With its mountainous views, crystal clear blue skies, 80 something degree temperatures, prickly cactus, and golf cart infested roads, the city of Buckeye, Arizona welcomed a record number of 730 participants, ages 8 to 80+ from all over the U.S. and beyond, to compete at the sixth annual USAPA National Pickleball Tournament. A total of 28 lighted courts at the Del Webb community of Sun City Festival accommodated more than 2000 matches over eight days of competition, which began at 8 a.m. and ended well into the evenings on most nights with one day finishing as late as 10 p.m. This year’s tournament was the largest in the history of the sport!
The atmosphere at the tournament buzzed with action and excitement. Vendors sold every kind of pickleball paddle, apparel, and bling imaginable, fans scurried from court to court cheering on their favorite players, and pickleball legends could be seen battling one another on the courts. Nationals is a place where one feels at home chatting with fellow ballers about strategy, paddles, tournament brackets, and partner match-ups. Needless to say, this tourney is unlike any other one around.
This year’s trip kicked off a couple days before the actual tournament began. Marsha and I arrived in Arizona on Halloween day, and that evening we went to the public courts to practice. There, the local pickleballers threw a costume party where players came dressed up as bumblebees, ladybugs, hippies, crayons, and pirates. Believe it or not it is difficult to play seriously against a Star Trek Spock monkey!
A special memory of this year’s tournament for me was having my parents and two aunts there cheering me on. My parents have been a strong support system at the local tourneys, but this was their first time out to the Nationals. Having two of my biggest fans there for me at this type of arena was unforgettable.
Several individuals represented Ohio and Michigan this year including: Corrine Carr (East Lansing, MI), Alice Dodgson (Norton Shores, MI), Yvonne Hackenberg (Kalamazoo, MI), Ronald Hohman (Oscoda, MI), Laura Fenton Kovanda (Columbus, OH), Dave Kovanda (Columbus, OH), Jessica LeMire (Grand Rapids, MI), Daniel McLaughlin (Portage, MI), and Will Willson (Commerce Township, MI)—Marsha Koch and Al Hager represented Toledo Pickleball.
Here is a recap of the results:
• Yvonne Hackenberg – Gold, Women’s Doubles 60+ (with Hilary Marold); Bronze, Mixed Doubles 65+ (with Daniel McLaughlin)
• Al Hager – Gold, Men’s Doubles 60+ (with Pat Kane)
• Ronald Hohman – Bronze, Mixed Doubles 70+ (with Alice Tym); Bronze, Men’s Singles 70+
• Laura Fenton Kovanda– Silver, Women’s Doubles 19+ (with Julie Haney)
• Dave Kovanda – Silver, Men’s Singles 65+
• Marsha Koch – Gold, Women’s Doubles 19+ (with Jessica LeMire); Bronze, Open Women’s Doubles (with Jessica LeMire)
• Jessica LeMire – Gold, Women’s Doubles 19+ (with Marsha Koch); Bronze, Open Women’s Doubles (with Marsha Koch); Bronze, Mixed Doubles 19+ (with Brian Staub)
• Daniel McLaughlin – Bronze, Mixed Doubles 65+ (with Yvonne Hackenberg)
• William Willson – Bronze, Open Men’s Singles
Congratulations to these Mid-Westerners!
Now begins the countdown until the 2015 USAPA Nationals VII!