Pickleball season is ramping up


A nice follow-up to the story last week about my interview with a dead man is that several pickleball venues have already begun to review their resuscitation procedures and equipment location.

 

United States Pickleball Open

 

This past week started with Delaware players competing in the United States Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Fla. Last year, 2,000 competitors and 10,000 spectators descended on Florida, and officials expect even more this year.

Kathy Casey, President of First State Pickleball, reported there were more than 400 entries just in singles, where she walked away with a silver medal in the 3.0 skill level, 65 years and over. Robbin Murray and Linda Horst took a big fat silver medal in women’s doubles, 3.5 skill level, 65 years plus.

Congratulations to Sherry King and Becky Moody for their gold medal in women’s doubles in the skill level 3.0, 50 years and over. I also want to congratulate Courtney Vaughn and Jeff Marshall for their gold medal in mixed doubles in the 3.5 skill level in the 55-years-plus category, with a final victory over a highly skilled team.

My personal congratulations to Fred Drilling, a superb senior tennis player who once was ranked No. 1 in the world in his age group. Fred strung tennis rackets for our college team. Fred played this U.S. Pickleball Open and won men’s doubles, 4.0 skill, 75-plus, and silver in men’s singles, 75-plus. Pickleball might be hurting his tennis, as he has slipped to 15 in the world.

 

Ocean City Springfest

Pickleball Tournament

 

The Springfest indoor pickleball tournament at Northside Park in Ocean City, Md., was held last weekend. Even though our Delaware competitive players are split over several simultaneous tournaments, there was a nice turnout at Ocean City — clearly one of the best pickleball venues along the entire Delaware and Maryland coastline. Kim Allison, tournament director, told me this was the largest pickleball draw they have yet to experience.

There was spectacular play in the women’s doubles, and it was nice to see that the quality, and depth of quality, of play of female pickleballers has dramatically improved. Diane Milam and Pearl Morris in Women’s 55-64 held off a large field of talent from local communities, as well as Bowie, Towson and Wilmington. Wonder Woman Georgia Billger, spotting her competition 15 years, won gold in women’s 65-plus with her partner, Young Kang.

I am proud to several newcomers to competition this past weekend. Cindy Horst and Becky Kelly won silver and Sandy Pinder and Kay Fitch won bronze. And to think that a few months ago, they were not sure they wanted to play tournaments!

A Cambridge/Salisbury, Md., team, Scott Kirkland and Leroy Lutz, beat Ocean Pines’ team of Kevin O’Malley and Bob Smith in an exciting pickleball men’s open doubles. Lutz, a tennis player more of my vintage, showed up last minute, like the masked Lone Ranger, and played some extraordinary pickleball.

Chic Stearrett and Dom Travaglini, proving practice makes perfect, won the men’s doubles 55-64 holding off two talented teams from across the Chesapeake Bay. Longtime pickleball partners from the Ocean Pines Pickleball Club, Don Tomb and Frank Creamer, outpaced the field in the men’s doubles 65, which comprised many teams new to the local tournament scene.

I would like to highlight Jeff Bagaglio and Michael Siegert — both active in their own community programs — who took silver, and the third-place team of Doug Jeffries and squash hall-of-famer Maurice Hechscher.

There is a big difference between tennis and pickleball competition. In tennis, you might play back-to-back matches early in a tournament when your competition is not as strong, and then you get more time to rest between matches as you advance in the tournament against stronger competition.

In pickleball, after a lot of waiting between early-round matches, the final three, toughest, matches, happen back-to-back, and fitness and focus become extremely important. I saw some tired players this weekend competing in spectacular pickleball play.

In mixed doubles, in the open category, the team of Stephanie Covington and Bob Smith beat a very talented Cambridge team. In mixed doubles, Pearl Morris and Brett Stonesifer won gold in the 55-64 age category, defeating outstanding teams from Bowie, Md., and a Salisbury/Wilmington combination in several nail-biters. Again, Georgia Billger and newcomer to pickleball Robert Adams won the 65-plus category.

Travis Davey, the new recreational manager at Ocean City Recreation, helped run the tournament desk during the tournament to get abreast of the exciting pickleball program in Ocean City. Welcome to the world of pickleball, Travis.

 

More pickleball options

 

Speaking of Ocean City, they have been running a trial program on Fridays, from 5 to 8 p.m. for folks who work and can’t get out to play during the week. I am going to be helping them this Friday, May 10, so stop in and say hello.

I hate to send Delaware pickleballers out of state, but no local investors have yet stepped to the plate. Six indoor pickleball facilities on our southern border in the Worcester County Recreation Center in Snow Hill, Md., near the junction of Route 113 and Public Landing Road announced some new weekend indoor pickleball play sessions from 10 a.m. to noon. The sessions are for May, June, July and August, the very months when my dermatologist wants me out of the sun. They also have a Wednesday session from 10 a.m. to noon. The published drop-in fee is $3 per session, and it continues through August.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.

 

By Vaughn Baker

Special to the Coastal Point