Pickleball a big hit at Taco Bell Western Slope Open
Dan Oliver promised Connie Guillory they would be done by noon Wednesday before the temperature got too hot.
After losing once, the two pickleball players kept winning and ended up playing nearly two hours past noon, but they were the last mixed doubles team standing in the first pickleball bracket of the 56th annual Taco Bell Western Slope Open.
Oliver and Guillory won the pickleball 4.0 mixed doubles division at the Lincoln Park tennis courts. They had to defeat Walter Cummings and Sydney Hayes three times in the triple-elimination draw to win the title.
Mike Cox and Kim Krueger took third place.
Cummings and Hayes could’ve forced a fifth meeting, but Oliver and Guillory persevered in a battle of attrition.
“I said I’m going home after the last match, win, lose or draw,” Guillory said. “The legs were turning to rubber. You basically stand there every point.”
“It was pretty grueling,” Oliver admitted.
Cummings and Hayes defeated Oliver and Guillory in their first meeting in the 4.0 bracket, which started at 8 a.m. Oliver and Guillory won their next match to get a rematch and defeated Cummings and Hayes twice.
Cummings and Hayes defeated Cox and Krueger to get another shot at Oliver and Guillory. They held on for a 15-13 victory.
“We were so evenly matched,” Guillory said. “We’re all four hard-heads and competitive enough. At some point, you try to put it on automatic pilot and play as hard as you can. I think I’m losing toenails.”
Guillory and Oliver are former tennis players, who have played tennis in the Taco Bell Western Slope Open in the past. They have played pickleball for three years.
“It’s growing like crazy,” Oliver said of the sport.
The 4.0 mixed doubles division included seven teams. There were a total of 28 teams (56 players) in the first pickleball division of the Taco Bell Western Slope Open.
The 2.5 doubles division played Monday and 3.0 mixed doubles played Tuesday.
“This has been our best turnout, even with the (Western Colorado) senior games last year,” Grand Junction pickleball ambassador Ken Hobbs said. “We did it with three divisions. We did really well.”
Taco Bell tournament Director Lena Elliott and her family invited the pickleball group to be a part of the tournament this year.
“We jumped at the chance,” Hobbs said. “It’s a good opportunity for more exposure. Even though our tournament is separate from theirs it goes alongside it with the trophies and T-shirts.”
Hobbs has helped plan and organize pickleball play and build membership in Grand Junction for several years. He recently became the local ambassador for the national association.
George Gerson has helped Hobbs build interest in the sport.