By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
I would like to lead the squash world today in singing a virtual “Happy Birthday” to one of the hardest working volunteers in the history of the game. I know Linda Davie will blush when she reads this, but her record of achievements in sport deserves a special mention.
I first teamed up with Linda in Aberdeen when I rescued the British Open in 1999 and took the event to Scotland for the first and only time.
At that time Linda was on the board of England Squash. She was hugely supportive and brought her business skills and people skills to the forefront at a difficult period for squash.
Behind the scenes, the game was going through a turbulent time, with federation after federation falling to the snake oil sales pitch of a sports marketing company called The Eye Group. Let’s just say they were choppy waters to navigate.
When the British Open moved to the NIA in Birmingham, Linda was again heavily involved. There was a brief promise of genuine progress as we enjoyed two years of live coverage on Sky Sports, featuring TV production of outstanding quality, before financial mismanagement brought the whole Eye Group journey grinding to a halt, with the World Open in Australia a major victim.
Linda and I stayed in touch and she was a key player in helping with the launch of World Squash Day at Lamb’s Club in London in 2002 with an eight-man professional event running alongside a 15-a-side match between London and New York.
She was also a great supporter when we organised subsequent matches in Edinburgh and New York.
When I teamed up with Tim Garner, Peter Nicol and Angus Kirkland to launch the Canary Wharf Classic, I invited Linda to become our Tournament Referee. She has remained in the role ever since through 17 successful editions of the tournament, being fully immersed in several key innovations including the introduction of video reviews for referees.
Linda also became a major influence in her home nation, helping Scottish Squash in numerous areas, acting as national team manager and supporting a variety of players on their paths into the professional game.
This culminated in Linda managing the Commonwealth Games squash competition in Glasgow in 2014.
With 11 days of sellout crowds at the Scotstoun venue, the whole event was a triumph for Scotland.
I would go as far as to say it was the most successful event in the history of squash, with 2,500 enthusiastic fans packed into the stands every day, for the singles and doubles, and some excellent coverage by the BBC.
Behind the scenes, Linda was working long, punishing hours to make everything run like clockwork. It was a phenomenal effort on her part, not only masterminding the playing schedules on multiple courts and dealing with a multitude of daily issues, but doing so against a background of political intrigue that I won’t go into here.
Today I know Linda will be enjoying her 70th birthday at home with her family in Milton Keynes, with her grandchildren by her side.
Her daughters, Gail and Sara, have been busy arranging a number of special events, including a collection of video messages from friends across the world.
Gail wrote: “I’ve had so much help it has been really heartwarming. Thinking of all the things Mum has done to help people has been a real tonic in lockdown. It’s nice to think about happy times and people helping each other.
“Until now I have never really thought about everything she has done – and I’m learning lots about what she gets up to when my back is turned, from helping individuals, to clubs, to county squash, to regions, and helping players in so many countries.
“Then we can add the refereeing, organising, managing, being on the Board, university squash, seniors, juniors, grand prix events, Canary Wharf, the Europeans, Pam Am Games, and American Colleges. Oh yes, and the Commonwealth Games. It’s just amazing, really, and all for the true love of the game.
“When I spoke to my sister Sara it became clear we don’t even know everything she has done. I’m always meeting people who tell me they know her or what she did for them … or the other favourite: ‘I think I stayed in your room for a while!’
“We know it actually started with hockey. She played for Scotland then coached and managed the national team. Then she got involved in squash, more so after the move to Cheshire.
“She became involved with Prestbury, Cheshire, and the North West Juniors. Then of course, came the international element. I know the junior tournaments are dear to Mum’s heart, and the British University stuff she used to do. And, of course, she loves Scotland and Canary Wharf.”
Gail and Sara have worked hard to make this a special day for their mum.
I know many of Linda’s friends around the world will be raising a glass to her today to wish her a happy birthday and also to say a huge thank you for her phenomenal contributions to the sports of squash and hockey.