Every November for the past seven years, the most elite pickleball players in the country have traveled to Arizona to compete in the National Tournament presented by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).
Each year, the tournament has grown and the number of competitors as well as spectators has increased. According to Justin Maloof, Executive Director of the USAPA, the first year of Nationals had approximately 300 players registered, but that number has increased to almost 900 for the 2016 event.
“This year’s event was nearly sold out by late June,” Maloof said. “We’ve had to cap registration based on the number of courts.”
The 2016 Nationals will be played at the Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona. The resort is home to 32 state-of-the-art pickleball courts.
There isn’t a qualifying draw for Nationals age-divisions, but for the Open and Senior Open divisions players must have either a 4.5 or 5.0 ranking.
“Our goal is to make our Regional tournaments qualifying events for Nationals.” Maloof said. If the tournament continues to increase at the rate it has been, a qualifying round will be a necessary implementation.
As this event continues to expand, so does the sport itself. While pickleball is thought to be a sport for older generations, USAPA has reported a 4 percent shift to a younger demographic over the past 12 months. Pickleball is slowly but surely becoming more mainstream. With more tournaments popping up across the country, including those with cash purses, the sport is catching on among high-level players of other racquet sports. Many of the top players in pickleball are ex-tennis and platform tennis players. According to Maloof, it’s easy to rise to a high level in a short amount of time because the skill sets are so similar.
As a presidential sponsor of this year’s event, GAMMA will have a booth up for the tournament’s festivities. We will have all of our paddles, including our brand-new Neutron, available to demo on November 10th from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., with prizes available for top-performers. GAMMA will also be hosting giveaways throughout the tournament as well as a free sling-bag with any purchase of a paddle!
The USAPA 2016 National Tournament is sure to be a huge success. Follow the action with #TeamGamma!