Squash Cancer Tournament to honor Dartmouth coach Keith Van Winkle

A scene from last year's tournament.

After Jonathan Masland lost his younger brother Mike to endocrine cancer, The Prouty became much more for him than a bike ride that other people did. This spring, for the second year in a row, Masland is organizing a fundraising event for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center around a sport he loves. Its goal is captured in its title: Squash Cancer.

This year’s tournament, on Saturday, April 13, has an additional element of remembrance. It’s being held in memory of Keith Van Winkle, who died of cancer last fall after a career of coaching at Dartmouth that spanned 40 years.

Van Winkle was a member of the committee that put together last year’s squash tournament -- “think Avengers,” Masland said, “each with our own superpower” -- so for him, this is about honoring a teammate as well as a fixture of the Dartmouth community.  

Masland and both of his brothers played squash in college. If you don’t know the sport, picture tennis played against a wall inside a room with a small, deadened rubber ball. It’s a demanding exercise in hand-eye coordination, reaction speed and advanced, real-time, angle-calculating mathematics.

You bet it's a spectator sport.

The idea for a squash tournament fundraiser actually grew out of Masland’s first Prouty experience two years ago. He and his daughter Juliana, then 9, were in the habit of “bogging” for exercise: He jogged while she biked, so together they bogged. At the last minute, they decided to bog The Prouty, raising $500 and tackling the first 10-mile leg of The Prouty ride, up and back. Only problem was, it rained -- leading Masland to draw the obvious conclusion.

“Why don’t I do a squash tournament, right?” he said. “Because it never rains inside.”

He sought out Hansi Wienz, the Dartmouth men’s squash coach -- and it turned out that some of his players had raised a similar idea. Masland followed that with an email to a friend on the board of the Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, then a conversation with the Friends staff -- and the tournament was set in motion.

“For me,” said Masland, “a big motivation was to create something where I could channel my own sense of, I guess, helplessness towards making some small contribution to the cure of cancer.”

The 2018 inaugural event drew 60 participants -- the goal was 40 -- and raised $20,000. Chris Hanson, a Dartmouth alum who has become the top player in the country, played an exhibition match against Dartmouth’s current top player -- and then stood in against other participants for an extra donation.

Hanson, who is also a member of that superpower-laden organizing committee, is a natural headliner in more ways the one. As a Dartmouth student, he raised money to fight breast cancer by running around campus wearing a mustache and a pink shirt; donations were based on how many miles he covered.

This year’s Squash Cancer Tournament has a fundraising goal of $25,000, and Hanson will be back. You can register to play or simply make a contribution anytime.

“It was a fun tournament,” Masland said -- and more than that, too. “It also had a heart to it and a mission beyond just competing.”

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