Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Pickleball Champs Showcase Game at LA Tennis Club

Top ranked US Pickleball Players at the Los Angeles Tennis Club
Top ranked US Pickleball Players at the Los Angeles Tennis Club

Top ranked Pickleball players put on a round of exhibition matches playing both doubles and singles on the Los Angeles Tennis Club’s historic center court two weeks ago. The matches featured the national men’s and women’s and Junior champions in a round robin format designed to showcase the fast-paced play of the game.

LATC members has been playing Pickleball for over year since the club installed a court offering members a chance to learn the fast growing, but not so new racquet sport, played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes, that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.  The game is played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. It can be played as doubles or singles.

According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington. Three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum — whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities — are credited for creating game.  Accounts of the origin of the unusual name vary. Some say it was named after the Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles. Others say it was a reference made Joan Pritchard who started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

In spite of the goofy name, Pickleball has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the US and Canada and has attracted more and more talented players. There are national tournaments with prize money as well as an active circuit of amateur tournaments.

Shelagh Callahan and Cara Saffro (far right) take medals at Huntington Beach Pickleball Tournament
Shelagh Callahan and Cara Saffro (far right) take medals at Huntington Beach Pickleball Tournament

The sport is easier to learn than tennis and there’s less stress on muscles because of the light weight equipment and smaller court so it’s very appealing to injured or older, tennis players. However, more and more young players are joining the game. Locally, LATC members Shelagh Callahan and Cara Saffro have been successfully competing in area tournaments.

The LATC exhibition match featured some of the best players in the country including Christine McGrath, Pasadena who was the highest female prize money winner for Pickleball in 2015 and holds numerous titles. Most notably –2016 US Open Pro Champion, 4 time Tournament of Champions medalist including the 2015 Mixed Doubles Champion, and 6 time Nationals VII medalist including the Women’s Singles Gold.

Aspen Kern, Palm Desert who has medaled in many tournaments  is a National Champion and has been rated 5.0 for 8 years. He started playing Pickleball at the age of 15 and is the only junior to have ever won open level prize money at a national tournament.

Ron Chang, Irvine has been crowned National Champion 3 years in a row, 2013-2015, US Open Champion in 2016, Back-to-Back defending Champion at the National Senior Olympics and garnered 14 medals in 12 tournaments for 2015. As a former employee at the Los Angeles Tennis Club during his college years, he enjoyed coming back to where he held his first job 40 years ago.

Sean Leaf of Phoenix, Arizona is new to Pickleball but is already a 5.0 rated player and has medaled in many tournaments and is a West Regional Champion in Men’s Doubles. He was one of the top baseball players in the country in high school.

Jack Munro from Simi Valley is a 3 time Junior National Champion. He won the 4.0 SoCal Summer Classic Men’s Doubles Champion and Mixed Doubles Medalist with his mother Nichole Munro, and CA State Games medalist. Jack’s dad, Jason Munro is a Nationals Men’s Doubles Medalist, US Open medalist, and CA State Games 4.5 Men’s Doubles Champion, and Surf City 4.5 Men’s Doubles Champion.

Mike Stahl, Irvine is a Huntsman World Senior Games Champion in Men’s and Mixed Doubles, US Open Medalist, Tournament of Champions medalist, Bay Area Games Champion, and California State Games Champion.

And Justin Shomaker, Orange County has medaled in many tournaments including Melba Bishop Men’s and Mixed Doubles, Bobby Riggs Tournament, and is the Oceanside Thanksgiving Men’s singles champion.

Pickleball is played all over the area and local games can be found by checking out the USA Pickleball website. To learn more about the game and see some of the matches featuring these players, visit the Pickleball Channel.


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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