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At 14, Katie Krieger was the youngest competitor in the inaugural Davie Summer Pickleball Classic hosted by Steve Kennedy and the South Florida Pickleball Group at Bamford Park in Davie.
Krieger showed she was up to the challenge as she teamed with Boca Raton’s Neil Chafloque, a member of the Delray Beach Pickleball Club, to capture the 4.0 Mixed Doubles 19+ Division championship match with a 9-11, 11-6, and 11-4 victory over Fabian Soto (Hialeah Gardens) and Boynton Beach’s Lynn Brancato, who is also a member of the Delray Beach Pickleball Club.
“I don’t think about being the youngest,” said Krieger, who is homeschooled and didn’t take the sport seriously until 1 1/2 years ago. She’s been playing for three years and used to play recreational racquetball and transitioned to pickleball. “I just try and play the people in the competition.
“I really started liking it a lot and I saw other people in competitions I really wanted to compete with them,” she said. “There are a lot of things to think about when you are out on the court. It is much more intense than rec games. One thing I always think about is focus and relax. It is important to keep calm and think about what you are doing.”
The Delray Beach Pickleball Club had a strong contingent of players in the tournament, which recognized first responders and their families. There was a pickleball clinic and exhibition by Steve Kennedy, which was followed by a barbecue dinner and live music by Nashville’s Tommy Karlas.
The oldest participant was Marty Messinger, 82, who lives in Boynton Beach. He teamed with Catherine Barton to win a silver medal in the 3.0 Mixed Doubles 60+ Division.
“It is the greatest game ever invented,” Messinger said. “It is very satisfying. This is very special.”
Kennedy said he was pleased with the turnout. He said the initial expectation was to draw between 200 and 250 players.
“I am really amazed,” he said. “To get that number is really an astronomical number for a first-time tournament. I am flabbergasted and it shows what the pickleball community is all about.
“Having the first responders here was the most special thing,” Kennedy said. “I love the tournament and was glad we were able to put it together but to appreciate the policemen and the firefighters and all of the hard work they really do is the least we can do.”