Sun and fun were the watchwords the weekend of April 26, as the Hot Springs Pickleball Club hosted the inaugural tournament on the new DeSoto Family Recreation Pickleball Courts. 238 registered players from 15 states played through approximately 50 brackets in almost 500 matches.
Friday featured men’s and women’s doubles in exciting play across the 14 courts. Two of those players, Ruthanne Phillips and Robin Pickens were all smiles after winning their match. Talking to the women, one would think they had been lifelong friends, when, in fact, they had only met that morning. When both showed up without a partner, they just decided “why not” and paired up. “Anywhere you go it’s like family” said Pickens. Phillips exclaimed, “It’s the best group of people on the planet.”
Vendors were set up all along the west end of the court, along with temporary bleachers, for spectors to browse, and to watch what was described as “controlled pandemonium.” People also brought lawn chairs and lined up along the side of the courts to watch matches further down the line. The POA sold hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks, while the crowd enjoyed lively matches.
By early Saturday morning the parking lot was already full as spectators began to gather to watch the mixed doubles. Game play was friendly and fierce as the balls bounced back and forth in comfortable spring air.
Sunday saw the men’s and women’s singles matches. A total of 65 individuals played from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Proving that pickleball isn’t just for the senior set, 14-year-old Wyatt Stone of San Antonio battled against Steven Michaud of Big Fork, Montana (his doubles partner from Saturday), with Michaud winning the gold. The women also showed up and showed out on Sunday, with Villager Julie Edmonds beating Becky Rush of Bryant.
The three-day tournament was hosted by more than 50 volunteers from the HSV Pickleball Club, who did everything from providing homemade treats to golf cart transportation. Clampit’s Country Kitchen served barbecue. Kevin Sexton, Renee Haugen, and Susan Feucht, operated the POA’s tourism booth during the event. They spoke to numerous guests and gave tours. They even transported some guests back to the RV park where they were staying.