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Racket sports by Charlie Garfinkel: Mach defies age, rises to top of racquetball ladder

Brian Mach, 58, is the oldest men’s racquetball player to ever attain the No. 1 ranking in WNY’s Open Division. He achieved this feat by defeating one of WNY’s all time greats, Adam Priamo, 4-15, 15-11, 11-10 in one of the more exciting matches ever played in the area.

Mach’s court movement, shot selection and incredible physical shape were the attributes that led him to defeating players up to 30 years younger in WNY league play.

At the end of 21 weeks of singles and doubles, Mach compiled a record of 34-4. At the end of the season he was ranked No. 1 in league singles, No. 1 in WNY, and was part of the team that won the league playoffs.

Mach has played racquetball all over the U.S. and notes that the WNY Traveling League is one of the few in the country. If you are interested in joining, call Mike McNerney at 239-7080.

Even as a youngster Mach was showing signs of being a great athlete. At 6, he was playing and starred in junior hockey. At 13, he took up volleyball and excelled for Lackawanna High School, on one of the great volleyball teams in WNY history. They won the state championship his senior year.

He first got involved in playing racquetball as a senior at Geneseo College. He played against a female who absolutely destroyed him.

“I was embarrassed and exhausted,” Mach said. “However, I couldn’t believe the incredible workout that racquetball provided.”

After college, Mach moved back to Buffalo and looked for work.

“There was an ad in The Buffalo News looking for a Health Club League Director. From over 300 applicants I received a phone call from Kim Fiedler, the manager of the Boulevard Mall Racquet & Fitness Center.”

Mach was hired and was the main person in charge of racquetball, which was starting to boom in WNY and throughout the country. He was in charge of 72 leagues involving more than 1,000 players.

“Although I was playing in the WNY leagues I rarely played any tournaments due to time commitments,” Mach said. “However, I was constantly ranked in the top 10 in the Buffalo News’s yearly rankings.”

After five years at the club, he had the opportunity to get into the medical supplies field and travel extensively. Over a 20-year period he lived in Wisconsin, California and Florida.

“Racquetball was booming throughout the United Sates over 30 years ago, especially in California and Florida where the game is still strong ,” Mach said. “When I was in California from 2001 to 2009, I was in an eight-team doubles league with the top players in the state. When I was in Florida from 2009 to 2015, I was in a singles league with 12 of the leading players in the state, with a couple of players who had played on the pro tour.

‘There was no doubt that I was the lowest-ranked player in the group. My game really progressed to another level. By the end of the year in Florida I was No. 3 out of the 12 players. When you compete in any sport with top players and you have some skills in your respective sport you have a chance to improve by leaps and bounds.”

He notes that the demise of racquetball in the East and Buffalo started when junior programs were eliminated and courts were replaced with fitness machines.

Mach would love to see racquetball rise again in WNY. He notes that the LA Fitness Club on Sheridan Drive has three courts with glass back walls.

Mach firmly believes that racquetball can once again be a viable sport in WNY. He has already contacted Greg Maliken, a former president of WNY racquetball. They have compiled a program they feel could be instrumental in helping racquetball become popular in the area again. Their ideas:

• Contact LA Fitness to get court time on weekends for a junior racquetball program.

• Start a five-week junior program that will teach skills, go over rules and actual play.

• Racquets, eye guards and racquetballs will be provided.The cost is $50 for five weeks.


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