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Oct 27, 2022

Step Into the Pickledome

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

It’s funny how the same thing can seem wildly different to different people. To some, cilantro adds a flourish of herbaceousness to Mexican street food. To others, it tastes like soap. It’s much the same with pickleball.

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To the uninitiated, it’s a game with a goofy name played by people who can’t decide whether they want to play ping pong or tennis. But to fans, which is anyone who plays the game even once, it’s a way of life. It’s a way to stretch those competitive muscles without blowing out those less-than-competitive knees. It’s a chance to get together with friends who don’t mind throwing around silly terms like “opa” and “his foot was in the kitchen.”

There’s a reason it’s become the fastest-growing sport on the planet; to play it once is to love it forever. If you need some pointers on getting out there and swatting the pickleball around, we’ve gathered up some of the biggest local names in the sport. Read on, and then we’ll see you out on the court.

Tony Gottlieb
Palmetto Bluff

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
I started playing pickleball about four years ago when I was a tennis pro. Like many of us, it started as a kind of social ambiguous game. I was hooked when sweat was splashing out of my shoes during practice. To me, it was a game + a sport. Thanks, Corrine Carr, Sarah Ansboury, Sarah Mitten, and Adam Stone. “Extra shoes mandatory.”

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Pickleball is not tennis on a small court. Honor the game by learning how to use the non-volley zone, aka kitchen. Invest a little early by taking a scaffolding approach to the game, and it will pay off big time.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
I teach quite a bit, so I try to look for short drill sessions in between lessons, minimum two days a week. Match day, you have to warm up and play games before you warm up and play games or you could be in the back draw in 30 minutes.

Favorite player to play against and favorite court to play on?
My favorite players to play against are not far from home. We have a pretty big group of pros that meet in Hilton Head or Bluffton, so we can play for hours. My 2022 US OPEN semifinal court loss was my favorite court this year. Unfortunately, only the finals get on the stadium court. Number 2 is Palmetto Bluff, court six, next to RT’s Market.

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
I love watching soccer. I have one son who plays professionally and one not far behind. It’s a cool team game and different from the sports my wife and I played. Off court, I love riding my pedal assist bike with my wife Amy. At 25 mph, it’s cooler! I also enjoy hanging out with our two pet Vizslas.

Gregg Presuto
Belfair 1811

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
I have been playing pickleball consistently for about eight months. Kathy Kavanaugh from Long Valley, N.J. had a private pickleball court at her house about two years ago; she got me hooked.

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Play, play, play, and play some more. If you have a tennis background, you’ll have a head start. In tennis, you learn how to play with lots of practice before you get a chance to play. Pickleball is different; you can play right from the beginning, so you play and learn at the same time. However, practice and proper instruction is very important in preventing injuries and getting your game up to the next level quickly.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
Good breakfast, Tylenol (sometimes), hot shower, and stretching. Light warmup hitting balls.

Favorite player to play against and favorite court to play on?
My favorite player to play against is Percy—amazingly quick hands at the net! My favorite court is Belfair, of course!

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
I have played tennis for over 40 years—love coaching it and watching it. I also enjoy biking, hiking, and watching my New York Yankees baseball team.

Brian Kiggans
Wexford

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
Ten years. Other pickleball pros on the island got me hooked.

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Relax the grip pressure.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
Dynamic stretching, dink warmup, volley-volley warmup, backcourt warmup and serves, and overhead warmup.

Favorite player to play against?
Paul Rankin.

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
Tennis.

Royce Silvan
Berkeley Hall

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
Since 2018. As a longtime tennis professional, it was great to learn to play and bring my skills and enthusiasm for the sport to our Berkeley Hall membership.

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Learn to have great control of your paddle.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
Advice to any tournament player: Do a 15-minute warmup with your partner.

Favorite player to play against?
Anyone who plays with great joy and loves to have fun!

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
Tennis and snowboarding.

Tom Ruth
Long Cove Club

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
I have been involved in pickleball since 2018. I would like to thank some of the local legends in the Beaufort County area, including Mark Anders, Andy Sklarin, and Reggie Sanderson, for getting me involved in pickleball.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
The first thing I do before any tournament is make sure I have a great partner to play with! Leading up to an event, just making sure all skills are fine-tuned by practicing. To accomplish this, I will play skinny singles to hit more shots.

Favorite player to play against and favorite court to play on?
I enjoy playing against our head racquets professional here at Long Cove Club, Thomas Richter. While he can beat me on the tennis court, he has never beaten me on the pickleball court. Playing with my wife Katie Ruth and my daughter Charlotte is also at the top of my list. (Both of them have beaten me.) I have a strong bias for the courts at Long Cove Club that are in a beautiful setting with plenty of shade during those hot summer months.

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Patience, patience, patience. Does that count as three pieces of advice? Be patient and wait for the opportunities to present themselves before you speed up the ball and attack.

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
As a resident of this area, I enjoy playing tennis, golf, and pickleball. Are there any other sports?

Mick Ray
Sea Pines Resort

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
Four years—since fall of 2018. I won my first singles and doubles tournament in summer of 2019. My dad, Mike Ray, introduced me to pickleball, and I have not put the paddle down since discovering the game.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
I go to bed early because it’s usually an 8 a.m. tournament start time. I drink tons of water and electrolytes, stretch, and take deep breaths.

Favorite player to play against?
My favorite player to play against is my partner Lew Halski. We’ve played countless matches, helping one another improve our games.

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Keep your eye on the ball. It’s easy to forget, so remind yourself often during the match. And slow down. You have more time than you think. Faster does not mean better.

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
I enjoy playing golf with my friends and tossing frisbee on the beach. I’m also a huge fan of live music.

 

Sarah Ansboury
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

How long have you been playing pickleball, and who got you hooked?
I fell into pickleball in 2014. The man who ran the local pickleball club, Mike Wolfe, convinced me to try it.

One piece of advice that will make anyone a better player instantly:
Take a lesson from someone who understands pickleball. The sooner you can get the idea of what the strategy and technique is, you will feel so much more comfortable on the court.

What is your pre-tournament routine?
The most important thing before tournament play is a full warmup and practice games prior to your first match.

Favorite player to play against and favorite court to play on?
I love playing on my home courts at Palmetto Dunes. I have tons of players I love to play against, but it’s always fun playing with my local players Sarah Mitten, Lew Halski, Noa Geyne, and Reggie Sanders

Besides pickleball, what other sports/activities are you fond of?
I love going out on the water around Hilton Head and spending time with my family and dogs.

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