AAPA History

Early Beginnings

Roy Carroll taught pickleball to his PE classes at Clarke Middle school in the mid 1980’s. He ordered some plastic paddles ($4.00) and some pickleballs (only outdoor available then). Since he had 40 students there wasn’t enough room in the Clarke Middle School gym for all the games so he chalked off 10 courts in the parking lot and used volley ball posts and badminton nets. When he first showed up at Lay Park with a beat-up plywood paddle, he was laughingly told that the paddle belongs in a museum and he couldn’t use it because the surface was so marred. He got a new paddle.
The pickleball modern era started in the spring of 2013 when Leisure Services offered an adult class in pickleball at Lay Park. Randy Haygood bought a pickleball starter set consisting of the net, 4 wooden paddles, and some balls. Henry and Randy taught the game. Jamie Calkin and Brad Beasley showed up and the Leisure Services people had to fill in for a complete game. Jamie and Brad took the game to their “Dad’s Play Group” – consisting of Jamie, Brad, Mike Schmidt, Robert Lowrey, Matt Justus, and Jeff Montgomery – and asked Randy if they could play at Lay Park. Randy offered them play from 6:00 until 8:00 every other Wednesday.
Sometimes the full group didn’t show up so Jamie asked his dad, Ken, if he would like to play. Ken’s sister who lived in Michigan had been telling him for years about this fun game and urging him to play, so he joined the group in the summer of 2013. That summer and fall we tried some outdoor play. The group chalked pickleball lines on tennis courts around town including Lay Park, Satterfield, and some UGA courts at Lake Herrot. We used the tennis nets until Robert Lowrey and Jamie Calkin bought portable pickleball nets. With the official PB nets, we could mark off 2 PB courts on one tennis court.

​OLLI Special Interest Group (SIG) Fall 2013

Randy told Ken that the gym pretty much went empty during the mornings once school started and if enough people wanted to play pickleball, the gym was available. Since most current players at that time were employed, Ken thought he could find enough retirees to play so he approached OLLI about starting a Special Interest Group (SIG) to play pickleball.
Players that fall from OLLI included Larry King, Mack Folson, Walter Strause, Pete Butrick, Ralph and Kris Bakowski, Victor Gagliano, Kathy Smith, Camella Mims, Elizabeth Pape, Jeff Frehse, Mary Straub, and maybe some more. We played every Monday morning from 9:00 a.m.–-12:00 noon at Lay Park.
Ken submitted an OLLI class proposal for Jan, 2015 at Lay Park. There were 16 participants and through OLLI, pickleball kept growing. In 2016 the OLLI board met with Ken and told him that if non OLLI people were playing, it could not be an OLLI SIG. Since we were using a public facility, we could not restrict who could play without renting the gym. This ended the OLLI relationship.

​Play Beyond Athens

Fall, 2013 – Groups of Athens players traveled to play other “teams”: Deaton Creek, Atlanta JCC, and the Early Farm in Canton. We were invited to challenge matches at Deaton Creek and won one match but lost 14. Jamie and Mike, Chris and Ralph Bakowski, and David Block and Ken were our teams. A year later we invited Deaton Creek to bring a team to Lay Park. Our team won 31 of the 32 games played.
Early local tournaments were held Feb 2014, at Lay Park and spring 2014 at Ramsey. These were organized by Walter or Jamie and were invitational, with a small fee to pay for gym rental. There were no medals and the winners only got bragging rights.

​Forming AAPA

During the summer of 2014 we began discussing having a USAPA Sanctioned tournament. Jamie, Mike, Walter, and Jerry Brinegar had been playing in tournaments around the state and felt that we could support one. Walter agreed to be tournament director but said he also wanted to play in it. Since we would need to collect fees and expend funds, we would need a bank account and an organization to oversee it. A meeting was held at Momma’s Boy restaurant in August, 2014 to plan for an organization. I remember the participants as myself, Ralph and Kris Bakowski, Walter Straus, Larry King, and Jerry Brinegar. We decided to call ourselves Athens Area Pickleball Association. Walter agreed to be president and Ken offered to write bylaws. Our first order of business was to open a bank account and have a tournament in early November. Larry offered to be the first treasurer and open the bank account.


The first Pickled Peach tournament was held at Bishop Park in November of 2014. Walter Straus served as Tournament director and we had about 80 participants. We had men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles, and singles with 2.5, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 levels. Medals were given to gold, silver, and bronze winners. The weather was perfect for the 3 day tournament, but there were lots of scheduling and organizational problems. Following the tournament, Roy, Larry, and their wives offered to plan and run a tournament the next year. They contacted the Athens Classic Center and spent a great deal of time and effort working out thousand of details to create the Pickled Peach Valentines Tournament for the Valentines Day weekend of 2016. Many participants commented that it was the best run tournament they had attended. The tournament continued in 2017 and 2018.
In 2018 and 2019 we also had a number of smaller local “fun” tournaments to raise funds for benefits or increase pickleball awareness. These included a Books for Beginners match, a women’s event, and an event sponsored by UGA Women’s Tennis.

​Expansion of Facilities

Lay Park Gym, May, 2013
Bethlehem Methodist Church, May, 2014
Oconee Veterans Park
UGA Ramsey Center
East Athens Community Center
Clarke Middle School
Bishop Park
Satterfield Park
Southeast Clarke Park
Winterville Park
Athens Area Country Club, Feb, 2016
The Georgia Club
Athens First Methodist Church

​Early Players

Craig and Emily Rudlow, Jerry Brinegar, Jerry Tolbert, Ralph & Kris Bakowski, Roy Carroll, Robert Lowery, Victor Gagliano, Walter Straus, Mack Folsom, Kathy Smith, Cammela Mims, Jim Hartley, Jeff Montgomery, Jeffery Frehse, Bubba Wadley, Elizabeth Pape, Barbara Trawick, Pat Brown, Sandra Heard, Robert Demersseman, Roger Majchrzak, Roger Moore, Michael Schmidt, Brad Beasley, Lynn BeHanna, Pete Buttrick, Matt Justus, Mary Straub, Bernie Kacmar, Nelda VanSchoick

USAPA Ambassadors

Ken Calkin, Walter Straus, Jerry Brinegar

With over 500 AAPA players and over 40 local courts available, become a member today!