Tauranga turned on a sunny day when the inaugural recipient of the University of Waikato Squash Scholarship - third year student Ben Grindrod - met up with Dudley Bell of the disbanded University of Waikato Campus Squash Club in Hamilton.
The top of the Bongard Centre, overlooking the ever-developing University of Waikato CBD campus build, provided a stunning setting for the two men to drink coffee and talk squash.
Ben, in his final year of studying a Bachelor of Business Analysis majoring in Finance, is in the top A1 men’s squash division, currently seeded around fourth or fifth in the country.
“I’m thrilled to be the first recipient of this scholarship,” says Ben, “and knowing that future squash players attending Waikato will benefit from it is also pretty cool.”
The scholarship was established in 2017 through the partnership between the University of Waikato and the University of Waikato Campus Squash Club. The club donated $22,000 to the university and the scholarship Ben received, which will be awarded annually, is worth $500.
The purpose of the scholarship is to foster excellence in high performance squash and to strengthen partnerships with community and national sporting bodies.
The flexibility of the scholarship means the successful applicant can put it towards university fees or use it to help defray squash-related costs.
As Dudley stresses: “There are so many underlying costs playing sport at this level. The recipient can upgrade their racquet or shoes or pay club fees if that’s where the funds are best channelled.”
Ben, only half-jokingly, hints that his stash of sports socks will likely be allocated some funds.
“Squash is brutal on the socks!” he says. “I go through a pair a match, and at $10 a pop, it adds up!”
Tauranga born and raised, Ben confesses he’s as “local as they get”. He was a sports all-rounder who, from an early age, knocked about the squash court with Dame Susan Devoy’s sons and represented Tauranga Intermediate at the AIMS Games in both squash and cross country.
He began to direct all of his energies towards squash from the age of 12. Now a member of the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre, Ben enjoys success on the national squash circuit with their “100 per cent Tauranga home-grown team”.
The 24-year-old made his debut appearance for New Zealand in the senior ranks late last year and was selected for World Squash Federation’s men’s world team championship held in Marseille in December. Despite missing out on selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, it’s still been a busy one for Ben, who heads off to Buenos Aires in a couple of weeks to act as an ambassador at the Youth Olympic Games.
Dudley Bell was a long-standing staff member within the University’s Faculty of Science, and retired last year. Initially a Waikato representative badminton player, Dudley took up squash when he started his tenure at the University over 39 years ago.
“Back in my day it was expensive to play squash,” says Dudley, “and there were waiting lists to join the clubs. When I started working at the university I could play for free.”
Enjoying many years playing at the club and working on the club executive, Dudley says that with only a willing few prepared to run it, the decision was made to disband it in the mid-90s. When Dudley went on to join a club in Ruakura, the scholarship fund was left to accrue interest.
As the last remaining staff member of the original club executive, Dudley made it his mission to press on and set up the scholarship before he retired. He got a hold of former committee members and pitched his plan for the scholarship.
University of Waikato Development Manager, Fiona Anthony, commends Dudley on his perseverance to get the scholarship over the line.
“There was quite a process to go through, obtaining signatures and dealing with the bank,” she says.
“Dudley was determined to see the money benefit young players and encourage them to study at Waikato.”
Ben chose to study at the University of Waikato in Tauranga to benefit from his support network at home and to maintain consistency with his coaches and training schedule.
As he balances a regime that includes squash practice, track running, gym workouts and yoga, alongside competitive tournaments and tertiary study, being organised is key to his success.
When he finishes his degree, Ben is keen to pursue a role in finance and will continue playing high-level squash for as long as he can.
With coffee cups drained and squash talk satiated, Ben promises to keep in touch and invite Dudley to the next tournament he plays in Dudley’s soon-to-be hometown of Auckland.