Participation has grown 300% since the tournament's inaugural year.
The first day that Walt Hooker learned to play pickleball, he ruptured his achilles tendon and had to follow doctor's orders to not play again for 18 months.
That didn't stop Hooker's love for the game though.
About eight years later, Hooker is now a USAPA ambassador and the Hammock Cup pickleball tournament director in Palm Coast.
"Once you try it, you'll love it," he said. "We have people that are tennis players and have given up tennis to play strictly pickleball."
At the third-annual Hammock Cup pickleball tournament, about 240 players from across the state competed for medals. The tournament was held at James F. Holland Memorial Park, 18 Florida Park Drive N. on April 12-14.
"We're trying to convince the city and the county that pickleball is growing," Hooker said. "I think they're receiving the message; it's just that there's other priorities and money that they have to come up with in order to meet the demand."
Hooker said pickleball is unlike any sport.
"It's very social; you could be at a tournament and not know someone and by the time you leave, they'll say, 'Hey, the next time you're in town, stay at my house,'" he said. "It's really an awesome community. I think part of it is the court is so much smaller than a tennis court that you actually can talk to people while you're playing. Not everyone does; some do. But in tennis you're much further apart."
The first Hammock Cup tournament was held behind the Hammock Community Center in March 2017. There were 80 players over two days.
Last year, the tournament was moved to Holland Park, with the city’s permission, where there are four lined pickleball courts that require portable nets. Four additional courts were taped to regulation for the tournament. In 2018, there were 145 players, over two days.
This year, there were six additional taped courts, making 10 total. Over three days, 240 players competed — a 300% growth in just two years, said Hooker.
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