Two SaddleBrooke Residents Won a Pickleball Tournament 40+ Years Ago

Longtime friends Jim Galko (left) and Tex Whitney (right) won a pickleball tournament more than 40 years ago and now live in SaddleBrooke. (Photo by Tom Frost)

Raymond H. Goettsch

When SaddleBrooke resident Jim Galko approached the SaddleBrooke Pickleball Association booth at the 2023 Activity Fair, he indicated that he was interested in signing up for an introductory pickleball class. Jim was asked if he had ever played pickleball, and he responded that he had won a pickleball tournament in Tacoma more than 40 years ago. How could that be?

Jim explained that in 1981 he worked at Nalley’s Fine Foods, and one of his benefits was membership in the Tacoma YMCA. The marketing manager at Nalley’s came up with an idea to create publicity for the company. He decided that since Nalley’s manufactured pickles and pickleball was receiving attention in Washington, the company should sponsor a pickleball tournament at the YMCA. He also designed T-shirts for the tournament featuring Nalley’s name and a large pickle playing pickleball.

The marketing manager encouraged Nalley’s employees to participate in the tournament, and Jim decided that he would play if he could find a partner. He turned to his longtime friend Tex Whitney who now also lives in SaddleBrooke. Jim and Tex had first met during fraternity rush in their freshman year at the University of Washington in 1961. After graduation, they both found their first jobs at a local bank, repossessing cars financed by the bank. Tex, a tennis player, agreed to be Jim’s partner.

Tex reported that Jim and he practiced playing pickleball on makeshift courts in the YMCA, learning pickleball rules as they played. Jim added that Nalley’s marketing manager gave them two large pickle t-shirts to wear at the tournament. When Jim and Tex arrived for the tournament, the YMCA manager was surprised by the shirts they were wearing. She explained that Nalley’s had given her large pickle shirts to award as prizes for the tournament winners. Jim and Tex won the men’s doubles part of the tournament, but they were already wearing their prizes.

Jim and Tex both played pickleball a few times after the tournament; however, they did not continue playing due to the rainy weather in Tacoma and the absence of indoor courts. Since moving to SaddleBrooke, Tex has continued to play tennis and golf, but he hasn’t ruled out returning to pickleball as he ages. Jim recently completed his introductory class in pickleball, and he expects to become a regular pickleball player.