Pickleball World Championship returns to Punta Gorda

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Matthew Seaver
Pickleball at the PicklePlex (Credit: WINK News)

A sign of spring is back in Southwest Florida. The best pickle ballers in the world are back on the courts in Punta Gorda for the return of a major tournament.

There are more than 800 players in Punta Gorda for the five-day World Pickleball Championship. The amateurs play first, and then the professionals take over on Friday.

After so much success in 2019, Charlotte County is proud to welcome the return of the World Pickleball Championship.

Among the hundreds of players in town for the tournament are Lily Hencken and her husband from Fort Myers. “We plan a lot of tournaments all around the country. We play big tournaments, small tournaments, we play nationals, regionals, app tournaments are really good,” said Hencken.

Hencken said she loves the game, the people, and most of all, the experience that comes with pickleball. “It’s not only physical, it’s mental. You have to keep learning every day because every day people come in with new shots, new ways to play,” said Hencken.

Melody Woodsum is pickleball referee. WINK News asked her why pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports. “You can go and learn the sport and come out and play right away. You don’t need expensive lessons, you don’t need expensive equipment, and there’s courts everywhere in Southwest Florida,” Woodsum said.

Ken Herrmann is the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) Tour CEO. He is the man who brought the pickleball championship back to Charlotte County. Herrmann said it will be back again in 2023, 2024 and 2025. “This is the $2 million tour for pros, amateurs, and senior pros. Everyone is trying so hard to work on their rankings and their rating system to keep elevating their skills,” said Herrmann.

To watch the amateurs play is free. Tickets to watch the professionals are $10. The tournament is taking place at the PicklePlex on the FSW campus.

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