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14 Days Of Legendary
Honoring those who have made pickleball GREAT
DAY ONE: Pat Kane
When I started playing over 12 years ago, there was only one answer to who was the best player in the game. Everyone agreed it was Pat Kane. In my early years I saw him play many times and it didn’t matter whether it was singles, men’s doubles or mixed doubles, I NEVER saw him lose.
Simply a legendary player.
DAY TWO: Arlen Paranto
Can you say legend? Arlen Paranto could fill a whole chapter in the history of pickleball book. But what is important to you and what we know for sure is that pickleball paddles would not be what they are today with the his creativity. In 1984 Arlen, a Boeing Industrial Engineer, put together fiberglass and a Nomex Honeycomb and created the very first composite paddle. Yes, Arlen moved us away from wooden paddles.
Simply a legendary man..
DAY THREE: Fran Myer
Fran is another legend that helped form pickleball as you know it today. Fran was on the very first board of directors for USA Pickleball, then known as the USAPA. In 1999 Fran along with her husband Barney launched the very first pickleball website, called Pickleball Stuff. It offered information as well as products, though you couldn’t pay for the product online with a credit card at that time.
So Fran Myer has helped shape the sport of pickleball from the business side, the administrative side and the player side. Thank you Fran for all you have done and continue to do.
DAY FOUR: Billy Jacobsen
Many years ago I attended my first Nationals tournament in Buckeye, Arizona. And one of the very first high level players I saw was a guy who simply looked like a professional athlete. When I met Billy, he instantly impressed me as a kind, generous soul, but on the court he was amazing. So much fun to watch. During his hey day, he was almost unbeatable.
3x USAPA Nationals: National Champion
4x USAPA Nationals: Silver medalist
2x USAPA Nationals: Bronze Medalist
Billy was a dominant open player for two decades. And to add to his legendary status, Billy Jacobsen is the only player to have ever won national level tournaments in singles and doubles playing entirely left handed during one tournament and then entirely right handed during another. Quite simply, everyone who saw or met him loved Billy, and still do today. Billy was one of the very first inductees into the Pickleball Hall of Fame. A Legend.
DAY FIVE: Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg
Some say Mark Friedenberg invented pickleball. That is not true, but Mark has done so much to shape pickleball that it would seem he created it. Mark was the first president of the USA Pickleball Association as well as the first Ratings and Rankings director. (No do not blame him for the current rating system). Mark has won more gold medals than can be counted at the National and Regional levels. 8x USAPA National Champion
4x USAPA Nationals Silver medalist
6x USAPA Nationals Bonze medalist
For many years Mark owned Pro-lite Sports and made it one of the major paddle companies. He also authored The Official Pickleball Handbook which has exposed an entire new wave of players to pickleball. But the one thing that truly makes Mark legendary is his penchant for teaching. Though we cannot track the actual numbers, we believe he may be the all time leader in lessons given. Truly a giver and a well known legend.
DAY SIX: Robert Lanius
This will be a new one for most newer players. But if you have ever been to a tournament that ran smoothly because the tournament director chose to use the PickleballTournaments software, then you have long time pickleball player Robert Lanius to thank. Robert and his wonderful wife Jettye worked tirelessly as tournament directors for years. And as Bob recognized the various challenges encountered during the tournaments, he designed and coded the software that eliminated the problems and essentially has made it possible to have tournaments with large numbers of players If not for computer software, it would be almost impossible to smoothly run a tournament over a few hundred players. Today that software is known as PickleballTournaments.com. Thank you Robert Lanius. You are a true legend of pickleball.
DAY SEVEN: Earl Hill
Earl is a familiar name to anyone who has been around pickleball for awhile. He was on the very first board of directors for the new USAPA. But what many people may not know is that pickleball is now growing at an exponential rate because of Earl’s tireless work and his creation of the USAPA Ambassador program. It is because of Earl that today there are over 1600 passionate ambassadors growing pickleball in every nook and cranny of the US. Thanks to Earl Hill. A legend.
DAY EIGHT: Enrique Ruiz
When you meet Enrique the first time, you will never forget him and everyone loves him. He reaches out to players everywhere with a helping hand and words of encouragement. He is a true gentleman on and off the court. Enrique was one of the first true ambidextrous players on the tournament scene. He switches effortlessly from right hand to left which allows him to cover big chunks of the court with minimal movement. So when you see him play, you just automatically want to copy is style of play, but few can. He has won multiple national championships and is simply a special person in our sport. Yes, a legend.
DAY NINE: THE TEAM – Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner
It is really hard to mention one without the other. For years and years and years, the team of Alex and Jennifer ruled women’s pickleball at the very top level. We don’t have a final count of how many tournaments these wonderful ladies won together, but I do know they are still stacking titles up today, and I know this: In 2011 this duo traveled to Buckeye, Arizona and won the Womens Open Doubles title at the USAPA National tournament. Just a side note, the entry fee for a player to enter was $30. From 2011 all the way through Nationals 2014, Jennifer and Alex did not lose a Womens Open match. This is a streak at the top level which will likely never be beaten. Two awesome ladies on and off the court, they are truly legendary.
DAY TEN: Steve Paranto
Let’s start with the fact that Steve’s USAPA member number is 1502 (and they start at 1001). That means he has been around our sport for a long time. But being around a long time does not make a legend. But in 1976 Steve played in the very first known tournament in country at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. Most of the players were college tennis players and Steve took Silver in singles. Steve has played Open/5.0 for over 45 years and today is one of the most respected pickleball coaches in the country. His instructional videos are always fantastic, and his willingness to help players be better players is simply legendary. Steve is one of the true legends who have shaped pickleball.
DAY ELEVEN: Scott Moore
Where do you begin with Scott Moore. In 2015 he was selected the Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year, but his legendary story began a couple of years before that. In 2013 Scott played in his first USAPA National tournament and took home a Silver medal. That began a medal winning streak that has made him one of the most decorated Nationals players in history. He has simply dominated the sport at the national level for the last 7 years. And in his spare time, he established the High Performance Pickleball Academy which has developed maybe the most comprehensive video training package on the planet. Scott continues to travel the US, and yes the world, teaching and preaching the sport of pickleball. He is truly a legend in our sport.
DAY Twelve: Wes Gabrielsen
There are certain players who become legendary for more than just their playing.
Another true ambidextrous player, the first published tournament we could find that Wes played in, was in Bend, Oregon in 2012. Wes registered for both Mens Doubles 5.0 and Mixed Doubles 5.0 and took home gold in both.
For many years Wes has been a great friend and champion of the sport of pickleball. His combination of friendliness and humbleness makes him the guy everyone loves on and off the court, and he is always at the top of everybody’s partner wish list. But he is also greatly admired by fellow players across the country because of his respect for the history of the sport. He currently sits on the board of directors for the Pickleball Hall of Fame and yes, he has picked up a boatload of medals along the way:
- 11x USA National Champion
- 2x US Open Champion
- 2x Tournament of Champions Gold Medalist
We truly appreciate the way Wes Gabrielsen represents our great sport, and this makes him truly legendary.
DAY THIRTEEN: Hilary Marold
There are legendary players in our sport, and then there are people who are legendary in pretty much everything they do. Meet Hilary Marold.
The list of accomplishments is simply too long to cover in this short blog post, but here is the condensed version of this pickleball legend:
– Won 11 APTA National Platform Tennis Championships. Inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1998.
– Won 17 National Paddle (POP) Tennis Championships. Inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2012.
– Won 19 USTA National Tennis Balls – 8 Gold, 8 Silver and 3 Bronze.
– So what has she done in pickleball? Only become what we believe is the most Nationals decorated player in history with a whopping 22 Nationals Gold Medals plus an induction into the 2020 Pickleball Hall of Fame.
Oh and it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention that in the summer of 1973 Hilary made national news by beating the legendary tennis player Bobby Riggs in a paddle tennis challenge match. Actually beat him badly. 🙂
She is one of the truly legendary people and players in our sport.
To read more about Hilary’s legendary life and career, click here for a wonderful article by The Bend Magazine.
DAY FOURTEEN: Erne Perry
Let us re-introduce you to Erne. So where did you first meet Erne? You were introduced to Erne the very first time you did your first dink straight across the net and your opponent ran around the end of the non-volley zone and spiked the ball away for a winner. Many of you met Erne through the shot that was named after him. Yes, the “ERNE SHOT” was named after the legendary player, Erne Perry.
Erne has been playing pickleball at the highest level for over 20 years, playing against and with many of the players on our legendary list. This video will let you get to know today’s legend much better. So enjoy learning from and about Erne “The Shot Maker” Perry, a legend in pickleball. CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW THE ERNE CAME TO BE.