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Denver's Pickleball Ambassador Says 'Tennis Is So Yesterday'

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) - Pickleball is a little like tennis, only smaller. It's a little like ping pong, only bigger. It's even a little like badminton, but played with a wiffle ball, according to pickleball ambassador Ken Marquardt.

"The game started in 1965 in Seattle, Washington, and his name was (Joel) Pritchard. He had a badminton court and kids got bored, so he lowered the net to 36 inches, cut some wood paddles out and the kids just loved it," Marquardt said. "There was one problem -- the dog would always run and get the ball -- and the dog's name was Pickles."

At first glance pickleball truly does look like tennis. But it's not tennis -- don't even mention tennis.

"Tennis is so yesterday and pickleball is where it's at," Marquardt said. "It's easy to play … the ball is a wiffle ball and there are two different styles of ball. One is for outdoor and one is for indoor."

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Marquardt, or Pickleball Ken as he goes by, said there are also three different paddles. One is made of wood, one is graphite, and one is a composite. The game is played to 11.

"The only time you score is when you serve," he said.

Players have to serve the ball from under their waist.

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Pickleball Ken is not only the consummate authority on pickleball, he's a big reason the game has exploded in Denver. Eight years ago there were two pickleball courts in the metro area. Now there are more than 150 -- including a place in Arvada that's considered the Taj Mahal for pickleball courts called Apex Park and Recreation District.

"He walked in my office and he said, 'Are you interested in pickleball?' And I said, 'What's that?' And we started talking and the guy wouldn't take no for an answer," said Mike Miles, Apex Executive Director. "We had a big piece of property out here that was not being used. It was a weed patch. And we took a look at that and said, 'What could this be?' And that's where we got to today."

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Miles said the quality of courts at Apex are some of the best in the nation.

There are no more than 2,500 registered pickleballers in metro Denver. According to CBS4's Vic Lombardi, the game is wildly addictive. It's available for all ages and very competitive.

"They run leagues up here at Apex all year long. And then there are tournaments that are happening all over. In Colorado there are probably about eight to 10 tournaments that you can play in," said pickleball ambassador Chris Beal.

"It's not a slam-bam game, it's a finesse game and the volley can last … a minute and a half," Ken said.

"It's a very simple game. One, keep the ball in the court. Two, keep your opponents back away from the line. And three, you need to get to the line," Beal said.

Vic Lombardi
CBS4's Vic Lombardi taking his lumps at pickleball (credit: CBS)

When Lombardi was at Apex a man named Art Carney challenged him to a match and proceeded to destroy him.

LINKS: Apex Park and Recreation District |



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