For many of us, north or south of the state border, the Royal Oak tournament is a favorite because it is run efficiently, the park is such a pleasant setting, and it is so well attended by participants and spectators. A dedication ceremony was held this year to honor Pat Sullivan and acknowledge all the people responsible for the court conversion. Though none of us had been involved, we understood the emotion Pat expressed as she shared their story of how these courts came to be. Obviously, we Toledoans reflected on our own ceremony in June and related to Pat’s declaration that everyone smiling on the pickleball courts was a wonderful reward for the hard work necessary to complete the project. She reaffirmed that it really is all about fun and fitness and just loving the quirky, challenging game.
Then we marched on the courts and tried to annihilate one another with plastic projectiles known as pickleballs.
Following is a list of medalists from the three-day event who have strong Toledo Pickleball Club connections.
Friday Women’s Doubles
3.0, Jean Sabin & Jean Stasny, Silver
3.5, Cindy Eddleman & Anita Epperly, Bronze
4.0, 4.5, 5.0 (combined), Marsha Koch & Susan Wiartalla, Bronze
Saturday Mixed Doubles
3.5, Anita Epperly & David Manni, Gold
4.0, Sandy Kushma & David Sabino, Gold
Marsha Koch & John Sprainitis, Silver [Jeff Chantiny withdrew due to a work emergency]
Susan Wiartalla & Shooter Woods, Bronze
4.5, 5.0 (combined), Al Hager & Martha Wasserman, Silver
Sunday Men’s Doubles
2.5, 3.0 (combined), Gary Berger & Jeff Foster, Gold
5.0, Al Hager & Bart Ford, Silver
Gary Ball & Tom Wells, Bronze
The Men’s 5.0 competition drew the biggest crowds, and we all thoroughly enjoyed their battles (especially those of us who won our side bets–whoops, no wagering). One standout was Bart Ford who was unfamiliar to many of us and whose style of play is a little different. And we were stunned to see him using a Champion paddle–a paddle that was a favorite several years ago, but one that many consider inferior to some of the newer products on the market. Considering his success, Champion paddle producers should get some video footage of him for marketing purposes. (Note to Bart: If an endorsement deal comes your way, man up and send my ten percent.)
But the match that closed the tournament really ended the event on a high note for Toledoans. Coming out of the Losers’ Bracket to face the team that had won all their matches, Jeff Foster and Gary Berger dropped the first game of the match determining Gold/Silver winners. Confronted with the daunting task of winning the next two games plus a third game to 15 in order to take first place, they were forced to “unleash the animal” (see Hacker if you don’t understand this reference). According to Al and Barb Hager, Jeff and Gary were ferocious in their execution–and conditions were tough as it was hot and increasingly windy. This was Gary’s first tournament, and he was so appreciative of Jeff’s experience and knowledge of the double elimination format to lead him comfortably through the day (Jeff even drove!). We’re particularly pleased by this victory because Jeff Foster has been such a generous contributor to Toledo Pickleball in many ways, including welcoming and teaching newcomers.
Much appreciation and thanks goes out to Marilyn Holladay, Mike Simoni, Nancy Robertson, Bruce Castle, Amy Kessler, Jenny Martin, Tom Reilly, Sandy and Linda Simons, and all the refs and other volunteers who once again organized a great tournament.