Class of 1994Active: 1970 - 1983
28 Open Victories
Matt Gage spent almost 30 years running a tournament board for the AVP, directing events with the precision of a SWISS watch. Gage was every bit as smooth and reliable as a player, enjoying a successful run in the twilight of the non-money era of pro beach volleyball.
Gage, 6-1, won 28 events in his career that spanned from 1970 to 1983. That earned him the underwhelming sum of $3,225 in total prize money, but he was not bitter over his poor timing. Less than five years later players who did not possess Gage’s talents were making nearly $100,000 per summer.
“I am really am happy I played when I did,” he told DiG Magazine. “The money would have been nice, but when I played there was more of an attraction to the lifestyle that went along with it. Nobody can really argue that point.”
Gage won with nine different partners. That number is only behind Ron Von Hagen, who won with 16 different partners and Karch Kiraly with 14. Gage had superb runs with both Jim Menges (nine wins) and Ron Von Hagen (five wins). His most productive summer was 1979 when he appeared in eight of the 11 tournament finals with Menges and won four.
He won the Manhattan Open with Buzz Swartz and logged tournament victories with Dane Selznick, Bill Imwalle, Bob Clem, Jay Hanseth, Craig Freeburg and Gene Selznick.
“Menges and Von Hagen were my two strongest partners,” Gage said. “I was comfortable with either one of those guys, and we had the same philosophy about siding out to wear down opponents.”
The chemistry Gage had with Menges carried over into a 2004 Battle of the Sexes in Las Vegas, which is regarded as one of the classic beach matches of all time. Gage, 56 at the time, and Menges squared off with Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs. The women were coming off a bronze-medal performance in Athens the month before. Gage and Menges, exhibiting a no-block strategy, pulled out a three-set victory much to the delight of the AVP men’s players in attendance.
Gage acknowledges the athleticism and size of the players who were playing in the modern game. “There is no doubt that players are bigger and stronger today,” he said. “But I don’t know if they are any more skilled than the top players of other ears. The great players would have been able to compete regardless. I firmly believe that Von Hagen would be a stud in today’s game.”
written by:: Jon Hastings