Eight years ago, Mona Burnett was riding her bicycle past the Sun City Grand’s pickleball courts in Surprise,
Arizona, when she noticed a swarm of activity. A fan of racquet sports, she was intrigued by the gameplay on the courts. She asked a few questions, signed up for an introductory lesson, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Burnett, 58, has become one of the game’s most dominant players. At the 2015 USAPA Nationals, she racked up five gold medals, sweeping each division in which she played, including Women’s Doubles Age 55+ with partner Luba Zhekhovskaya, Mixed Doubles Age 55+ with partner Tyler Sheffield, Women’s Singles Age 55+, Senior Open Women’s Doubles with Zhekhovskaya and Senior Open Mixed Doubles with partner Scott Moore.
“It was an experience that is probably a once-in-a-lifetime achievement and I feel so fortunate to have had the experience,” says Burnett, who is retired from the real estate industry. “Not once did I ever think that I would win every bracket that I entered, but it sure was a fun ride!” After her singles win, a friend informed her that she had made a clean sweep of each division she had entered in her age bracket.
“At that point, the thought crossed my mind that five gold medals was a possibility. As any competitor knows, these are thoughts that you cannot focus on or you tighten up considerably on the court. So, now the challenge was to stay grounded and allow Luba and me to play our best in the final match of the tournament. When Luba and I won the Senior Open Women’s Doubles, and had only one event left, the situation become more real than ever,” she says.
Her final event was the Senior Open Mixed gold-medal match with partner Moore.
“When Scott and I won the Senior Open Mixed Doubles gold, I was so excited that I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I was ecstatic,” she recalls.
Burnett said the most challenging part of her five-bracket sweep was the bronze- medal match of the Senior Open Women’s Doubles bracket.
“We won the first game, lost the second game and were down 10-7 in the third game,” she explains. “We actually lost the final point of the match, but then heard ‘foot fault,’ which gave us the side out. We fought hard and it took two side outs, but we managed to prevail over our opponents 12-10 in the third game.”
Burnett, who splits her time between Surprise, Arizona, and her native Canada, says her skills from playing squash transferred over “quite nicely” to the game of pickleball.
In addition to her success at Nationals, Burnett has medaled in many prestigious North American tournaments, including the Tournament of Champions, the Huntsman World Senior Games, the Grand Canyon State Games, the SoCal Classic and the Canadian Western Nationals. She is also the 2011 USAPA Nationals Mixed Open Gold Medalist and the 2014 USAPA Nationals Senior Women’s Doubles Gold Medalist, and at the 2015 Tournament of Champions, she won gold in Senior Women’s Doubles and silver in both Senior Mixed Doubles and Senior Women’s Singles events.
“I enjoy the competition, playing outdoors in the sunshine and the challenge of constantly improving, but I think most of all I enjoy the pickleball community,” she says. “I have met people who never would have come into my life if it hadn’t been for pickleball. It’s a sport that anyone can play, young or old!”