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Big BAH Crowd Learns How the Pickleball Bounces
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Monday, June 17, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The streets outside Whiskey’s were deserted, thanks to construction which has left Main Street Ketchum a track of dust behind a chain link fence.

But, somehow, a hundred people managed to find their way through the road closures and narrow snaking pedestrian paths to take part in the first Business After Hours held in Ketchum in a long while.

Robert Shuford of Shuford Financial Partners picked up the tab for the beer, wine and pizza, and various businesses contributed such raffle items as window cleaner and skin care items as business professionals like Tom Crais came from as far away as Hailey to take part.

“I just think it’s important to bring the community together,” said Shuford, who is on the board of The Chamber.

Some of those who attended Thursday’s BAH came to hear Lee Sponaugle, president of the Wood River Valley Pickleball Alliance, put in a plug for the organization and an upcoming pickleball tournament that will feature John McEnroe and Mats Wilander while raising money for Men’s Second Chance Living recovery program.

Sponaugle, one of the top rated pickleball players in the world and president of International Raquet Sports Association, did not disappoint as he shared with his boundless enthusiasm how the local pickleball alliance has expanded from 120 players last year to 196 players on 14 teams this year.

The alliance is again hosting free clinics on Friday mornings at Atkinsons Park, he said, and will kick off this year’s league with a barbecue at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Atkinsons’ Park in Ketchum provided inclement weather doesn’t bump it to Thursday.

“We expanded the league so more people can have the fun and excitement of playing pickleball and of getting to know people,” he said. “I’ve been here four years and I don’t yet know about half of the people in the league.”

Sponaugle will be among the top 16 pickleball professionals who will compete at The Legends and Celebrity Pickleball event for MSCL, which will be held Aug. 1-4 at the Valley Club north of Hailey.

“Things like this happen in New York and Los Angeles but to have something like this in a small rural place like Sun Valley is unheard of,” he said. “It’s going to be a wonderful event with the top competitors in the sport coming just so they can give back. All are so fit and each has an impressive back story. And there’s so much more going on, like the free clinics that weekend.

“Then we’ll have the second annual Sun Valley Pickleball Classic Tournament Sept.19-22. Last year we had 130 players show up for that; this year we’ll have 200 players coming to town.”

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