Pickleball comes to Suffolk

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Seven women of the Cedar Point Country Club in North Suffolk met at the club’s tennis court on Wednesday for a lesson in pickleball.

Many of these women play tennis several times per week, but the learning curve for this new game was still a challenge. They traded tennis racquets for paddles, and the reliable bounce of tennis balls for wiffle balls.

But those differences also made it fun, according to some of them.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

“It’s very different,” said member Barbara Fahey. “The ball doesn’t bounce very well, you use a paddle rather than a racquet, the court is smaller and scoring is different. But I think anytime you’re learning a new game or sport is fun.”

Cedar Point Country Club General Manager Tony Coppa and Jan Talian, tennis director and USPTA Elite Professional, wanted to introduce club members to the sport that’s growing in popularity across the country.

“We had been reading about it and talking about it, and Jan got behind it and said, ‘Yeah, I think we can do this,’” Coppa said. “So we ordered the supplies, and he mapped out the courts.”

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. The court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long for both one-on-one and two teams of two, similar to a doubles badminton court.

The game dates back to 1965, when the late Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell improvised a Saturday afternoon game with ping-pong paddles and perforated plastic balls on a badminton court, according to usapa.org.

Pritchard and Bell are credited for inventing pickleball, along with Barney McCallum, who was the third man to play the sport.

The origin of the name has multiple accounts. One says Pritchard’s wife Joan coined “pickleball” because the combination of different sports reminded her of pickle boats that had leftover oarsmen from other boats. Another says the game is named after Pritchard’s dog Pickles, who would snatch the ball and run away with it, according to usapa.org.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association reported that there were 2.8 million U.S. pickleball players in 2017. More than 1,300 players registered for the 2017 USAPA National Championships held in Casa Grande, Ariz., the largest to date.

At Cedar Point Country Club, 12 club members came out to the opening lesson on Friday. Masking tape outlines the relatively smaller playing field on the tennis court with no inconvenience for tennis players, Talian said.

He said that members have enjoyed the speedy, frantic play so far.

“It’s highly enjoyable,” he said. “It’s a lot of positive energy and a lot of fun. It’s a great, social game with a friendly atmosphere.”

Members laughed as their swings missed the balls, and as each bounce sent their serves in wildly unpredictable directions, they kept wanting to go again.

“It’s more forgiving,” said member Laura Phillips. “There’s no impact. You have a chance of getting (the ball) back with no pain.”

They left the Wednesday session ready for more.

“It’s fun,” said member Kerry Puglisi. “It’s like ping-pong, but we’re on the table rather than standing on the floor.”

The club will hold pickleball lessons this February on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday mornings. Non-members may attend for a small guest fee, and registration is required at least 48 hours in advance. Call 238-2372 for more information.