Pickleball

Dave Record and Angela Simmons play pickleball at Utah State University during the Cache Snowflake Classic Pickleball Mini Tournament on Saturday.

Kevin Opsahl/Herald Journal

When Tyler and Hailey Winegar met, he played ping-pong and she played tennis.

Tyler readily admits he was terrible at tennis, but he still loved ping-pong and and thought there could be an activity that presented the “perfect mix” of the two sports. The answer was pickleball.

“She gets her tennis feel and I get the ping-pong feel, so it was a good match for us,” Tyler said. “Especially with the competitiveness that we both have, playing each other, we both work up a pretty good sweat.”

With that competitive streak, Tyler decided Cache Valley needed to have a pickleball tournament.

“There’s no tournament that has ever been hosted here in Logan. So we were thinking, ‘how can we do that?’” he said.

On Saturday, Tyler’s wish became reality, when the Cache Snowflake Classic Pickleball Mini Tournament was held on Saturday at USU. All players qualified for a raffle to get a “top of the line” pickleball paddle. First, second and third place winners got gift certificates to Morty’s Cafe, Tandoori Oven or Lucky Slice Pizza.

To organize Saturday’s tournament, the Winegars reached out to Bryan and Natalie Burningham, a husband-and-wife team who own Pickleball Passport, an online business that helps people organize pickleball tournaments.

Bryan just recently got Pickleball Passport started. The site allows people to create an online profile to set up tournaments and check tournament scores as well as view scores in real time.

“The pickleball community is underserved in terms of technology, and I’m a technology guy, and so I just saw what was available and what was lacking and I thought, well, I can do something like that, so I created it,” Bryan said. “I just hope to help tournament directors make running a tournament easier and to help integrate it more with the community.”

Pickleball Passport has hosted numerous tournaments throughout Utah since its creation.

When the Wingars reached out to Pickleball Passport, the Burninghams reserved a gym at the university and assisted in marketing and outreach prior to the event.

Bryan said the turnout out for Saturday’s pickleball tournament at USU exceeded his expectations.

“We had to turn people away. We wish we could have accommodated more people,” he said.

These days, pickleball is more than just a sport public school students are expected to complete for a grade; it’s rising in popularity with people of all ages, according to news reports.

Indeed, the players The Herald Journal spoke with at Saturday’s tournament ranged from college-age to over 65.

Dave Record, 71, was part of a team that squared off with newlyweds Jaysa and Peter Stratton.

“I love pickleball,” said Record, who plays three times a week. “It’s great exercise and (a) beautiful social game.”

He said he has played at numerous venues with a mix of people over the years.

Record enjoyed the first match he played with the Strattons.

“They were beginners, so it was a little one-sided, but that’s OK, we’re having fun,” he said. “That’s the name of the game is have fun.”

After they had worked up a sweat during their match with Record, the Strattons acknowledged they were newcomers to pickleball.

“This is my second time — I started yesterday,” Jaysa said.

Peter has been playing less than a year. He mostly plays with his family, and Saturday was his first pickleball tournament.

Asked how he thought they did against Record and his teammate Angela Simmons, Peter was jovial about it.

“It was a bunch of young, unexperienced (players) versus experienced,” Peter said, laughing. “We’ll see with this next match.”

Echoing Record’s sentiment, the Strattons said they just came to the pickleball tournament to have fun.

“I think it’s fun that everyone can play,” Jaysa said.

Unlike pickleball, Peter believes tennis can take years to master.

With pickleball, Peter said, “It’s easy to pick up and it’s a good mix between ping pong and tennis.”

“The best part is spiking the ball over the net. I’m saying, ‘I got this,’” he said.

Bryan said he was not a pickleball player before he created Pickleball Passport. Now he is hooked on the sport.

“Pickleball is all about the community. People are nice. The sport is fun and fast-paced. It’s just enjoyable to be with the people and play a fun game,” he said.

Kevin Opsahl is the USU reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at kopsahl@hjnews.com or 435-792-7231.

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