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Waupaca Rec Center champion

Pat Annen of Waupaca and Karol Maas of Oshkosh won a bronze medal at the U.S. Open Pickleball Championship in Naples, FL. Annen plays at the Waupaca Recreation Center. Submitted Photo

Medals in pickleball

By James Card

Pat Annen won a bronze medal at the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida.

The tournament was held April 13-20 and drew 3,800 competitors. It was her first-ever sanctioned tournament and she started playing pickleball five years ago.

During the spring, summer and fall, she plays at the Waupaca Recreation Center.

During the winter months, Annen and her husband head to Sarasota and the community there has an active pickleball scene with 18 courts. Many of them are refurbished tennis courts as pickleball has exploded in popularity across the country.

Annen competed in the senior division against 16 teams with her partner Karol Maas from Oshkosh. Maas also happens to spend her winters down in Florida and the two central Wisconsinites met by chance and partnered up for the tournament.

“It was a very long day. We started playing at 7:45 and we finished around three in the afternoon. Some games last around 15 minutes and they play the best two out of three games. The winners must win by two. One match – a series of three games – lasted an hour and a half. We beat them but it was a lengthy battle. By the time we finished playing, the temperature on the court was 90 degrees. It was brutal but super fun. We’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Annen.

The game is played with a paddle. Annen uses a carbon model and other than the cost of the paddle and some sneakers, it’s a relatively inexpensive game. The balls are similar to small whiffle balls and they sometimes crack and need to be replaced.

Annen played basketball, volleyball and track in high school and played basketball at UW-Green Bay.

“I would say pickeball is like a lot of different sports. I would play softball and play golf and a lot of the motions are conducive. Anything ball related really works well with pickeball. It’s a little bit easier on the body. The court size is a little bit smaller. The game tends to be quicker and has more skill involved and it’s a ton of fun,” she said.

Annen isn’t sure if she will compete in the U.S. Open again, although she would like to. The tournament is set up as a lottery to maximize the chances for many people to play. The players submit their names and applications and wait for an answer if they are invited or not.

Her next competition will be in the mixed doubles category at the Beer City Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on July 7.

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