The 36th annual Valentine's Day Tournament in Kalispell Feb. 17-19 was a lot of fun, with 30 players traveling from around Montana, Idaho and Washington. The camraderie was great, and there was nonstop handball Friday through Sunday afternoon. No complaints were heard about a lack of playing opportunity, with many players entered in both singles and doubles divisions, and the doubles division played in a round-robin format. Matches were self-ref'd, and the players were real gentlemen. We salute the gladiators who played three to five matches a day and kept on smiling.
Due to unavailability of Ektelon balls, the tournament was played with the USHA's "21" ball. There was some grumbling about inconsistent bounces and slides, but many players also liked the ball. When consolation winners were offered cans of either the "21" or the Red Ace, most took the "21." According to Joe Cox of Seattle, the latest batch of the "21" ball will be a few grams heavier, which may eliminate some of the feeling that the ball is not quite what it should be.
On the nutrition front at the Valentine's, there were plenty of hydrating fluids on hand, as well as lots of tasty snacks, and of course a fantastic prime rib banquet Saturday night put on by Bob Albert. The highlights of the banquet were a huge round of applause for Bob and his kitchen crew, and a very nice speech by Greg Pearce of Palouse, Washington -- the legendary Shooter -- about the high quality of hospitality and sportsmanship at the Valentine's. Thanks, Greg. At the banquet raffle, Mike Wilmer of Bozeman won the grand prize -- a magnum bottle of red wine donated by Paul Wachholz's company, Fun Beverage. Mike promptly turned around and gave the bottle to Open/A player Carl Christiansen, Jr., and his new fiancé, Shannon Hawkinson. What a classy move — certainly nothing you'd normally expect from a thirsty handball player.
Also, thanks to Larry Kaber, Paul Wachholz, and especially Michael Barragan and his wife, Pamela, for keeping things running so smoothly. After a first-round win, Mike had to step out of tournament play due to an injury. But like the Terminator he is, he'll be back.
Open Finals: Pete Svennungsen (Spokane, WA) d. Chance Wachholz (Kalispell)
Open Consolation: Jared Wierson d Moe Johnson (both Missoula)
A/Masters Final: Summerfield Baldridge IV (Whitefish) d. David Stone (Kalispell)
A/Masters Consolation: Tye Barlow (Sandpoint, ID) v. Marty Presnell (Sagle, ID)
SGM/B/C Final: Roger Lewis (Missoula) v. Don Hurd (Helena)
SGM/B/C Consolation: Bob Witte (Kootenai, ID) d. Bob Albert (Kalispell)
Doubles 1st Place: Presnell/Barlow
Doubles 2nd Place: Mike Wilmer (Bozeman)/Wally Page (Missoula)