- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

HYANNIS, Mass. (AP) - The game is pickleball, but there was no kosher dill, sweet gherkin or half sour in sight.

What you see instead is a collection of athletically minded and competitive senior citizens with wooden paddles, a plastic ball (think Wiffle ball) and a lot of heart on a court about half the size of a tennis court.

Pickleball is a game that is part tennis, part pingpong and part badminton requiring quick reflexes.

“It’s fantastic,” said George Malloy, 76, of Mashpee, who took up pickleball four years ago in lieu of tennis because shoulder soreness made it increasingly difficult to serve. “It’s very user friendly. Your body doesn’t take the beating it does running around a tennis court.”

On a recent Wednesday morning, two dozen seniors from across the Cape converged on Hyannis Youth & Community Center out of the damp, cool elements. They were playing what’s been described as the fastest-growing sport, invented in 1965 and named for a family dog, not a brined cucumber, according to the USA Pickleball Association website.

Jack Hynes, 75, credits fellow Cotuit resident George Rice with bringing the game to the Cape several years ago from Florida, which is a pickleball paradise. Hynes plays as many as three times a week during the winter at The Villages in Florida, a retirement community that boasts 166 dedicated pickleball courts.

Rice made the deal with the community center for senior access three days a week during the winter; they’re charged $2 per session if they are members, $4 for nonmembers.

Seniors play indoors on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from November to June, and then move outdoors on makeshift courts across the Cape.

“This is a lot of fun,” said Bud Reed, 76, of Barnstable Village, a retired physical education teacher. “It’s good competition for people our age. When we play outside, with the wind and the sun, it’s even more exciting.”

After playing on dilapidated tennis courts, Sandwich players received permission from the Sandwich Recreation Department to use basketball courts at Oak Crest Cove, Lois Wallace, 67, a Sandwich pickleball organizer, said. This year, the group will charge players a one-time $20 fee to help pay for regulation-sized, portable pickleball nets, she said.

There are also groups in Marstons Mills, Dennis, Falmouth, Brewster and Wellfleet, with an estimated 250 active players across the Cape.

Wallace is currently sidelined with a knee injury, but expects to be back on the courts this month. “I’m very aggressive,” she said. “That’s how I hurt my knee.”

Brian Wallace, 76, Lois’ husband, also plays. “A lot of players either gave up tennis or weren’t good enough to play tennis,” he said.

Make no mistake, Cape seniors come to play, but it’s not all about exercise and competitive fire.

“There is an important social component,” Malloy said. “It’s an extremely accepting group. People are always welcomed in.”

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