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Family legacy helps bring Pro Squash Championships coming to Bellevue
Azam Khan looks around at the glass encased row of squash courts inside the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue, and can't help but reminisce.
Today, the courts will host a youth camp, along with the many recreational and competitive adult players who call the club home for a sport growing in popularity on the increasingly diverse Eastside.
But when Khan first came to the Pro Club in 1991, the idea of a bustling squash scene in Bellevue was far from reality.
"We only had one court," Khan recalled. "And it wasn't even a regulation court."
The days Khan spent laying the foundation for squash's popularity on the Eastside seem far off now. It will likely seem even more distant when the Pro Club hosts the Professional Squash Association Men's World Championships in November 2015, becoming the first locale in the United States to land the sport's top event.
"It's unimaginable," Khan said. "It's going to be good for the club, and the whole West Coast."
The Pro Club has previously hosted women's championships, as well as the culminating event on the junior squash circuit. Adding the men's championships is the final step in cementing the bond between the community and the sport.
"The vision I had was believing in the game," Khan said. "We have built a squash community, and I am proud of that."
Azam's sister Shabana Khan has also become a large figure in that vision, and was the driving force behind securing the PSA Championships in a US city for the first time.
With an accomplished career as a player (Shabana is a former National Team member, and multiple time squash champion), and experience working to bring the women's championships to Seattle in 1999, she said the chance to host the PSA Men's Championships was ideally suited for the Pro Club's connection to the sport.
"We're excited as can be," she said. "It's going to really affect the community."
The hope of Azam and Shabana is the showcase can help reach even deeper into the community to find an interest in squash, which continues a family legacy stretching back half a century.
Their father, Yusef Khan, has his own harrowing history in the game that includes days as a barefoot ball boy in India, on a British military base before the Partition of India in 1947.
He is credited by many for building squash in the Seattle area, something his son and daughter have continued in Bellevue.
"My boys have an opportunity to do what I did when I was younger, just like I did with my father," Azam said, referring to his two high school aged sons. "That is probably the best part of my job."