Trump Squash

Donald Trump is the only squash-playing U.S. President. He played squash at Fordham for two seasons in the 1960s.

I know. It is a bit of a shock. We’ve had many presidents with a passing knowledge of squash. Both George H.W. and George W. were familiar with squash. H.W’s mother, Dorothy, was a pioneering woman in squash and his father, Prescott, was a serious doubles player in Greenwich in the 1930s and 40s—his name is in gold paint on a number of champions boards.

John Kennedy spent time near a squash court while at Harvard (Winthrop House surely had courts like almost all houses in those days). In 1963 Kennedy welcomed a squash champion—Mohibullah Khan (and Roshan Khan, his distant relative)—at the White House and helped secure a job for Mo at the Harvard Club of Boston. It is one of the more famous images of the game. When I was doing my history of U.S. squash book twenty years ago, I searched high and low for a copy of it and, failing, inserted instead a stern portrait of Mo into the book. A few weeks ago Clive Caldwell kindly scanned the photo—Mo had given him a copy in the 1970s—which hangs on the wall at the Cambridge Club in Toronto.

Curiously, squash has been having a presidential moment, as many White House aspirants in this election cycle have been squash players. John Hickenlooper is an avid doubles player. Bill Weld played regularly while governor of Massachusetts. Deval Patrick ditto. And Kirsten Gillibrand played varsity squash at Dartmouth: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2009/02/senatorial-squash

The man blocking them, however, is the only President to have actually played in college. He played one year on the Fordham freshman team and one year on the Fordham varsity, the 1964-65 season. Here is a photo from the 1965 Fordham yearbook, taken apparently in the locker room:

The official Fordham squash records from the 1960s are gone. I emailed and spoke with a dozen Fordham squash alums from the 1960s, but, unluckily, no one who was on the team that year.

I knew Bob Hawthorn, the Fordham coach who was a legend (coached squash at Fordham from 1956 to 2010) but didn’t discover Trump’s squash career until after Hawthorn died in 2011. I emailed with Bob’s son, Bob, Jr. who told me that once he and his father were playing golf at Winged Foot and Trump, driving past, shook hands with the Hawthorns and said hello. Bob, Jr. also said that his father always told people that Trump was a good athlete and low-key off the court.

Gwenda Blair, the author of the 2000 biography, The Trumps, interviewed a couple of Fordham teammates and Trump himself about his squash career. One teammate commented on how well-behaved Trump was: never late, never unsporting. Only one real anecdote from the era survived: on a trip to Washington (to play Georgetown?), Trump parked his car near the Potomac. He pulled out some new golf clubs from his trunk and smacked a half dozen new balls into the river.

Here I am this winter on a freezing, single-digit day talking about presidential squash in front of the U.S. Capitol:

As the WSF Men's World Team Squash Championship came to an end this week, squash historian James Zug talked us through the sport's long-standing affiliation with Washington D.C. 🇺🇸

Posted by Squash – PSA World Tour on Monday, December 23, 2019

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