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VISUALIZING OUTSTANDING VOLLEYS
USAPA-Sanctioned Pickleball Tour
This year marks a milestone for pickleball with the launch of the APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) Tour, the sport’s first USAPA-sanctioned tour for professional and amateur players in the U.S. and Canada. Kicking off with the $25k Hilton Head Open in mid-March, the roster for the APP Tour’s first year includes 12 tournaments across the U.S. and one in Canada, a mix of first-time and established events with purse prizes ranging from $25k to $75k per event.
For the first time ever, professional and amateur players will have the opportunity to earn points at every APP Tour event they play. Top-performing players who compete in the minimum required tournaments and acquire the requisite points will qualify to compete at the season-ending championship—the $40k APP Masters—in Punta Gorda, Florida, in October. During the eight-month tour, all players will be able to track their standing on the weekly Onix Dura Standings List. “The APP Tour offers all players—professional and
amateur level—a complete story: a beginning, middle and end to an entire season of exciting, competitive play, with the finale being a season-ending championship in which everyone has the opportunity to qualify,” says APP Tour founder and CEO Ken Herrmann.
Herrmann’s original vision for the APP Tour was a multi-city schedule, focused on Midwest and Southeast locations where no professional pickleball tournaments were already being played or experienced by local fans. “I wanted to create a series of tournaments that would co-exist with the great events already taking place, not compete with them.”
To bring that vision to life, he partnered with Dana Joseph, along with Rick and Bridget Witsken, to create United Pickleball Management (UPM), which manages the tour. And to ensure that the tour would meet both pro and amateur players’ needs, one of the team’s first steps through UPM was to establish the APP Advisory Committee, a 17-member group chaired by Steve Kennedy, one of the top senior professionals and an Engage lead clinician.
“It’s always been our priority that the APP Tour represent the voice of both pros and amateurs,” says Joseph, who also serves as the APP tournament codirector. “This tour gives aspiring amateur players the same path as the pros—a yearlong goal to improve 2020 KICKS OFF FIRST USAPA-Sanctioned Pickleball Tour and compete against other players in their age division and skill level.”
An early recommendation by the advisory committee was to expand the number of tournaments on the 2020 APP Tour schedule, growing it coast to coast.
“The APP Tour is a necessary step in the evolution of the world’s greatest sport. It legitimizes pickleball’s professional appeal to the public and future sponsors,” says Steve Dawson, owner of The Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle Club, which hosts the SoCal Classic. “We’re happy to partner with the APP Tour to establish our club and the SoCal Classic as part of the original pickleball tour, with hopes to be a key partner for years to come.”
Partnerships are the foundation for great tournaments, which is why the decision to partner with the APP Tour was easy, according to Kristy Wolford, Co-Director of The Tournament of Champions (TOC), played in Bingham City, Utah. TOC is a USAPA national qualifier tournament with a rich history and highly experienced tournament directors in Wolford and Kyle Klein. And 2020 will be a big year for TOC, with prize payouts growing to $75,000, up from $57,000 in 2019.
Other well-established tournaments partnering with the APP Tour for 2020 include The Atlanta Open and The Las Vegas Open.
“The APP is the most organized, well-conceived pro pickleball tour to date,” says Klein. “With the combination of Ken’s strong vision, solid locations and experienced tournament directors, this tour will deliver what players want in a tournament experience. There will be continued growth and worldwide interest in the sport and this series.”
Most recently, the APP Tour partnered with Karl Hale’s Professional Canadian Series. As part of that partnership in 2020, the Hilton Head Open will be included on the Canadian Series, counting toward its yearend results, while the Peterborough Cup, held outside of Toronto in late August, will count as the 13th stop on the APP Tour.
Herrmann is grateful for the support the APP Tour has received from so many established tournaments. And while he’s excited about the interest from other tournament directors to become part of the APP Tour in 2021, UPM’s biggest priority right now is making 2020 a successful launch year. That includes bringing quality match play into more and more homes.
“Elevating the sport also means making sure its great players get the exposure they deserve,” says Herrmann, explaining that every APP Tour event will have full live streaming of matches and an on-site studio APP Tour Show hosted by No Smoke Productions’ Lauren McLaughlin and Kyle Selinko, and a media team reporting on the day’s action. “It’s going to be an amazing year for pickleball!”
To register for events on the APP Tour, go to pickleballtournaments.com. •