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Player Profile

John Holgate

John Holgate

Age: 59
Occupation: Information manager
Location: Sydney

4-times Australian National Champion


Centre court or centre square?

John lives in Sydney with wife Lillan, 16-year old son Michael, a curly-coated retriever Kunzulu Jedda, and a geriatric moggie called Socky. John originally grew up in Melbourne. That may explain why he follows Aussie Rules football and is a keen supporter of the Western Bulldogs. John also spent some early years living in Brisbane and some later years living in Canberra.

John competed in the junior tennis tournament circuit in Melbourne. He once had his photo on a Spalding racket the Junior Gonzales. The closest John ever came to centre court glory was in 1988 Winning an Australian Scrabble Championship in function rooms at the Melbourne Park Tennis Centre. John played badge tennis for the University of NSW and Aussie Rules football for the University of Queensland.  Nowadays, John keeps reasonably fit with regular swimming, jogging and table tennis..

Games of chance & skill

John spends occasional Tuesday evenings at Pub Trivia in the Bradbury Inn. On a bigger stage, he has appeared six times on the quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It took him that many attempts to get a stint in the "hot seat". John won more money than he usually does at Scrabble but really entered for the challenge and excitement.

John played C grade chess competitions in NSW in the 1980's Great for analytic thinking and mental stamina. John has also chanced his hand in a few backgammon tourneys. He claims backgammon encourages risk-taking and is a good training exercise for Scrabble players.

The language of study & work

John has a Master of Arts degree (ANU) in German and is fluent in French, German and Dutch - which he speaks at home with wife Lillan (who is an Amsterdammer). John has occasionally played Scrabble in foreign languages but tends to confuse his ZIGS and his ZUGS*...

John has just completed a Masters of Information degree at the University of Technology Sydney. Most of his working life John has spent as a Medical Librarian. He is presently Director of Library Services at St. George Hospital in Sydney. He has also worked as a grape gatherer, cherry picker, gardener (at NSW Government House), encyclopedia salesman, electronic publisher, school teacher and statistician for Myers Queensland.

Team Australia 2003 Player profiles

First interest

John discovered competitive Scrabble back in 1979 when he bumped into the first Australian Champion Neil Cartledge at a party in Sydney.  Over a friendly game John was intrigued by Neil's ability to conjure up seven letter words and create strategic structures across the board. Soon after John gave up playing chess tournaments and started learning all the fours in the Concise Oxford  dictionary. Regular practice sessions with Neil led to John's first major event - the NSW Championships at the Sydney Morning Herald building in 1979 won by Joan Rosenthal. The following year John helped start the Sydney Scrabble Club and his 25-year career in "rack wrestling" began. 

Game highs & lows

In 2001, John become one of only a handful of players to have played in all of the first six World Scrabble Championships. John's highlight was his tenth place at the World Scrabble Championships in Melbourne in 1999. John grew up a block away from the Carlton Crest (the venue for the WSC).  He felt that was his stomping ground. John's most satisfying victory was a second round comeback win against Brian Cappelletto (US Champion) after trailing by 142.

John's career lowlight happened when suffering jet lag in the 1993 WSC in New York. He nodded off to sleep against the World Champion Peter Morris in the middle of a match - then lost in a close endgame.

Favourite words which John has played are:
FURBELOW; WAIWODES; FANTASIAS a 9-letter connecting play through a floating A and S. John's highest Tournament game score is 728 achieved against John Barker in 1983 (he also has achieved two other tournament scores over 700).

John has clocked up many kilometres in pursuit of top-level Scrabble competition. This has included a couple of trips to USA playing under OSPD-only conditions. John has also honed his skills against international opponents via the internet (his pseudonym is "Koala").

Thinking globally, acting locally

John would love to establish a world governing body for Scrabble, similar to FIDE for chess players. He dreams of a well-accepted, contemporary word source determined through player input.  Indeed, he has initiated a web-based Universal Word Dictionary to work towards that goal.

John would also like to see the Schools movement take off in Australia and for Scrabble to get more publicity and sponsorship worldwide in the future.




Australian Scrabble Players Association (ASPA)
Copyright 2001-05 www.scrabble.org.au   info@scrabble.org.au Last Updated: 31 Mar 2005