Thursday, November 30, 2023

It’s Bye-Bye to Bengy

Time to chill out: Bengy was always a model pro
Time to chill out: Bengy was always a model pro

Malaysian star Ong Beng Hee retires from the PSA Tour

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

Ong Beng Hee, the most successful Malaysian male squash player in history, has retired from the PSA World Tour.

The 35-year-old from Penang, who reached a career high ranking of seven, has been an engaging and entertaining fixture on the World Tour for almost 20 years.

Always a Dunlop man (he has always had the right family connections) he is also one of the funniest guys on the Tour, even as a young man.

I remember interviewing Bengy while hosting a Dunlop Roadshow in Wolverhampton and asking him about his rise from 77 to seven in the world rankings.

The answer he said, was down to “Cheating and steroids”.

Some years earlier, Bengy had competed in the old Maidstone Open, the forerunner of the Select Gaming Kent Open. Before becoming a ranking tournament, the event featured an annual pub crawl that usually finished up as an all-nighter in one of Maidstone’s many drinking dens.

That particular year, the tournament hotel was a barge moored on the River Medway. Just before breakfast, a group of players returned to the boat and threatened to throw Bengy into the river s a punishment for not joining their gathering.

That was a shy young Bengy, with only a basic command of the English language. A year later, he came back and won it, and we could see a blooming awareness of his talent as an entertainer, both on and off court.

In recent years he has entertained his Twitter followers with stories about his slip down the rankings being caused by the time spent on opening a “crispy duck franchise”.

He also used to beguile readers with tales of “secret coaches” in secret locations, teaching him lots of “secret new tricks”. His one disappointment, he revealed, was that the merger with the WSA came too late for him to enjoy any room-sharing benefits.

As a young player, he chose to move to the UK to enhance his squash career and trained with Peter Nicol under coach Neil Harvey at the Connaught Club in East London.

His fitness, clearly absorbed from his illustrious training partner, was just one factor of a strong all-rounder.

A winner of 15 PSA Titles, Beng Hee turned professional in 1996 and went on to compete in a remarkable 202 tournaments during his career. Alongside his exploits on the PSA World Tour, Beng Hee achieved success representing Malaysia on the world scene, winning two Asian Games Gold Medals and winning a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

It is with his national association that he will remain involved in the sport he loves, having taken up a position as a coach with the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) as he hopes to guide a new generation of Malaysian stars to the top of the squash ladder.

“Ong Beng Hee has been a tremendous servant to the sport of squash during the past 20 years and he will be sorely missed on the PSA World Tour,” said PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough.

“A perfect sportsman on the court and a gentleman off it, Beng Hee has been an inspiration to young squash players the world over and on behalf of everyone involved in professional squash I would like to wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

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