Owensboro is on the leading edge of pickleball, a sport that is the fastest growing in America for the third year.
The Tri-State’s largest pickleball tournament was held in Owensboro in March and over 400 players participated.
Local resident Altaf Merchant, who is currently the world’s highest-ranked senior player, according to the Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating and has already won four gold medals in 2023, resides in Owensboro.
And recently six new pickleball courts were added to Yellow Creek Park in the county, and in 2020, York Park’s four courts opened with the help of the River Park Pickleball Club and the City of Owensboro, along with other public and private courts throughout Daviess County.
Brandon Mackie, co-founder of Pickleheads, a platform that helps players find courts, organize sessions, and connect with local players, said that www.pickleheads.com has over 11 thousand courts indexed for the United States and tracks the growth of pickleball.
Currently, there are over 10 thousand places to play pickleball in the United States and 36.5 million pickleball players in the United States, according to the Association of Pickleball Professionals in 2022.
Mackie, who has been building the website as a resource for pickleball players to access information about clinics, open play and tournaments, said that people just keep joining to play the sport.
“A new data point is that 48.3 million played once in the last three years,” Mackie said.
Mackie said one of the reasons for the growth is that it is easy to learn.
“Just a few rules and skills and you can even win in one day,” he said.
Added to the ease is the socialness of the game, since it is generally played with four people in a doubles format.
“The social aspect is the reason for many,” he said. “You meet a lot of people and that’s what keeps people coming back.”
Pickleball also spans all generations, and Mackie said it is not uncommon to find an 18-year-old talking to a 65-year-old while at the courts.
“You can’t count anyone out,” he said.
The Southeast is the fastest-growing segment of pickleball in the country, according to Mackie, and this is what has led the whole sport forward. His website allows players to find courts wherever they are and see what events are being held and also details about clinics, lessons and open play.
“The site allows segregation for player levels, events and for fun,” he said.
Checking out the local chapters is the best way to find out what is being offered, which will allow participants to attend clinics for basic pickleball skills and then move into playing in open play or events.
Pickleheads also has free, basic web lessons to break down the information for someone wanting to learn at home.
“Go out to open play,” he said. “Show up by yourself and mix and match with people throughout. It’s the best way to get involved.” OL