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Mon, May 20

Howard: Kind of jealous
My Point

This past weekend, I had a couple relatives of mine and more than a few friends playing in a “Pickleball Tournament” at the Prescott Athletic Club - a well attended event and fundraiser for the Yavapai Humane Society called “Pickle for the Pets Charity.”

After teaching tennis Saturday morning I ventured out to the club to watch Seth and Tara Carroll play in the 4.0 mixed event, which they won and Tara also won the 4.0/4.5 combined women’s doubles the day before in a very close third set match, which was quite impressive for this up-and-comer.

As I rounded the corner of Hereford Drive I saw an overflow of cars and had to park out in the back 40. Many times in the past I’ve made the long walk past the pool on the right and two tennis courts to the left heading toward the club house, but normally with the theme being “Tennis”, so this was a new experience for me.

It was impressive to see a multitude of tents set up, over a hundred people milling around with another 50 on the 10 courts arranged on the front and back tennis courts with portable nets and taped lines.

Everyone was waiting patiently, watching matches and many waiting to play their next match. With any outdoor tournament - it’s so much nicer when the weather cooperates, which it certainly did the whole weekend.

The gentleman on the microphone was doing a great job of getting matches on as quickly as each 2 out of 3 set contest finished. The competitors were excited about playing, meeting old friends and new opponents from all over the Southest and some as far away as California.

Over 150 individuals had signed up and many in two or three events in this Friday, Saturday and Sunday extravaganza.

I likened it to the feel of a carnival, a garden party - lots of good cheer and competitive spirit.

The different divisions from what I gathered are Open (ages 12 to 99), Senior (50-59), and Legend’s (60+). Both singles and doubles can be played, but in this tournament it was Women’s doubles on Friday, Saturday Mixed and Sunday men’s doubles.

The categories are 2.0 to 5.0 (beginner to amateur professional) which keeps most of the matches very competitive.

Binki Thalheimer who is a great tennis player and former instructor was volunteering to help keep things running smoothly. With knees that in tennis were making her say “Uncle”, she can still compete quite well in Pickleball. Nationally ranked tennis player Jan Hasse was watching from the sidelines, former racquetball player and now 4.5/5.0 level pickleball stud, Jim Thomas made his debut...and it was fun to catch up with all of them.

Jim told me he’s testing the waters for a new (indoor/outdoor - 20 court) Pickleball Complex, restaurant, fitness center, RV park and more at the Deep Well Ranch subdivision down Willow Creek Road in the near future.

Former tennis pros and high school coaches Joe Borzello and Rick Bothell were also at the tournament competing.

All in all, I’m a little jealous about the excitement currently generated by this progressing sport.

Many new and old clubs, subdivisions and communities are building or adding pickleball courts to their recreational facilities and I’m happy to see not so inclined to try to take over tennis facilities which certainly is a cheaper path than starting from scratch, but created much animosity with the hard-core tennis folk which is the last thing rec managers want to deal with.

This game is definitely more laid back than tennis, it’s not about keeping the sound decibel down, or being too quiet when play begins - will I ever go over to the dark side, well - I don’t consider it such.

But, don’t broach me on the idea of painting lines for Pickleball on the tennis courts - that would be over my dead body.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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