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How Far Will You Drive to Pickle?

Posted on March 30, 2023 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

I answered this question recently when I drove six hours round trip to play some practice games with my friend Parker Ward. To be fair, Parker isn’t just “any” friend. He’s my Minto US Open Pickleball Championships mixed doubles partner, who I have never played with and it was important for us to get some court time together. We are playing Mixed Doubles Age 25+ on Tuesday, April 18, and Mixed Doubles Skill/Age 4.0 19+ on Friday, April 21.

I made the mistake of looking up all the other teams and there are some seriously skilled players, specially on Tuesday since it’s an open skill event. I really enjoyed playing with Parker and I felt like we had good on-court chemistry and communication (and I absolutely LOVE playing with lefties) so I am optimistic and have high hopes that we will do well together regardless of the tough adversaries we might face at the tournament.

Anyway, I honestly don’t make it a habit to drive several hours for recreational or practice play but Parker and I had originally signed up to play a DUPR Waterfall event that day. However, there were only two teams in our division so it got canceled. I could have played in the lower division but they wouldn’t allow Parker to play down and the whole point of it was for us to play some games together so we didn’t end up playing in the Waterfall but they did have an extra court for us to use for practice. That was nice.

I didn’t mind driving up because I had originally planned to be there anyway. Also, it gave me a chance to watch and cheer for some friends who were competing in the other levels. Also, I finally got to meet Carolina Mayorga-Perry who I am huge fan of — she is the cousin of one of our Wichita players, Diego Mayorga, and she happened to stop by to watch him play.

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Here’s a pic of my “baby” partner, Parker. Funny thing is he showed up that morning with the same pickleball backpack as me. We didn’t realize it but we bought the exact same bag around the same time. We might be 20 years apart in age but we might have more in common than we realize. As they say, “Great minds think alike!” If this isn’t a sign of chemistry, I don’t know what is. Anyway, I’m taking it as a positive omen for a successful tournament next month.

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Speaking of traveling far and wide, I drove almost three hours South this past weekend for another DUPR “Double Dip” — Caroline Luelf was hosting a special women’s doubles DUPR event at La Fortune (Tulsa) on Saturday and I knew that Tanner Rice usually had a Friday night DUPR at Hidden Trails (Oklahoma City). Tanner’s events are usually pretty flexible so I talked him into doing a mixed ladder so that me and my APP Cincinatti partner Eric Bunch could get some practice games together. He’s another player who I am playing with for the first time. It’s not quite a blind date because I’ve seen him at tournaments before and we’ve actually played against each other at least twice but we’ve never been on the same side of the net. Anyway, this is my life because I don’t have a set/permanent doubles partner for either mixed or gender.

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There were some pretty good pickleball players who came out that night so we got some good games in. Overall, I think we performed as expected but I thought it was good considering it was our first time playing together. He was super nice, very patient, and he didn’t get mad at me. I think we communicated well with one another. I actually quite enjoyed playing with him and am adding him to my “Yes” list (should he ask me to team up in the future — though this is doubtful because he has at least two regular partners from his hometown: Mia Dunagan and Genevieve Eskridge — I just happened to luck out that neither were available for the tournament). I also lucked out that we had previously met at tournaments and had generally good rapport because he got hit up by at least four other women to partner up for the APP Cincinnati tournament. He said one even wrote a very lengthy email about how he should pick her if he wanted to win (complete with a listing of her many accomplishments). So now, besides my goal of earning my “golden ticket” at this tournament, I also have the added pressure of making sure that I deliver so that I can prove the he made the right choice.

I played with Eric on Friday night, spent the night in OKC, and then drove to Tulsa for Caroline’s DUPR event the next day. Caroline hosts these massive DUPR match sessions and this one was no exception. There were 56 women who participated, and I think 9 teams in our group. It was really good practice for me and my friend Katie Merrill who is my women’s doubles partner for the US Open. We are playing in Women’s Doubles Age 35+ on Monday, April 17, and Women’s Doubles Skill/Age 3.5 35+ on Thursday, April 20. I’ve know Katie a while but this is also our first tournament together.

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Anyway, I didn’t want to drive home at night and Katie graciously let me spend the night at her house on Saturday so I got bonus play with Will Chiang (aka Pickleball Will) and his friend Carlos Vreeland at the Tulsan Athletic Club the next morning.

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I have been a huge fan of Will’s since I first met him almost two years ago so this has got to be the highlight of the trip. I watch the Pickleball Studio all the time on YouTube and Brian was surprised to see him in the pics. I explained that he is good friends with Katie and I just lucked out that morning that they needed people to play with. I got to be their 4th!

Sometimes it pays to be at the right place at the right time. As for me, I think I am exactly where I’m meant to be, playing pickleball, and making new friends.

Until next time, GNG.

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  • Replies to "How Far Will You Drive to Pickle?"

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    […] is where we had dinner on Saturday night after the women’s DUPR event at La Fortune. I feel like no trip to Tulsa is complete without eating at Chimi’s. We ate at another […]

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