Relishing Pickleball

David Zapatka, USAPA rating committee member

The ninth consecutive record-breaking USAPA National Pickleball Championships were held in Casa Grande, just 30 miles from Sun Lakes, last month. Over 1,400 participants from around the country were treated to beautiful skies and perfect temperatures to compete for national championships in their respective age and skill categories. Thursday was a fun-filled day of activities including skill clinics, manufacturer demonstrations, rating seminars, referee clinics, fund raisers and exhibitions. Spectators around the world watched livestream coverage throughout the tournament. CBS Sports Network will be airing the National Championships this month. Check with your provider for dates and times. The inaugural Pickleball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held on center court Friday, followed by a banquet where the first class of inductees were honored and received their Pickleball Hall of Fame rings and jackets.

With the overwhelming number of players at this year’s national championships, lodging was at a premium. I thoroughly enjoyed housing two young men from my home area, Springfield, Missouri. At 25 and 37 years old, Keenan Gore and Jarrod Smith (Drury University tennis pro) played in the 19+ years of age, 5.0, divisions. Keenan’s mixed partner RaNay Riffe also played in the 19+, 5.0, divisions. Being exposed to the National Championships, discovering Arizona weather and outdoor pickleball in Arizona for the first time, my Missouri friends were over-the-top impressed. Before the tournament completed, Jarrod was looking at homes and tennis professional jobs in the area, thinking our part of the country was nothing less than pickleball heaven. RaNay was the standout in the Missouri crowd, winning a bronze medal in the 19+, 5.0, singles division.

Speaking about medals, Sun Lakes resident Bev Krueger went on a tear, winning the bronze medal in the 80+ mixed division with Yim Lee and winning the silver medal in the 80+ women’s singles division. Bev has such exuberance. She’s such an inspiration! We are very fortunate to have her presence in our community. My men’s partner Don Simmons won gold with his mixed partner Marylou Furaus in the 70-74, 5.0, mixed division. At the time of this writing, the Open and 50+ Senior Open division results were not yet available.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected] v