First Pickleball Club tournament a success

Gloria Peterson, Marsha Liakos, Jan Strada and Debbie Westwater are ready to square off after getting the ground rules from referee Mark Karwas.

Gloria Peterson, Marsha Liakos, Jan Strada and Debbie Westwater are ready to square off after getting the ground rules from referee Mark Karwas.

Larry Linderman

The history of pickleball at SaddleBrooke has several landmarks: the first court which was lined with masking tape in the MountainView parking lot in 2007; the obtaining of the Preserve Courts; the all-purpose courts built in 2008 which now sit unused behind DesertView; the raising of over $100,000 by the SPA membership to pay for the bulk of the Ridgeview Courts and finally, in 2012, the building of the courts we have today. It was a long and winding road.

Another landmark was passed this April when our first Club Championship Tournament was held. Organized by tournament co-chairs Nancy Shelton and Diana and Pete Giljohann, 106 club members participated. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in 11 skill level categories.

The games were held on April 5, 6 and 12. Over the three days the organizers estimate at least 200 members watched as hundreds of games were played. Chief referee Steve Phillips and his crew of volunteer refs presided over each game and line judges were used in the medal matches. Club member Ginny Van Doren commented, “They do such a fine job. It’s wonderful how so many people pitch in. We’re so lucky.”

Many of the matches were nail biters, often going into tie breakers. Several observers thought the tournament’s spirit of competitiveness was exemplified by the final game: “We have a 3.5 mixed doubles, gold medal match with Lou Powers and Ken Powers versus Jim Haakenson and Linda Bailey,” announced referee Jackie Klein to the crowd of 51 fans who had been watching all day as the field of eight teams was narrowed down to this last match of the tournament. The team of Haakenson/Bailey was undefeated at this point while Powers/Powers had one loss. Earlier Linda and Don Cornish had secured bronze.

The first game went to Haakenson/Bailey 11-6 with both teams showing the jitters of gold fever. However, both settled down as the second game progressed with the teams switching leads several times. Few players can hit the ball harder than Jim but the Powers team made some impossible returns to win 14-12. The third game was a repeat of the second as the disciplined Powers team steadily kept the ball away from Jim and won again in a cliffhanger 13-11. So Powers/Powers won the match.

But not the championship! Since this was a double elimination tournament and both teams had only one loss, another game to 15 was played to decide the winner. Once again the score moved in lockstep, first 5-5, then 9-9 as the crowd roared its appreciation. At this point the Haakenson/Bailey team caught fire and surged ahead to win the game and the 3.5 mixed doubles championship. “Gosh! What a game,” said spectator Mary Hlushko.

As I watched this great matchup, my thoughts kept going back to the SPA’s beginnings in that MountainView parking lot and its organizers Beth and Dave Patterson. From those humble beginnings to our first class courts and our first club championship tournament took seven years. It was never easy but thanks to dedicated leadership and an enthusiastic membership it got done.