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The Pickleball Era Begins

The years 2015 until the start of the pandemic in March 2020 ushered in an era of rapid growth and much needed organization for the fledgling Landings Club pickleball program. Groups were formed and for the first-time quarterly contracts were established. Of the six groups given quarterly court contracts in 2015, only the group formed by Barbera Weber is still active. Ten new groups sought contracts in 2016, including those organized by Mike Hazuda and Marilyn Brady, both of which are still going strong. The sport, which was first introduced to The Landings Club in 2012 when a small handful of determined picklers dragged Scott Mitchell into the future, now counted over one hundred enthusiastic players.

Chris Kader

When Chris Kader replaced Scott Mitchell as Director of Tennis in the spring of 2015  the Board of Directors, made it clear, one of his very important mandates was to support and grow the fledgling pickleball program. Chris started by becoming a registered pickleball professional. He, along with Mike Hardiman, Paul Boslet and Mike Stevenson took the Professional Pickleball Registry program (PPR) and became certified instructors. Others on the court sports staff soon followed. The designation added legitimacy to our program.

When Chris arrived, The Landings Club had four dedicated pickleball courts, including the practice court. Soon after, three courts were added where courts twelve through fourteen are today. That brought us to six contiguous courts, giving us enough courts to host pickleball tournaments. Chris recognized that pickleball is first and foremost a social sport. Picklepalooza was one of the first events his team created. It featured light instruction, a round robin, paddle demonstrations, some exhibition play and a lot of fun. Chris even used a frying pan as a paddle when he played Dina Zapatka.

Jim Emery and Tim Sampson (Sept 2016)

The first pickleball tournament hosted by Franklin Creek was the Special Pops tournament, which was organized by Ted Copeland in 2016. Special Pops, which has been led by Elison McAllister for several years, is the longest standing pickleball tournament in Savannah. Once Franklin Creek had six courts, courts sports was able to sponsor larger events. Pickleball league held it inaugural season in the fall of the same year. Over one hundred picklers participated. 

   As previously discussed, 2017 saw continued growth of both organized tournaments and the number of members who participated. This included our first club championship. The rapid growth caught the attention of the board, which was already considering a capital plan in order to significantly improve and expand on the Landings Club amenities. But the capital plan was not an easy sell. The first time it was put to a vote, membership voted it down. One of the major sticking points was the plan for Franklin Creek and specifically The Deck. The board reworked the proposal which, when presented to the membership a second time, was approved.

The ensuing renovation of Franklin Creek, including the addition of The Deck, marked an important milestone in the growth of pickleball at The Landings. The Deck gave players of an overwhelmingly social sport a place to socialize after playing and drew even more players to the sport.

With the addition of Chris Kader, certified pickleball instructors, the Franklin Creek renovation plan and more courts, the number of picklers grew, the league expanded, more court contracts were available, and The Landings Club was able to host larger tournaments. In a relatively short period, pickleball became a major activity at The Landings.



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