The Cherokee County Pickleball Circles League capped its inaugural season season over the weekend, as Bradshaw Farms claimed the championship with an upset win over top-seeded Lake Arrowhead.
The 10-team league also featured a second team from Bradshaw Farms, two teams from Woodmont and teams from Harmony on the Lakes, Ballground, Soleil/Laurel Canyon, Veterans Park and Kenny Askew Park.
“It was a great first year,” Chip Hullender said. “We had a really good turnout. We had more people than we thought we would, and the competition was great. It was just a really good season of pickleball.”
The league was the first county-wide league formed in Georgia and ran from March to July.
More than 170 players combined to play more than 47 matches and 800 games in the inaugural season, but Hullender, along with Sarah O’Brien have even bigger plans for the league in the future.
“We were really happy with the first season, but with the way the sport is growing, I think we’ll have even more,” Hullender said. “By 202, I really think we can add four to six subdivisions and double in size.”
While the league finally got off the ground this year, it was not always a fast-moving process.
Hullender became the Cherokee County pickleball ambassador to the USAPA four years ago, and while there were tournaments and other events along the way, starting the state’s first league took some effort.
“It took me a while to get enough subdivisions, but now it’s just exploding,” Hullender said. “Last year, I realized just how many people were playing. We knew the sport was growing, but we didn’t know it was that much. Then, it was just a matter of getting them out for the league and tournaments.”
Other events include the Boys and Girls Club tournament and the senior Olympics each year, but presenting the sport to a wider audience helped get the league off the ground.
The sport was originally pushed toward seniors, but the CCPCL feature players from 19-79 years old.
“It is the great equalizer,” Hullender said. “The younger kids are faster, but it’s a tough game to master. A lot of times they don’t know how to master the shots like the older folks do. It can really be some good matchups.”
While age may not have played a great factor in the league, Hullender said the league will look to make some improvements in Year 2.
“Being our first year, we’re going to modify it with what we learned this year,” Hullender said. “We want it to be fun for those who want it to be competitive and fun for those who want it to be social.”
The league will be on hiatus until next March, but there will be pickleball events before then.
The Boys and Girls Club tournament will be Oct. 12, and other clinics and events will be posted at facebook.com/cherokeecountygeorgiapickleball.