Champs, ‘up-and-comers’ at GR pickleball open


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tyson McGuffin would rather spend time playing pickleball than explaining the growing sport, but he’s still happy to introduce people to the basics.

“The kitchen,” McGuffin pointed out as he turned toward the court behind him. “It’s this little green region right here.”

A pickleball on a pickleball court. (File)

The two-time United States Open Pickleball champion spends a great deal of his days teaching clinics. He has already held one here in Grand Rapids this week.

McGuffin is one of many top players in the world in town for the second annual Beer City Open, which is being held this week at Belknap Park.  

“Seventy percent of the top 15 to 20 players will be here,” tournament director Paul Richards said. “There are lots of up-and-comers, too.”

In this sport, many fall into that category. Take it from one of highest-ranked players in the sport:

“There’s a lot of these young tennis players and stud racket players coming in and changing the game,” McGuffin said.

Zane Navratil is a former tennis player chasing after a career in pickleball. That means chasing after guys like McGuffin.

“I’d say Tyson is just as much a Federer, Djokovic, Nadal,” Navratil said. “He’s one of those guys of pickleball.”

Unfortunately for these professionals, wins alone are not enough to support a full-time career. Each survives by teaching, sponsors and the growth of tournaments like the Beer City Open.

“I think a lot of us know it’s headed in the right direction and the money is coming,” McGuffin said. “I think it’s just a matter of getting things a bit more established and a bit more organized. It still sort of has that wild, Wild West backyard feel.”

There are 500 competitors in this year’s field. Tournament play in all divisions begins Thursday.

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