History in the making–that’s what I think of when I recall the inaugural play of the US Open earlier this year (Apr 26th-May 1st). It was a big investment for the community of Naples to build the courts and facilities to cope with over 800 players. The Florida town believed enough in the future of pickleball to do what was necessary to make the tournament a world class event…With CBS sports on hand to record the finals, it is clear–the network could smell money. Pickleball is transitioning from an sport played by amateurs to one that, at the top level, is the realm of the pros and their sponsors. The pb times they are a-changing. What does it mean for pickleballers from Canada who have the drive to compete in major events like the US Open?….That’s what I wanted to find out in this blog edition.
*In this regard, here are some stories from Canucks who made their way down to play in the jungle.
Pb (Patricia) Archambault went through an army of teams (47) in her 4.0 Mixed Doubles. In her pool alone there were 25 teams. She and her partner Josh McKinley took a bronze. Wow, we are proud of them! She played like a champ against a ton of great players. Way to go PB.
Andy Taylor and Chris Shabatura also competed in the 40+ age group and the 5.0 mens open. This tournament is was the cream of the cream. Great experience for them. Remember,…all our players had to try to get used to outdoor play and a different ball. Very difficult to do. I’m proud of their commitment and we are so lucky to have them in KW. Even if they wouldn’t come and visit my place at Bonita Springs. Lol.
Ontarian Catherine Bolahood won a gold in WD 3.5…What an accomplishment. Catherine and her husband Wayne have both improved so much, it’s a joy to be able to play with them. Catherine you rock girl!
Mark Renneson from Collingwood also competed in singles, MD 30+ and MD Open 5.0. We had to beat him and his partner. We had them down in the first game and they came back to beat us in a squeaker. Then the second game they had us and we came back and beat them in a squeaker. In the third hard fought game we were victorious…I have personally never seen Mark play better pickleball…He was on fire. His singles play has improved so much and he was competing against top guys in the world. Ontario Pickleball is lucky to have a guy in his youth of Mark’s calibre. Kudos to Mark Renneson…He also runs this great pb site www.thirdshotsports.com
Bill and Linda Furse, who helped start Pickleball Canada, Roy Wilson, Rose Cammeart and Linda Bowers also competed from Canada.
* You can often hear Mark Renneson’s commentaries on the PBX Club podcasts. pickleballx.com
Here are some comments from PB Archambault about the trip south. She is the Ontario District Ambassador at USAPA.
PBA – Hey Doug. The overall experience was amazing. Definitely very memorable…I came home with two bronze medals; ladies aged and skilled mixed doubles. This tournament was a real eye opener as to the high level of play compared to Canada….Many skilled players and a great opportunity to play against pros and learn by watching them. Loved it from beginning to end, and will go back next year….One drawback was not enough referees…this is a struggle at most tournaments. Thank you.
Pro Player Profile
*It was a real pleasure for me to hear from the following Canadian pickleball star….She regularly wins medals at the major pb tournaments (including the US Open), and, I like following her exploits on YouTube and Facebook…So let’s get to it and see what’s cooking with:
Cookie Drake In Her Own Words
1. Hi Cookie, I’m wondering, where is your hometown and what is the pb community like there?
CD – My hometown is Cold Lake, Alberta…. Cold Lake is a small city in Northeasteran Alberta, 300 km from Edmonton. Pickleball just began in my hometown this year. A group of enthusiastic people have secured some play time at our Energy Centre. My husband and I have worked with some of the players and we have done some teaching and run pickleball clinics for them. There are now 60-80 people interested in playing and having fun with pickleball.
2. What is you sports history and who introduced you to the game?
CD – I have always been an athletic person and throughout my life I have played a variety of competitive sports. As a young person I played collegiate level basketball for Augustana University (formerly Camrose Lutheran College). I also played volleyball and women’s softball. I continued those sports well into my adult life. I also spent many years dancing ballet, tap and jazz and performed in a variety of dance shows. I never played any racquet type sports except in high school phys-ed class. I discovered pickleball about 4 1/2 years ago in Arizona. I was very lucky that I just happened to end up near Surprise–which is known to be a pickleball Mecca. It also is a place where there are many top level players–Steve Wong was very kind to me and spent a lot of time coaching me and helping me develop my game. Other players also gave me many tips to help me improve my game–that is one of the best things about this sport… people are willing to help others learn! My philosophy in pickleball is to have FUN first and winning will follow!
3. Not long ago you made history at the US Open. Can you tell your fans what it was like for you to win the first gold medal awarded at this inaugural event in which you were playing in WD+55 with Rachel Kroog?
CD – It was a great honour for Rachel and myself to play in the very first Gold medal match played on the new Championship court at the US Open National Tournament in Naples, Florida. It was an exciting day for both of us and being the first team on the Championship court was a bonus to what was already a great event! Winning Gold in WD 55 was thrilling. Rachel was a great partner and we always have fun playing together. Later in the tournament our greatest achievement came when we went on to play in the gold medal match in the Sr WD Open division. We got the silver medal there–losing in 3 games to a fellow Canadian and top WD player and friend Mona Burnett.
4. Do you think we will start to see more Canuck medal winners as pb gets more established in Canada?
CD – I absolutely think we will see more Canuck medal winners as pickleball grows in Canada…In the US many young people are playing the game. Pickleball is springing up in many communities now in Alberta and I would think this is happening in our other provinces as well. I feel we really need to promote it in our schools and get our young people involved in the sport.
5. I noticed you are registered to play at the Canadian Nationals this summer. You are teamed up with Stephanie Lane in WD…I think she would be a great player to partner with. Have you two teamed up in other events?
CD – In the Canadian Nationals I am playing with two great friends from the US – Stephanie Lane and Josh Grubbs. I have played with both partners before. All I can say is they are two of the nicest people you will ever meet and both are great players and ambassadors of the sport. Josh is the owner of ”Pickleball Rocks”, a family run business and very popular vendor at many big tournaments in the US. I am very excited that both Stephanie and Josh are coming to play in my country!
6. Last question Mrs. Drake….how did you get the Cookie alias?
CD – The story behind my nickname is this. The day I was born my dad looked at my mom and said, ”this baby just looks like a sweet little Cookie.” …To which my mom replied, ”I’m never going to call her that!”…Well, we know how that turned out! Lol! I’ve been Cookie my whole life, and actually find it strange when someone calls me by my real name. (Cherilyn)
* In all the excitement for me to be talking with Cookie I forgot to congratulate her on the other medal she won at the US Open. It was a silver medal in the MXD+60…. Cookie was teamed up in this bracket with Ken Curry, from Colorado Springs…Great going in that event you two!
Since I couldn’t find a video of Cookie’s matches from the US Open, I have provided the link to her gold medal match in mixed doubles from last February’s Grand Canyon State Games. This is a favourite video of mine and it shows Cookie at her inspired best… She was teamed up with Scott Moore vs Alex Hamner and Scott Clayson.
Here is the link to Scott Moore’s and Cookie Drake’s post game tips:
Scott Moore is an incredible pickleballer. One of the top players in the world and much sought after as a partner….I asked Scott about his match up with Cookie and he sent a reply: ”Doug, we had a blast and she is a lot of fun to play with, for sure.”
Here is an update to the link to Scott Moore and his son Daniel Moore’s awesome travel site:
Le Belle Pickler
*Although this next Canadian player is young, I believe she has that blend of skill and charisma that will assure she has fan support wherever she plays. You’ll probably agree with me when you hear from:
Catherine Parenteau In Her Own Words
1. I think you have an interesting sports history, Catherine….You excelled at tennis quite early in life. How old were you when you picked up a racquet?
CP – I was 5 years old when I first picked up a racquet.
2. I believe you were able to obtain a tennis scholarship from the University of Michigan. Since you were a French speaker from Montreal, did you have much difficulty with mastering English for your courses?
CP – I actually obtained a tennis scholarship for the Michigan State University, not the University of Michigan. I played at the University of Arkansas for one year before transferring to MSU. I would say that my freshman year was the hardest one for me to master English because I did not know English before coming to the United States, and the majority of my friends in Arkansas were French Native speakers. My English improved gradually as the years went on and I am now able to speak English a lot better than when I first arrived in the US.
3. Who introduced you to pickleball?
CP – My tennis coach at Michigan State, Simone Jardim introduced me to pickleball last September.
4. Simone is making quite a name for herself as a top pb player. Has she helped you with your pickle shots?
CP – As mentioned above, Simone Jardim first introduced me to pickleball and really helped me with my pickleball shots. Many people say we play very similarly, and that I look like a ”mini Simone” on a pickleball court, which I take as a very good compliment!
5. You came home from the US Open with a bronze medal in MXD 19+ with Jose Farias and a gold in MX 5.0 skills with Brian Asworth. How did it feel for you to be competing and winning matches in such high profile events?
CP – When I first decided to play the US Open, I did not really know what to expect. I did not have any expectations because it was my first very big tournament. I told myself to just go out there and play the way I would play in practice. I felt very nervous during the first game with Jose, but I was finally able to calm my nerves down and win a couple of matches. Playing with Jose and Brian was a lot of fun, they really helped me out and I felt really good playing with both of them. They are two great pickleball players and it was a lot of fun competing with them.
6. You were teamed up with legendary player Christine Barksdale in the WD pro level bracket. You two played in the bronze match against another two legends–Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner….I know you thrive on pressure, but….how were your nerves in that match?
CP – I felt really nervous during the bronze match. It was my first time playing pickleball in front of a lot of people on the show court.
7. When will your fans see you next in a pb tournament?
CP – The next big pickleball tournament I am going to play is the Tournament of Champions (TOC) in Utah in September. Before that, I am going to play smaller tournaments such as, Royal Oak in Michigan in August.
8. Last question, Catherine….now that you have recently graduated from University, what are your educational or career plans for the future?
CP – I am staying in Michigan one more year to teach children in preschool and then I am going to graduate school to obtain a Masters in Psychology to eventually become a child psychologist.
*Thanks Catherine…..You should know that I got a short note from your mentor- Simone Jardim – who said you are a good player and that you will get better….I also heard from your playing partner from the Open, Christine Barksdale. Christine said you were an amazing person on and off the court. She described you as competitive, extremely athletic and sweet!
* This next video link is the bronze match from the US Open. You can imagine the excitement for Catherine Parenteau to be playing on the same court Jen, Alex, and Christine!…For new readers, Christine is in the blue sleeveless tee, Catherine is in the green tee, Jen is wearing a white and blue skirt, and Alex has on the red and white skirt.
WD Bronze Medal Match – US Open Jennifer Lucore, Alex Hamner vs Christine Barksdale, Catherine Parenteau
Catherine Parenteau’s other comments: Teaming up with Christine was a very good experience for me. She was a very good player and we were able to communicate really well on court even though we did not know each other before playing the US Open. I would play with her again anytime!
* So there you are….I had fun learning more about the talented pickleballers that sport the Maple Leaf over their hearts. We Canadians may not be as demonstrative in our patriotism as the citizens of some countries, but we certainly love our sports stars! I hope this edition was as enjoyable for my readers as it was for me….
* In the next CC, I hope to put a bit of a spin on the pb story…’Till then….Go and grow Pickleball Canada!
Thanks for the game,
I will forward your comments to any of the pb stars mentioned in CC: