• Tim Pitts

Men’s Pickleball Singles Championship

Scott Birthisel, Wayne Pero, Charlie Bradford (Photo: Alex Fox)

It seems those things we learned in junior high health class and the backseats of our parents’ Buick LeSabres are true: men are different than women. Take the pickleball singles club championships. While there were similarities, the women played a very different game than the men. That’s not to say that one was better than the other. It’s just that they were different.

First, a few similarities. As noted, all those who competed in the women’s championships had extensive tennis backgrounds. The same can be said about the men who played in the medal rounds. Most were outstanding tennis players before discovering pickleball. Both groups played with fire and enthusiasm, no competitor willing to give up a point without a fight.

The biggest difference, other than the disparity in numbers of men versus women, was in the style of play. As noted in last week’s article, the women played a baseline game with strong ground and passing strokes. Few points were actually scored as a result of both women battling each other at the net. The men played a game that was a balance between baseline and net, passing shots and raw power, much of which came at the net.

Tony Lembeck, Michael Cohen, David Eicholtz (Photo: Alex Fox)

While the women fielded four outstanding competitors, using only two courts, the men used all ten. In fact, so many men signed up that by the time the dust settled after the last championship match, the last group to finish had played for five and one-half hours with few breaks.

The men competed for bragging rights in four categories: Over 70, Championship, A Division and B Division. As one might guess, fewer players competed in the Over 70 division and in the end Wayne Pero, Scott Birthisel and Charlie Bradford battled it out in the medal round. Once again proving that with age comes cunning, Wayne won gold while his younger competitors took silver and bronze respectively. The A Division saw Michael Cohen win gold, Tony Lembeck the silver, and David Eicholtz took bronze. Greg Hoff was the only B Division entrant and as such played in the A Division. Greg took the gold medal in the B Division.

Chris Poppell, Scott McKessy, Johnny Moran (Photo: Alex Fox)

The spectators who stayed until the end of the Championship round instead of answering the siren call of a Deck Tito’s and Soda were treated to spectacular pickleball. Chris Poppell locked in silver by virtue of beating Johnny Moran, who by virtue of losing to Chris Poppell took bronze. The match for the gold between Scott McKessy and Chris Poppell best highlighted the difference between the men’s and women’s games. Scott and Chris, unwilling to play a baseline game with strong ground and passing strokes, harnessed every ounce of what remains of their combined testosterone and went on the attack. There was plenty of strategy on display, but given the opportunity to reach the net, Scott and Chris were more than content with trading lethal cannonades with their toes just outside the no volley zone. In the end, Scott won the gold in a match that could have easily gone either way.