Passion, competition, dedication, and fun all come together in one place on the pickleball court.
The sport that has stolen the hearts of many and the game that calls Southwest Florida home is back where it belongs. The 2023 U.S. Open Pickleball Championships at the East Naples Community Park.
More than 30,000 fans throughout the week will come to watch a pool of more than 3,000 players. According to the event organizers, those numbers would be all-time attendance records.
People who play like to say they’re part of the nation’s fastest-growing sport. And the event organizers at East Naples Community Park want everyone to know it’s the largest pickleball tournament in the world.
“There’s so many people that as they get older, they get sedentary, and they say that’s aging. And now I think the face of Pickleball is changing that aging process to allow people to get out and enjoy the camaraderie but also be competitive and kick each other’s a**,” Naples resident, Cassidy Phillips, said.
Pickleball is a sport that can be fun, but when it comes to competition for the players, it’s all business. Tom Butler went to the event from Englewood.
“Pickleball is the biggest social, the best social event that I have at my age. I’m over 60, and it’s just awesome. It’s good people, good friends, people I’ve met, and we just continue to have relationships in and out of pickleball,” Butler said.
Meanwhile, Michael Petry from Sarasota started playing pickleball about three years ago.
“Had some setbacks, got two brand new hips. So, this is my first big torment since my hip replacements but I’m looking forward to getting out there and kicking some butt,” Petry said.
Petry explained he continues to play because of the challenge, but there are more benefits also.
“It’s always a party atmosphere. It’s got some of the best plays in the world. The weather’s finally turned a corner and it’s beautiful. So, it’s good vibes,” Petry said.
Matches begin daily at 8 a.m. and run until early to late evening. Anyone is welcome to come watch the pros or amateurs for free and parking is only $5.
Click here to see the schedule of events this week.