Tournament of Champions Preview

Tournament of Champions Preview

Tournament of Champions Preview

By: Kelly R. Diesel

The holiday season is here, and the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) is celebrating the only way it knows how, with high-level racquetball, of course! The Tour’s fifth Tier 1 (T1) tournament, the 2019 SPC John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions, is just a few weeks away and we hope you’ll be joining us in Portland, Oregon!!

From December 5-8 at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon catch the Tour, and almost all of its’ greatest athletes compete in a world-class facility with even better hosts! The Tournament of Champions has always proved to be one of the biggest stops on Tour in past seasons, with attendance over the local fire code limit, and back-up food being ordered for all the athletes and fans that attend! You’ll see fans sitting on top of laps and shoulders because of all the action people don’t want to miss!

Portland has a burning sensation for the game of racquetball in its’ heart, and the players and fans from the area always bring it to light at the Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions started as a one-day event that attracted about 40 racquetball fans in the area about four years ago. Thanks to the help of Wendall Pelham, John A. Pelham’s father, and the support of everyone on Wendall’s team over the years, you can expect an average crowd size in the lower-level of the Multnomah Athletic Club of about 250 people.

“All these people that come out, it just speaks volumes of the community and their desire to be apart of something service-oriented,” Pelham said. “I expect an even larger number for our attendance this year, and that’s always exciting, you always want even more than expected!”

The 2019 SPC John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions is dedicated to John Pelham, a U.S. Army Special Forces Specialist who was killed in action on February 12, 2014. John loved racquetball more than most; if he wasn’t with his fiancé, he was always in the gym with his free time at home. While overseas, John’s last Facebook post said, “I can’t wait to play racquetball again.” With John’s undeniable love of the game and the unbelievable support from the community, the Tournament of Champions was born.

The Live Like John Foundation (LLJF) was formed after John’s death, and the foundation was established to help U.S. soldiers in any way necessary, whether it be physical, mental, financial, or spiritual help. With the support of the community, the Tournament of Champions racquetball event was created with the intention, that still holds true today, of all proceeds made from the tournament are dedicated and sent to four different charities: Live Like John Foundation, Military Racquetball Federation, The Green Beret Foundation, and the Oregon Youth Challenge Program.

When thinking about the strong support of the Portland community in regards to the LLJF and racquetball, it makes you wonder what drives a community to be so involved? Wendall Pelham helped clear up that question.

“As Americans, we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, we all want to serve,” Pelham said. “I think the biggest thing that Live Like John gives to this community is a purpose for getting involved. Most tournaments are about the prize purse or how players will move up in the rankings, in Portland, it’s just the love of the sport and the involvement of the community. Come on out, play well or enjoy the matches, have a beer and enjoy the Kool-Aid because you’re going to be absorbed into part of the Portland family!”

The 2019 SPC John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions is from December 5-8 at the Multnomah Athletic Club, located at 1849 SW Salmon St, Portland, OR 97205. If you can’t make it out West, the entire tournament will be streamed on the IRT’s Facebook and YouTube pages! 

To register for this event:


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