Spencer Loughlin (left) and Sukhi Randhawa compete in under-55 men’s doubles action at the Canadian Open pickleball tournament at ARC on the weekend. Loughlin won the junior men’s doubles title with partner Jimmy Ahn.

Spencer Loughlin (left) and Sukhi Randhawa compete in under-55 men’s doubles action at the Canadian Open pickleball tournament at ARC on the weekend. Loughlin won the junior men’s doubles title with partner Jimmy Ahn.

Canadian Open pickleball tournament growing by leaps and bounds

Dave Shepherd is one of Canada's biggest pickleball proponents, but even he's been blown away by the growth of the sport over the past year.

Dave Shepherd is one of Canada’s biggest pickleball proponents, but even he’s been blown away by the growth of the sport over the past year.

In 2012, Shepherd spearheaded the staging of the inaugural Pickleball Canada National Open Championship, and the event – held at Abbotsford Recreation Centre and Yale Secondary – drew 168 competitors.

The second annual Canadian Open, held last weekend in the same two gymnasiums, easily eclipsed last year’s attendance numbers, drawing 228 participants from all corners of the continent, from Ontario to California to Florida to Alaska.

“It’s amazing, the amount of growth,” marveled Shepherd, who serves as president of Pickleball Canada alongside his wife Shirley, a director with the organization. “On average, we get probably three or four emails a week from new groups starting off in Canada. They start off as small groups with eight to 10 players, and the next thing you know, there’s 30 or 40.”

Pickleball, for the uninitiated, is a hybrid of tennis and badminton, played with a hard paddle and a wiffle-type ball on a badminton-sized court, with the net lowered to 36 inches.

Abbotsford has become a hotbed for the fledgling sport – 40 locals competed at the Canadian Open, and 20 of those individuals climbed the podium.

The tourney featured a junior doubles division for the first time, drawing three local boys teams. Spencer Laughlin and Jimmy Ahn won gold, while Brandon Kirk and Ryan Rizzo won silver and Samuel Brittain and Brayden Latray took bronze.

Other Abbotsford medalists on the men’s side included the duo of Brian Parkes and George Pool (silver in 60+ men’s doubles and bronze in 65+ men’s doubles), Rhys Martell and Mat Khan (silver in under-55 men’s doubles), Ken Franz and Gene Latray (bronze in under-55 men’s doubles), Brian Brunink (silver in 55+ men’s doubles with Matt Annan) and Henry Meerkerk (gold in 65+ men’s doubles with John Kusch).

On the women’s side, medalists included Debby Holley and Claire Pool (gold in women’s 55+ doubles), Kathleen Parkes (silver in 60+ women’s doubles with partner Brenda Jmaeff), Pat Khan (bronze in 60+ women’s doubles with Beryl Kusch), Inge Scholz (silver in 70+ women’s doubles with Vera Loskot) and Feige Li (bronze in under-55 women’s doubles with Kathleen Brundo).

Local medalists on the mixed doubles scene were George Pool and Claire Pool (bronze in 55+) and Henry Meerkerk and Kathleen Parkes (bronze in 65+).

“There’s no question that here in Abbotsford, we have some top-notch players,” Shepherd noted. “The level of play is pretty darn good.”

A complete listing of Canadian Open medalists (in order of finish) is as follows.

Women’s doubles

55+: Debby Holley/Claire Pool, Diane Gillis/Shirley Knorr, Milda Postler/Shirley Edwards

60+: Brenda Jmaeff/Kathleen Parkes, Terry Saunders/Wendy Porteous, Pat Khan/Beryl Kusch

65+: Diane Hill/Olga Jetelina, Susan Nigh/Diane Weeres, Janis Pssepp/Pat Crawford

70+: Alice Tym/Betty Silver, Inge Scholz/Vera Loskot, Karen Peniuk/Pat Thomson

Open: Jennifer Lucore/Darcie Jacobsen, Christine Barksdale/Kimberley Bennett, Luba Zhekhovskaya/Trish Graham

Under 55: Elaine Lerner/Anh Tran, Trudy Pitcher/Nancy Stern, Kathleen Brundo/Feige Li

Men’s doubles

55+: Maurice Parobac/Dan Jmaeff, Brian Brunink/Matt Annan, Brad Pape/Henry Paynter

60+: Randy Bourne/Dave Touchet, Brian Parkes/Earl Hill, Basil Taylor/Paul Bannes

65+: John Kusch/Henry Meerkerk, Peter Darvill/Bud Meltsner, Brian Parkes/George Pool

70+: Ron Hohman/Silver, John Jetelina/Wayne Kennedy, Dave Anthony/Danny Hui

Open: Chris Miller/Billy Jacobsen, Denis Zhekhovskiy/Scott Lenan, Zachary Grubbs/Josh Grubbs

Under 55: Rob Schneider/Dave Briones, Rhys Martell/Mat Khan, Ken Franz/Gene Latray

Mixed doubles

55+: John Savoy/Nancy Stern, Bill Dumper/Evelyn Kaatz, George Pool/Claire Pool

60+: John Kusch/Elaine Lerner, Jim Saunders/Terry Saunders, Colin Caldwell/Theresa Orcutt

65+: David Ulis/Anne McCallum, Sjoukje Lehmann/Tom Staites, Henry Meerkerk/Kathleen Parkes

70+: Alice Tym/Ron Hohman, Vera Loskot/Wayne Kennedy, Betty Silver/Larry Silver

Open: Christine Barksdale/Josh Grubbs, Luba Zhekhovskaya/Denis Zhekhovskiy, Sue Fosbery/Pat Fosbery

Under 55: Brian Lam/Milda Postler, Roberta Meakin/Peter Neumann, Magdalene Choy/Peter Darvill

Open singles

Men: Chris Miller, Billy Jacobsen, Brian Lam

Women: Jennifer Lucore, Darcie Jacobsen, Joy Leising

Junior

Open doubles: Spencer Loughlin/Jimmy Ahn, Brandon Kirk/Ryan Rizzo, Samuel Brittain/Brayden Latray

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