By Randy Snyder
Pickleball has been a game of choice in the area since 2008. An engaged group of five or six locals started playing on the tennis courts at Rumbling Bald Resort around that time. Due to the difference in the boundaries from tennis, the group used chalk to mark the lines differentiating them from tennis lines. Since then it has grown exponentially to as many as 24 players at Rumbling Bald courts and about a dozen enthusiasts on the two Lake Lure courts by Morse Park. Kudos to some of the “originals” – Smoke Hickman, Chuck Watkins, Carl Nelson, Janet Culhart and Nick Rutherford for introducing the game to Rumbling Bald. Most recently in August, players from four states played in the pickleball tournament as part of the Lake Lure Olympiad with over a hundred players of all experience levels participating over the three days.
The history explains the oddity of the moniker Pickleball. Three enterprising dads invented the sport in 1965 as a way to entertain their children during the summer. The dads fashioned handmade equipment and based the simple rules merging tennis, badminton and ping pong. The home of one of the dads where the game was played had a pet dog, Pickle, a cocker spaniel that would chase the ball and run off with it, and that was the adaptation of the name as it was indeed, “Pickle’s ball!”
In 2009 the USA Pickleball Association was formed and stuck with the name. The Association has realized a 64% increase in membership since 2010, and the most recent estimate of players is over three million with two million dedicated to daily play. It is estimated that that in 2015 alone 91,000 places were added to play! The US Open Pickleball Championships became the premier pickleball tournament in the world in April, 2018 as 2,000 players from 47 states and 20 countries battled on the 46 courts in Naples Florida, for seven days as over 10,000 spectators watched and cheered on the players. The finals were televised on CBS with an estimated viewing audience of over 50 million!
Locally there are two Pickleball venues, thus two opportunities to play or simply to learn the game and maybe play! The Rumbling Bald Resort venue has four courts and the courts are reserved depending on the number needed from 9 to 11 (10 to 12 after Daylight Savings) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The local ambassador for the game, Michele Puchula has moved out of the area, and Ronnie and Beverly Dowdy have taken over the promotion of the game as local ambassadors. They (and others in the group) welcome new or interested players and will gladly explain the game along with offering instruction if desired.
The second venue is the two courts adjacent to Morse Park whereby play begins around 5PM and play goes on until dark (or until they tire!) Patrick Warnke advises they generally have 6 to 10 players and they play by the rules with an emphasis on fun and friendship, the two most prominent and common attributes of the game played at both the Morse Park and Resort venues.
We invite you to join the fun whether just interested, wanting to learn or already a player. We welcome everyone to take part in this great game!