Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: July 2018 (Page 1 of 5)

Tournament: Concord

Sunday, July 29, 2018 (Court Day #177)
Golden State Pickleball Championships (Concord)

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On Saturday night, I drove up to Concord and arrived at Dave Cox’s motel room at 10:05 p.m. I had left Santa Cruz at about 7:15 but got stuck in beach traffic returning north to the Silicon Valley. I made a brief stop at In’N’Out Burger for dinner. When getting my order to go (to eat in my car), I asked if they had mustard packets. The young woman at the counter gave me about half a dozen. I had no intention of using these with my dinner. They were for warding off cramps at the tournament! I slept on Dave’s floor with an inflatable mattress and a sleeping bag. I’m not a heavy sleeper. Between the air conditioner kicking on and off and the refrigerator doing the same, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I also didn’t know Dave was setting his alarm for 5:50. Still, there was less stress already being in Concord and not getting possibly delayed by a car accident or something when driving in that morning.

Dave left a for the courts about 10 minutes before me, meeting his partner Kent.

Willow Pass Community Park

I arrived at the courts shortly before 7 a.m. and found a parking spot under a big tree. There was no sun yet, but the shade would likely come in handy later!

Check-in wasn’t open yet and some tents were still going up. They had over 20 courts here! Some were permanent and some were taped.

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After wandering about scoping the area, checked in, and asked to join three guys warming up. I dinked a few minutes but then my partner Rob appeared, so I excused myself from the yet-to-start game.

Rob and I dinked then played some 2 on 1 with a retired firefighter (Ken?) that Rob was acquainted with. Then Rob and I ended up in a warm-up game with two 50+ 3.5 players. They were both 60+. They beat us the first game but we were leading the second when it came time for the National Anthem after which Rob headed to the bathroom.

I checked the brackets and we didn’t need have a bye, so we would likely be playing soon.

Match #1

Rob and I were at Court #8. We met a man named Chris and his older partner Peter. They got out to a quick lead 6-1. It was not looking good. But we dialed things in a bit and made a game of it, eventually winning 11-7.

The second game was closer as Rob and I battled it out to a 12-10 win. Our match was completed at almost exactly 9 a.m. On to the second round!

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Match #2

We didn’t have to wait too long for our next match, maybe 20 minutes. We’d be on Court 6, right next to the court we’d previously played on.

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Our game would be against Chris Lachman and Cash French. Chris was tall and thin, Cash was my height and very muscular. Chris was the more “no nonsense” of the two. And also the stronger player. Chris, if he’s a 3.5, he’s a high 3.5. Cash was on par with Rob and me in terms of skill. Chris made very few errors. I have to give credit to Chris in that he called a kitchen fault on himself. (I would too, but I appreciate others also being honest.) This match was disappointingly decisive in their favor. We lost the first match 11-3. And the second was only merely better with a final score of 11-4. It was 9:55 when I took the photo below right after our match.

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I spotted Asko, Carl’s partner from the Pleasanton tournament. Asko had a different (much older) partner this time. He was also playing in the 3.5 skill level, like us, but in 19+. Asko shared that Carl and he are cousins. I had no idea!

About 10 minutes after our second match I found Bryan Leong (from San Jose) was playing in the Pro division. It was fun to watch.

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Bryan (in blue) in the midst of this pro (5.0) match. 10:03 a.m.

They got into repeated very extended dinking battles. I overheard national champion Kyle Yates talking to his partner Ben Johns. They were a little bemused over how these two teams in the Pro division were not attacking more frequently. Bryan and his partner David Wage won their match, but it was a fairly even matchup taking three games.

Rob and I checked out the other games going on. Sometimes, we’d be watching the same game, sometimes not.

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Dave Cox and Kent Shain (far side) in a match in 3.5 50+. 10:37 a.m.

Dave Cox and Kent lost their first match but went on to win their next two in the consolation bracket before getting eliminated by the eventual bronze medalists. They had 17 teams in their 3.5 50+ group.

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Morgan Evans (orange) and fellow top player Tyson McGuffin warm up (right side) while their opponents warm up on the left. 10:42 a.m.

There were some top national players on hand at this tournament, as expected.

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The crowd watching a Pro match that included Tyson McGuffin and Morgan Evans. 11:05.

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Bryan (far right) and David try their hand against top players Kyle Yates (far left) and Ben Johns. 11:07 a.m.

Bryan and David’s match against Yates/Johns did not go well. They lost 11-2, 11-1. Just goes to show just how good the national champions are. Bryan was bummed afterward, of course.

We were waiting a while for our match in the consolation bracket. Well over an hour. Lots of time to wander.

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Photo of the losers’ bracket. 11:15 a.m. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Match #3

We were on the far side for this match, over on the taped courts, Court #22. We got to the court and two men were playing on it. They were squatters and moved on in short order. Stewart and Craig appeared. They were our opponents. Both really nice guys. Play to 15, win by 2. Would we be able to climb back into the medal rounds?

It became apparent in short order that we were going to be eliminated from the tournament in this match. We would have had to have been playing our very best to even have had a shot.

Afterward, Peter—from our first match—offered me a beer right outside the gate of Court #22. I told him, “After that match, I need a beer!” Craig and Stewart were there too. They were all from Moraga, about 15 miles south of Concord. They have a pickleball club based at a tennis facility. They have no online presence yet and were admiring the Santa Cruz Pickleball Club shirts that they were seeing around. When I said I’d gotten a pretty bad night sleep, Peter said they should put other players up for the tournament next year. Maybe I can do that next year.

More Locals

David Black and Chris Yoder were playing in the 4.0 group. They were doing pretty well,  o in game through matches. Eventually, though, they too were eliminated. It would not be a great day for SCPC players today.

Fan Time

I went by a vendor tent and Kyle Yates and Ben Johns were lounging around sitting at the back. I went up to Kyle and asked, “Let me see those dings you were taking about!” He showed me his paddle. It looked in pretty good shape, but sure enough, there was  a noticeable ding in the lower right corner of one face. Yup.

A while later (3:26 p.m. to be exact), I grabbed a selfie with Kyle. He hammed it up.

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I also got some autographs on my paddle! Yep, pickleball groupie!

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Lower left, Kyle Yates. Upper left, Ben Johns. Lower right, Morgan Evans.

Ben Johns was pretty funny. “Are you sure you want my signature? I’m a bit of a scrub.” Ha!

When I caught up with Morgan Evans, he mentioned that he’s working on a podcast that should be out in August. “Hopefully, Selkirk will let me off the leash a bit so I can have a bit fun with it.” He’s got a great voice for it.

Techie

Dave Cox bought a custom paddle at the Third Shot Paddles tent, after he and I went and tested a couple rounds of samples paddles. They had some sampls of the core materials. I grabbed a few shots of Nomex which is primarily used in aircraft construction. It’s resin infused cardboard. I’ve known that for a long time, but it’s another thing to hold the raw material in your hand!

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I knew that an aluminum core absorbs power and has less pop than other cores, but what stands out most about playing with it is how incredibly noisy the core is. You cannot mistake the sound of an aluminum paddle!

Consolation

The one bright spot in our tournament is that the first team we lost to went on to win silver. The second team, that eliminated us, went on to win bronze. So we were eliminated by medalists, at least. We lost to very good teams.

I have to admit, I was pretty depressed after the tournament, even with that knowledge. I felt that I hadn’t played my best. I just have to work on consistency. I’m not there yet. The other skill I want to work on is powering back hard drives toward me while I’m at the net. I’m good at blocking them, but that allows a player to approach the net—not a good thing. I have to sent them back hard. That’s something the pros do well.

Game Footage

There was a service there called Mofia Pickleball, which recorded all the games. For the $39.99 package edit and provide video of three complete matches. I decided that I wanted to know what went wrong. They told me it was best to order online, I would do that.

Perspective

There’s nothing like getting trounced at a tournament to be a wake up call in terms of your pecking order in the pickleball universe. Back to earth. Just when my hot air balloon got a few feet off the ground.

 

Number of days on a court: 177
Number of total hours: 488

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

 

Man Child

Friday, July 27, 2018 (Court Day #176)

I arrived at Brommer Park a little after 9. It was my first visit there during club play hours in about three months. This time, I made absolutely sure work would be covered while I was gone!

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I’m in a limbo of sorts. I’m on the fence between the local intermediates and advanced players. I’m definitely not perfect and make poor shots, but I also clobbered many of the non-advanced players. I must have won 40 points today on shots with spin that couldn’t be handled by my opponents. George, after one such shot, said, “That’s a career killer!”

The first hour was great. Chris Yoder and teamed up against Leslie and a tall older gentleman I’d never seen before—understanding, of course, that I haven’t played at Brommer since April or the first week in May. Chris and I won. It was a fun game.

I then played with Karen Long against Chris and Allan. We were leading early on, but I made a series of errors near the end of the game and we lost.

Soon, the hour of mixed skill play ended. Then the choice. Sign up in red with the advanced at the risk of embarrassment—both in terms of being called out on it and also not pulling my weight on the court. Advanced is supposed to be 4.0 and above. But it gets funny. A 4.0 in 60+ might be a 3.5 in a younger crowd. I opted not to risk it and stick with intermediates. Unfortunately, there are really two groups, intermediate and advanced. No one, unless they are brand new, signs up as the bottom skill group, that means intermediate has a wide range of skill. I think winning medals will slowly provide me with more respect. As well as continuing to improve and not making execution errors. Eventually, I’ll be accepted into the advanced group. Already, I feel that I’m on par with several players who play in that group, but I’ll give it time. Nonetheless, I watched longingly at some of the advanced games going on, knowing I’d be in the mix.

Paddle

Terry Long looked at my paddle. He’d seen my post on Facebook’s Pickleball Forum about the crack in it: “Let’s see that paddle.” The edge guard was lose already, so he pulled it back and checked the edge. The damage didn’t go all the way through. Was it a scratch or a crack. We couldn’t really tell, but the face acted as if it were fully intact, so we figured it should be fine.

Tournament

I talked to Dave Cox. Since Rob’s fire station in Foster City is still an hour from Concord, I’m leaning toward staying with Dave in a motel. Or just getting up at 5:30 and driving up.

Number of days on a court: 176
Number of total hours: 486.5

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Tournament Prep

Thursday, July 26, 2018 (Court Day #175)

I posted a photo of my cracked padddle on Facebook’s Pickleball Forum. Several people commented on Paddletek’s great customer service and their lifetime warranty. I wrote to Paddletek explaining and sharing the photo. We’ll see what I hear back. I’ll admit it was fun to have top-player Kyle Yates comment on my post: “Hahaha my paddle looks worse than that .. should play just fine but if it really bothers you I’m sure they’d replace it.” Kyle is part of Team Paddletek and is sponsored by the company, so it’s not entirely unexpected that he might comment. Kyle will be in Concord on Sunday to compete.

Game Night

I had to finish up some things at work so I got to Skypark a little later, about 7:10. There weren’t too many strong players there. Rob and Bruce were there and Colleen. No Eric, no Brennan. Oleg would show up later though. Janet mentioned Jerry Louis. Jerry moved to Nevada or Arizona months ago and I haven’t seen him since. Too bad, he was good at keeping us on our toes.

img_0438Rob (left) and Bruce waiting for a game. 

Rob and I played Oleg and Bruce and won.

Then we played Oleg and Mark Dettle and won.

We played a game against Janet and Bruce intentionally giving up winners to get into a soft dinking game for practice. We told Janet and Bruce what we were doing. It was a closer game than it would have been normally, but we still won. It was an opportunity to experiment with spin shots and loopy serves and whatever else we wanted. Rob commented, “I don’t think you’ve missed even one of your backspin returns.” I don’t think that I did—and a whole lot of them ended up in the net over the course of several games. We’ll see if I get an opportunity to use them in the matches on Sunday.

The last game was Adrian and Colleen versus us. We were just coming off a very relaxed lazy game where we gave up our intentional winner shots. We didn’t dial it back up, underestimated our opponents and lost the game to Colleen and Adrian! Colleen could be named “backboard” . . . she’s good about returning shots. Adrian doesn’t have a complete game—he’s getting over some knee injuries—but can make some crack shots when given the opportunity. Our game was the last of the night. Oleg and Olga were watching, but aside from site coordinator Mark Dettle, everyone else was gone.

Afterward, Mark was packing up the courts and asked, “Was that the only game that you lost?”
“Yep!”

We were done about 9:15. It’s really nice having lights to play under. Even if it does make it hard to always spatially judge the ball location.

Tournament in three days!

Number of days on a court: 175
Number of total hours: 483.5

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above. 

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