- Associated Press - Saturday, June 3, 2017

OCEAN PINES, Md. (AP) - It’s been a long process for organizers Julie Woulfe and Frank Creamer to make pickleball an official part of Ocean Pines.

A six-year back-and-forth with the Ocean Pines Association and the Ocean Pines Pickleball Club has finally reached common ground with the grand opening of eight new outdoor pickleball courts May 27.

“The Ocean Pines Association is more than thrilled to unveil the new pickleball courts to its members and guests,” Ocean Pines Association Public Relations Director Denise Sawyer said. “The Manklin Meadows Sports Complex has grown into one of the best racquet sports destinations in Maryland.”

What was once two tennis courts at the Manklin Meadows Racquet Sports Complex has now been transformed into eight official playing areas for members of the club and pickleball lovers from all around.

“My first reaction was ‘Finally!’ ” Creamer said with a laugh. “It took a while, it was a process. You had to work your way through the board of directors and getting money funded, and it took us about five or six years to do it, but you see it now.”

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton that focuses on hitting a Wiffle ball with composite paddles slightly larger than those used for ping-pong. The game can be played with either two or four players, with the objective to hit the ball on the other team’s side of the court.

The project was approved by the Ocean Pines Association’s board, giving the club an estimated $35,000 to put toward the creation of the courts.

Along with the establishment of the courts, the association also included extending, squaring and filing corners of the asphalt pads as well as extending the chain link fence, painting and installing nets and posts, according to a press release.

Creamer also said the club is looking to install lights at the facility to make pickleball an around-the-clock activity.

“Going into next year’s budget we hope to get lights. We’re locked into this year’s budget right now, and we had lights on the tennis courts where we played, so now with these pickleball courts, we don’t have lights anymore, so we’re going to try and get those,” Creamer said.

With the new additions, the club is expecting an increase in members as well as a spike in pickleball activity in Ocean Pines.

In its first week of existence, a free week of pickleball will be offered to those hoping to participate and learn more about the sport. Members of the club, including Creamer and Woulfe, will work one-on-one with those interested and teach them the first steps in mastering the sport.

“One of the first things we do is ask if you’ve ever played a racquet sport before, because based on the answer to that question, we might train you differently,” Woulfe said. “But the great thing about pickleball players is you don’t have to have a racquet sport background to learn this game. We have many players learn the game and love the game who have never played a racquet sport.”

Turning Ocean Pines residents into passionate pickleball players has been Woulfe’s and Creamer’s specialty throughout the last six years. Starting with just 12 members, the club has grown to about 300 players, including an estimated 120 members.

According to Creamer, one of the conditions for the new courts given by the Ocean Pines Association was to show growth and longevity of the sport - something both Creamer and Woulfe are confident they’ve helped accomplish.

“We have a fantastic turnout. Every year, hundreds of new people come out to try the sport. It’s spread throughout the area, it’s not just Ocean Pines players, it’s all over the area,” Woulfe said. “Pickleball players love to travel and love to try new spots.”

For Bob O’Malley, a longtime pickleball player, it was exciting to see his community invest so much into the sport that he loves.

A father of two 27-year-old twin sons, pickleball has been an activity O’Malley’s entire family has taken part in while bonding and staying active.

“All of us played racquet sports and then pickleball came along. Frank and Julie introduced us to it, and we’ve been playing ever since,” O’Malley said. “Look at the age gap, my sons play, we’ve got some younger and older people playing, and it’s just great.”

Though it took some time, there is no longer a doubt that pickleball is a part of Ocean Pines for the foreseeable future.

Woulfe’s and Creamer’s hard work and devotion toward the sport, paired with support from the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors, has given pickleball the platform to succeed in the Pines.

As the area starts to flood with tourist during the summer months, the goal is for people around the country to get the full pickleball experience.

“We proved that we we’re viable and that we had some longevity in our game, and finally we got courts. We’re just trying to grow the sport. We started with a few and now we have a lot, and we’re just kind of the caretakers for now, but we’re hoping for exposure and to see it grow and grow,” Creamer said.

___

Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., https://www.delmarvanow.com/


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide