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.
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
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
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
Men: Chris Miller, Billy Jacobsen, Brian Lam
Women: Jennifer Lucore, Darcie Jacobsen, Joy Leising
Open doubles: Spencer Loughlin/Jimmy Ahn, Brandon Kirk/Ryan Rizzo, Samuel Brittain/Brayden Latray