Pickleball: ‘It’s a tongue hanging out game’

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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HAMLET — Pickleball is all the rage right now — affectionally known as the “sweet sport with a sour name,” which is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

It’s also a very physical activity. Just ask Pete Wheeler.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Eugene McLean made good on his first try in pickle ball to win a gold medal in the men's 80-84 age bracket.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Eugene McLean made good on his first try in pickle ball to win a gold medal in the men’s 80-84 age bracket.

She was one of several competitors who on Wednesday took part in the sport as part of the 25th annual Senior Games of Richmond County. Wheeler lost 11-6 to Diane Deese, but the end of the match was the beginning of her recovery — and her awe of the new sport.

“It’s a tongue hanging out game,” Wheeler said as she huffed and puffed to catch her breath inside the gymnasium at Outreach for Jesus in Hamlet. “I’m thinking I”m finding out my heart condition must be good.”

A pickleball court is similar to a tennis court — the net is lower and on each side is a space 20 feet wide and 22 feet deep. Serves are similar, though they are underhand, and there are limits on net play. Tennis rackets, though, are replaced by oversized ping pong paddles and instead of a tennis ball, a whiffle ball is used.

Mike Deese, who later won gold in the men’s 65 to 69 age division, served as referee for the match between Eugene McLean, 84, and Jerry Anderson. The rules are rather liberal in the local Senior Games, and with McLean the only competitor in his age group — hey, you try to keep up with him — he earned gold by scoring at least one point in the match against Anderson, at least 10 years his junior.

McLain was new to the sport. Deese offered some friendly advice between points.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Eugene McLean prepares to serve.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Eugene McLean prepares to serve.

“It’s not gonna come to you,” Deese said. “You’re gonna have to go get it.”

McLain earned gold and seemed satisfied with his performance.

“That’s my first time,” said McLean, who later spoke of his wife, Betty, who died in October.

The two were married 61 years and celebrated their lives with their two children, Betty and John, and grandchildren Ben, Drew, Zach, Rachel and Jamie. In May, McLean said, he’ll become a great-grandfather for the first time. It’s a boy, he said. Sharing the news, he beamed.

Spend time around the Senior Games and the people who make it all come together and one gets a sense that the Games are not only about competition, but something far greater. It keeps seniors active and social and offers them a chance to share their stories and lessons learned to others willing to listen.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Mike Deese has had some pickle ball practice, and it showed.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Mike Deese has had some pickle ball practice, and it showed.

As Terry Mercer and Diane Deese began their doubles match against Patricia Clemmons and Zina Parker, Wheeler stood ready to help.

“I’ll be here with oxygen tanks,” Wheeler quipped.

Parker and Clemmons cruised to the women’s doubles gold medal. Diane Deese won the women’s 60-65 age division, Parker took first in the 60-64 bracket and Clemmons earned gold in the 55-59 division.

* * *

Beginning Thursday, April 23, the gym at Outreach for Jesus is scheduled to be open between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.  for any pickle ball player wanting to play.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jerry Anderson played out of his age group to help Eugene McLean secure a gold medal in the men's 80-84 age division.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jerry Anderson played out of his age group to help Eugene McLean secure a gold medal in the men’s 80-84 age division.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Zina Parker teamed up with Patricia Clemmons to win the women's doubles gold medal.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Zina Parker teamed up with Patricia Clemmons to win the women’s doubles gold medal.

 

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