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Where No Pickleball Has Gone Before
Globetrotting pickleball enthusiasts Tony and Susan Childs take the game to the North Pole.
By Alice Tym
decided to join the Travelers’ Century Club, which has a list of over 300 destinations including all 193 countries plus other places such as Hong Kong and Alaska. Later, he moved on to Most Traveled People, which designates 840 places. He has visited 750 and is in the top 10 travelers among the approximately 15,000 members listed on the organization’s website. Meanwhile, Susan became a good tennis player, but Steve Dawson introduced her to pickleball at the Bobby Riggs Tennis Center in Encinitas, California. Shortly thereafter, she convinced Tony to try it. (Tony had played tennis as well but quit at age 50 due to a very bad back.) “There is so much league play in tennis,” notes Susan. “Pickleball is more fun, welcoming, open and co-ed.” Tony affirms, “Very co-ed.” Now they play mixed doubles together and travel to the major U.S. tournaments across the country. Tony took his name off of the Most Traveled People list last
December, although he and Susan still plan to travel and even took their paddles to the North Pole so they could practice on the ship. In 2020, they will visit Botswana, and maybe play the English Open and the Bainbridge Cup, the National Indoors in Hot Springs, and Brigham City. Pickleball has
brought them back to the U.S. and now they travel for fun rather than travel competition. “I’ve changed obsessions,” says Tony. Winning gold in their first tournament, the Western Regional, hooked them both. Tony has had to calm down on the court—they only play mixed in tournaments—and Susan has had to learn not to worry about how Tony is reacting. “Unlike most mixed teams, we share the court evenly,” Tony explains. “We are so new to the game, with one year of tournament play, that there are still really basic things to do to improve our game. Audrey Phillips has been our pickleball fairy godmother and Jill Prolman has helped us a lot with calmness advice. It’s not easy for married couples to play together.” These world travelers have settled down, and pickleball has made them feel at home.