2017 Aiken Pickleball Tournament

The fifth annual Palmetto Indoor Pickleball Doubles Invitational was held from August 17 through August 20.  Tournament co-directors Mo Garcia and Keith Shaver did an outstanding job putting together a fantastic event.  Over 200 participants enjoyed a day of clinics, lessons and pro-am events, a Friday evening social, and last but not least three days of pickleball made up of 24 separate events in men’s, women’s and mixed doubles.  Participants also received lunch each day they played and a swag bag stuffed full of goodies that was an actual paddle cover. Where else do you see that?

The tournament owes a debt of gratitude to the many generous sponsors, most especially the Platinum level sponsor Scott Singer, financial adviser w/ Janney Montgomery LLC.  Thanks also go out to our Gold level sponsors,  the USAPA (c/o Mike & Loretta Beckner, Ambassadors), Mo Power Sport (supplier of paddles, nets, balls, t-shirts, medals and paddle covers).  Silver level sponsors included Security Federal Bank, South Aiken Physical Therapy, and G4 Power Products.  Bronze level sponsors included CMI-Carolina Muscular Institute, Baker Family Dentistry and Suzy Haslup Realty.  Pickleball Central, Paddletek, LongHorn Steakhouse, Golden Corral and Chick-fil-a also contributed.  Without their assistance and support, the event would not have been the tremendous success it was.  If you get the chance, please show your appreciation by patronizing those who supported us.

Mike Beckner and Jim Kabel marshalled a force of over 90 volunteers who donated time and talent to supporting this year's pickleball tournament.  Special thanks go to Nelson Spitnale (in charge of the tournament desk volunteers), Bill Reynolds (court monitors), Loretta Beckner (referees), Connie Dennis (swag bags), Pat Smith (t-shirts) and Sharon McMichael (registration desk). The lunch room was managed by Donna Vetsch, Kathy Reiter, Kathy Clemmens, John and Sherry Myers, Nancy Hughes, Rita Supan, and Jane Deese.  Maria James, Denis Bonnet, and Michele Bullington did the facility management. Thanks to all these efforts, this year's tournament was an unqualified success!

The weekend kicked off with world class professional pickleball players and national champions Simone Jardim and Laura Fenton Kovanda running clinics and lessons for 45 players.  After the lessons, we were treated to a pro-am event.  Eighteen Aiken Pickledillys got to play a game with the pros.  The last two games saw our best teams, Tony Quick/Vicki McNair and Josh Booth/Jordan Goetzman, line up on the same side and take on the pros head to head.

The social for this year’s pickleball tournament was held in The Alley on Friday night. The city arranged for a barbecue dinner catered by Buckwheat’s Barbecue, and a total of 113 hungry picklers converged on the venue looking to have a good time and enjoy a delicious meal.  There was also live music provided by Third Time Charmers (3TC) featuring Brooke Lundy and Ken Gabriel.

Mo Garcia took his role as master of ceremonies very seriously by dressing in a specially designed jacket reminiscent of a circus ring leader.  All that was lacking was the top hat!  Mo introduced Loretta Beckner, USAPA District Ambassador for the Midlands of South Carolina, as the first speaker of the evening.  Loretta acknowledged the outstanding job done by Mo and Keith Shaver in organizing and conducting the tournament this year.  She also thanked the staff of the Aiken Recreation, Parks and Tourism Departments and all the volunteers.  

Ms. Jessica Campbell, Director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, and representing the city of Aiken, graciously welcomed the visitors to the city and echoed many of the previous laudatory comments made about the organization of the tournament.  She also commented on the history of the evolution of pickleball in Aiken and, looking to the future, noted the recent installation of pickleball courts at two new locations in Aiken (Eustis Park and Kalmia Hills Park).    

Laura Fenton Kovanda was the featured speaker.  Her comments about how she became involved in pickleball were informative and entertaining.  Laura was a five-time US Olympics gold medalist in racquetball when she heard of pickleball.  The first time she ever played the sport was at the Senior Games in Illinois.  The night before their first match, she and her partner had to watch how the sport was played on YouTube.  They won a silver medal in the Mixed Doubles event and Laura won a gold medal in the Women’s event!  Laura spoke about her vision to form World Team Pickleball (WTP) and her efforts to organize team leagues throughout the country.  Interested players can email info@worldteampickleball.com for more information.

The tournament sponsors were recognized and presented with gifts of appreciation prior to awarding the highly popular door prizes.  Laura, who is a Paddletek rep, provided three paddles, covers and pickleballs to three lucky winners.  Names were also drawn for twelve white “low noise” South Boundary paddles/covers donated by the City of Aiken, and several players won gift certificates donated by local businesses. 

In the midst of all the festivities, we managed to fit in three full days of pickleball.  One hundred and fifty medals were presented during the weekend.  Thirty-two of those medals, including twelve gold medals, stayed right here in Aiken.  For a complete list of Aiken medalists, click here

The fifth installment of the Aiken tournament was a complete success, one we can all be proud of.  In the days following the event, the hallways at Odell Weeks seem oddly empty. After so much preparation, so much activity, so much pickleball.  But then you get closer to the gym and hear the sounds of pickleballs hitting paddles, and you remember it’s zero-zero-two.  Time to start another game!