Special to The Lake Report
Organizers of the June 9 professional pickleball exhibition in Niagara-on-the-Lake have chosen the eight professionals from across Ontario who will be playing in the event.
The pro matches are a prelude to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Pickleball Club’s June tournament – the NOTL Classic, which runs June 10 and 11.
Many U.S. and Canadian national winners and finalists in men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles and singles will play in the pro exhibition.
The pros’ sports history is varied, with experience from karate to soccer – and many points in between.
There’s a wide range of backgrounds but possibly the most interesting one is Adam Eatock, the pro at the NOTL club.
Eatock is a second-degree black belt in Goju Ryo karate with “tons of” trophies from competitions across Ontario.
As well, he has several regional chess championships to his name, along with lots of badminton, tennis and volleyball experience.
“The experience in chess actually helps on the pickleball court,” he says.
“It’s really a sort of kinetic chess.” Just like cricket.
Pickleball players can become professionals by entering and winning prize money at national and regional championships in Canada and the U.S.
That can lead to them being sponsored by pickleball product and service companies in recognition of their talent.
They are often also appointed by community pickleball clubs, which need a in-house professional to coach their members individually or in groups.
Siblings Jessica and Matthew Kawamoto from Hamilton have both played in many U.S. tournaments, including four U.S. Opens and the U.S. Tournament of Champions.
They have competed against some major names in the sport, such as Simone Jardim and Catherine Parenteau.
Sara McInnes from Shelburne, Ont., who looks back on a soccer career as a striker in Division 1 Ontario soccer, can now point to a U.S. career as a silver medallist in singles at the 2018 U.S. Open, a gold medallist in women’s doubles at the 2019 U.S. Open and many podium finishes in Canadian championships.
Christina Chin also comes from a varied sporting background.
Besides collecting plenty of medals at North American pickleball events, she played varsity hockey for York University and followed that up with a hockey trial for Team China at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Mark Gottfried is a member of Selkirk’s Amped team and is competing successfully in North America-wide tournaments.
Rather than looking at the past, Reese George of Welland is concentrating on the future with the try-outs in June for the new Canadian National Pickleball League – where the first declared team ownership group is led by three Toronto Maple Leaf players, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Alex Kerfoot.
All eight of the professionals are clear that the sport’s growth – at all age groups – is far outstripping the available facilities.
“Many more courts need to be built” is their unanimous refrain.
Jack Custers, co-ordinating Cogeco YourTV’s coverage of the event said it’s been “fascinating to learn about the background of the professionals playing. It’ll make for good viewing across our regions and some interesting off-court interviews.”
Niagara businesses continue to step up to sponsor the tournament in various ways.
The Lake Report is the prime print media sponsor of the event and Life in The Lake is the social media sponsor.
Other sponsors include RBC, Quinn Wealth Management, the Virgil Stampede, Eye Wellness, 124Q Hotel and Spa, Sandtrap Pub and Grill, Kymberley McKee of Sotheby’s, One Earth, Audrey Wall Nursing Professional Corporation, Bella Terra Vineyards, and Regal Floral and Garden Centre.
- The professional exhibition matches will be on Friday, June 9, at 7 p.m. at the Meridian arena in Virgil.
Tickets at $10 can be bought in advance by e-transfer (email@example.com). Children under 12 are free.
Some tickets also will be available at the arena on the day of the exhibition.