th Celebration dinner and dance at Colet’s. No match or tournament will be the same without his encouragement, his wonderful smile and his great interest in the sport and the players. He was everyone’s favourite – young, old, women, and men – he will be sorely missed by his family, his friends, and the squash fraternity.
Lance was an absolutely lovely man and superb squash player, competitive and fair, a great exponent of the Vets Club. He was always the perfect gentleman, a most wonderful family man, very genuine, loved by all, and fantastic company. One of the greats.

The following was written very recently by Aubrey Waddy for the next Newsletter……

I had a lovely chat with Lance Kinder about his squash life not long after the GB Vets party at Colets in November. This was the first part of the process of posing five questions to him for an article for the newsletter. I wish for this absolutely iconic member of the club we’d started the process sooner. Lance passed away before I had a chance to send him the actual questions. It’s such a regret.

Lance’s diminutive stature and soft voice give little hint of his prowess as a squash player. Actually, ‘prowess’ isn’t a word you would necessarily associate with Lance, but a look at his squash record makes you realise how appropriate the word really is. The details of his career are astonishing, and are best summarised, rather than spread out over several pages. For a list of his many trophies, see his entry in Wikipedia.

Among Lance’s more than thirty significant singles titles, which include his early county championships in Avon, his well over twenty doubles titles, and 72 England Masters caps, lies the jewel in his squash crown, a World Masters title, in Charlottesville VA in 2018. I saw Lance’s victory in Charlottesville. In the final he beat the outstanding American Ed Burlingame: 5-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-2. You don’t need to be an acute observer of squash to work out that Lance was too fit and too strong. He claimed he owed his squash longevity to a lifetime regime of training and playing at least three times a week, including running and court sprints, and working with weights. As he said, “You get back what you put in.” He certainly did in Charlottesville.

To appreciate how much Lance put physically into his game, you have to look at what he achieved rather than at his flyweight figure (in the RAF he was indeed a boxing champion at flyweight, eight stone). And you wouldn’t necessarily guess, say talking with Lance in a squash gallery, how strongly he possessed that other essential component of winning, a fiercely competitive nature. It was certainly there. He actually said when I asked him about the spirit of the game, “It hurts if I lose.”

Lance’s other remark about his squash, which is so appropriate to our club, and completely unsurprising to those of us who knew him, was, “The advice I’d give to anyone playing squash, is to enjoy it.”

You can find Lance in one of the BBC’s sports promotion videos, ‘Get Inspired: 80 years old and still playing squash.’ He was nearer 40 than 30 when he took the game up. As well as the flyweight boxing, he had played cricket, as a batsman and leg spinner, and football at school and in the RAF. But he “eased off sport” after meeting and marrying his long-time partner and dedicated supporter, and lovely wife, Jacqui. Easing off. I should have asked him what he would have done if he’d taken squash seriously! He started playing simply for the exercise, afraid of putting on weight as his career in the clothing industry advanced and cricket was occupying too much time. He ended up as Managing Director of his clothing company. Eventually though he joined a squash friend in the motor business to avoid the extensive travelling of his job. This gave him more time for his sons Neil and Darren as they grew up.

Not long after he started his squash career Lance became Avon champion, and it was in a match against Gloucestershire that he met his long-time friend and doubles partner, and fellow GB Vets member, John Woodliffe. One of the questions I wish I’d put to Lance was to ask about the secret of his success with John. Their names in tandem adorn the bases of all the GB Vets doubles trophies, and they played each other many times in the singles championships. On some finals weekends the pair of them seemed to be continuously on court, in the relevant singles and often in more than one of the doubles age groups.

Lance won the o-55 British Open title in 1992. This stat might be lost in the middle of his many tournament victories, but it stands out because remarkably, his first round victim was none other than the great Hashim Khan. Hashim was apparently a perfect gentleman during the match (that would have made a total of two), and on leaving the court he announced to the gallery, “This man very good player. Best player.” What an accolade! Lance went on to beat John Cox in the final. The 1999 World Masters Championships in Sheffield provided him with another cosmic scalp. It was the only time doubles as well as singles had been included in the World Masters. Lance duly entered the o-55s with John Woodliffe, and on the way to winning, they beat the late Malcolm Willstrop, no mean opponent, and the absolutely stellar Jonah Barrington. To have beaten Hashim Khan and Jonah Barrington in a single career, bless me!

So, various questions remain sadly unasked and unanswered, but we can still – happily - leave the last word to Lance, modest as ever: “If I look back, I’ve had a good run.”