First-time partners win pickleball title at Western Slope Open

Pat Mason, right, returns a shot Saturday as her partner Tom Woodward, left, watches during the 3.0 mixed doubles pickleball match during the Western Slope Open at Lincoln Park. Mason and Woodward won the title.

Luke Olkowski returns a shot Saturday during his 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) victory over Matt Silzell in the semifinals of the 14-12-year-old boys singles match at the Western Slope Open at the Ellikott Tennis center. Olkowski will play for the title today.

Pam Mason let out a loud, aggravated groan as her shot went into the net.

Her pickleball partner, Tom Woodward, didn’t flinch and gave her a jolt of encouragement.

The two were in sync for much of Saturday’s match, Woodward with consistent left-handed shots and Mason using her right-hand swing to compliment her partner.

The duo won the 3.0 mixed doubles pickleball title as part of the Western Slope Open, which was a bit of a surprise, since it was the first time they’ve ever played together in competition.

“It was interesting but we played well together,” Mason said.

Mason came up from Colorado Springs to visit friends and play in the tournament. She was assigned a partner but when he dropped out with a pulled hamstring, Woodward was partnered with her.

They got in a little practice time on Friday, then jumped into the tournament.

“The cool thing with Pat is we clicked yesterday when we played for the first time,” Woodward said. “I’m left-handed and she’s right-handed, and sometimes that throws people’s games off.”

Especially when the ball is hit in the middle between the players, but Woodward and Mason didn’t miss a beat as new partners.

Mason, 60, has played in tournaments before but never had much success.

“In other tournaments in which I’ve played in, I don’t think I’ve even won a game,” she said with a laugh. “So this is pretty exciting.”

Woodward, 75, was a highly active and competitive racquetball player for 12 years when he lived in Alaska.

“Pickleball kinda took over when I moved down here,” he said. “I think my competitive spirit comes out a little more (in tournaments). I mean, I like to win.”

In the title game, Mason actually beat the friend who she came to visit. Today, the two friends will team up to play in the women’s doubles tournament.

Jeannie Pippin, 64, of Cedaredge, who was partnered with Jim Mense, is a relative newcomer to the sport, and took up the game at the encouragement of Mason.

“We’ve been friends for 35-40 years, and they came to visit and she said I gotta show you this, and that was the end of it,” Pippin explained about how she was introduced to the sport in the spring of 2016.

Actually that was the beginning of it and now she’s hooked on the sport.

“I don’t like to sweat, and I will tell you, I don’t mind sweating when I play pickleball,” she said, laughing. “I love that I’m able to use my body doing something I enjoy.”

The pickleball portion of the Open wraps up today.

CMU recruit in tennis
men’s open final

Steven Howe doesn’t know anything about the Western Slope Open, but he’s now two sets from taking the title back home to California with him.

The 17-year-old from Temecula, California, is in Grand Junction on a recruiting visit.

“I’m actually visiting the campus, I’m currently interested in playing for Colorado Mesa,” Howe said.

CMU coach Dan MacDonald encouraged the soon-to-be high school senior to play in the Western Slope Open.

Howe cruised in his semifinal match against six-time Western Slope Open champion Jerry Lockwood, winning 6-3, 6-2.

The hot weather was no problem for Howe, but the altitude was a little challenging.

“The elevation is a little different here than California, but you just have to throw a little more spin on the ball and shorten up your swing,” he said.

He will face current CMU player Max Lindqvist in the finals. He defeated Tim Wright, 6-2, 6-1.

A last name very familiar to The Daily Sentinel sports section readers popped up in the 14-12 year-old boys singles tournament.

Luke Olkowski held off a determined comeback by Matt Silzell to win the semifinal match 6-4, 7-6 (9-7).

“It was a lot of fun,” the 13-year-old Olkowski said.

Silzell fell behind in the second set but fought back to force the second-set tiebreaker.

The Olkowski name is common but not in the local world of tennis. With siblings Trevor, Canon and Gracie all finding success on the golf links, Luke said his sport is tennis.

“I just came back to tennis after about three years,” he said. “I was playing golf. But I like tennis more.”

Displaying crisp but sometimes inconsistent forehand ground strokes, Luke said he getting better the more he plays.

With boys golf and tennis both being in the fall season, Luke said he’s already made up his mind what sport he will play.

“I’m going to play tennis,” he said.

In the highest level of girls 18-16 competition, it was an all-Grand Junction High School semifinal.

Julianna Campos, who played at No. 1 singles as a freshman for the Tigers, was a 7-5, 6-0 winner over Kamryn Peltier, who was at No. 3 singles in the spring.

Campos faces Emma Aubert in the finals. Aubert scored a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Isabel Manzanares, who played at No. 2 singles for Grand Junction this past spring.

Campos just returned from a tennis camp at the University of Denver.

“I’m really working on my serve. I used to have a pretty good serve but it kinda fell away,” she said. “I went to tennis camp last week and that’s what I really worked on.”

She’s using the summer to help improve her game.

“I’m really looking forward to the (high school) season, I really want to make it to state this year, so I need to focus and try and improve my game so I can get there,” she said.

The tournament continues today with all the singles finals behind played. The tournament’s doubles competition begins Monday.


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