Dustin NcCorchuk, right, and his 13-year-old son Xavier compete in the Central Oregon Classic at Pine Nursery Park on Friday. (Dean Guernsey/Bulletin photo)
Redmond’s Dustin and Xavier NcCorchuk stand out at Pine Nursery Park, and not just for their bright neon green shirts.
The father-son duo is an anomaly in the pickleball world.
“You go to these tournaments and there might be a couple of kids,” says Dustin NcCorchuk, 40, standing with 13-year-old Xavier, waiting to play Friday in the Central Oregon Classic, a double-elimination tournament being staged this weekend in Bend. “He’s usually the youngest, but there might be a couple of kids that are in middle school or high school.”
Of the nearly 300 registered players competing Friday through Sunday in Bend, Xavier is the youngest by five years, and Dustin is one of fewer than 50 participants under the age of 50.
From north of Seattle in Lynnwood, Washington — just across Puget Sound from Bainbridge Island, where, according to the USA Pickleball Association, the sport was created in 1965 — Dustin NcCorchuk has played pickleball since he was a kid. He recalls that his dad, a former firefighter who learned the game at the station, put up a net in the driveway of the family’s home, but NcCorchuk says he forgot about the sport when he left for college and did not play for nearly 20 years until he noticed a set of courts in his current hometown of Redmond.
“I hadn’t followed it at all,” NcCorchuk says of pickleball, a paddle sport that, according to the USAPA, combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis and is played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. The ball is plastic with holes, like a whiffle ball. “I didn’t know it was a (big) thing and that they did this (competitive) stuff. It was nothing when I was younger. It was just for fun and now there’s all kinds of tournaments.”
Xavier NcCorchuk began playing in tournaments last year.
“He showed an interest and I need a guy that can eventually compete against me so I’m kind of raising him up so I can have some competition,” Dustin says. “He’s getting close.”
Xavier, who is competing this weekend in both men’s doubles and singles, likes playing against people of all ages.
“It’s a fun sport and it’s a sport you can play at any age,” he says. “You play young, old, there’s 80-year-olds that I play with in Redmond.”
Xavier NcCorchuk has won two silver medals, placing second in the junior doubles division at the USA Pickleball National Championships last November in Indian Wells, California, and then finishing second in mixed doubles with his grandmother at the International Indoor Championships in March in Centralia, Washington.
The Bend Pickleball Club, with more than 800 dues-paying members, is hosting the Central Oregon Classic in place of the Oregon Senior Games, which included a pickleball tournament at Pine Nursery Park in June for the past five years.
“We did not want to give up a tournament in June like this,” tournament director Christie Gestvang says. “We worked really hard to re-brand and make it for all ages and all skill levels.”
Gestvang says there were no dedicated pickleball courts in Bend and only 50 members in the Bend Pickleball Club when she joined seven years ago. Pine Nursery now has 16 courts.
Gestvang says some 80 players have come from out of state — and from as far as Pennsylvania — to compete this weekend in the Central Oregon Classic, which begins each day at 8 a.m. Mixed doubles are scheduled for Saturday, and women’s doubles and men’s singles are set for Sunday. Spectators are welcome.
“We’ve got some of the best in the nation in town,” Gestvang says. “It’s time for the locals to shine. We’re excited to provide a great tournament.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com