Farragut pickleball stars bring home the gold

Farragut pickleball stars Janet Massie and Patrick Fox are busy bringing home the gold.

Last month they each won first-place awards at the Logan Stanley Memorial Tournament in Nashville. They aren’t acquainted with each other, but were two of 185 competitors who turned out for the three-day contest in Music City.

“Pickleball is a combination of tennis, ping-pong and paddleball, usually played in doubles on a miniature tennis court using short racquets and a whiffle ball,” said Massie, a 55-year-old mom of two.

She and her partner from out of state played against eight different teams, earning gold in women’s doubles. Unfortunately, Massie had to pull out of singles and mixed doubles because she got sick.

Fox, 66, and his partner, Bonnie Gregory, also won gold in mixed doubles.

“It’s not an old person’s game anymore,” Massie said, “so we weren’t surprised to find a teenager across the net.

“I remember [my partner] looked over at me and said, ‘I know she’s young, but we play to win,’” Massie said.

“You kind of get in your head when you’re playing people much older or younger that you don’t hit the ball as hard. She got me out of that really fast.”

It was Massie’s first tournament, but she has her eye on the West Hills tournament in April.

“I’ve just been playing pickleball since August,” she said. “I plan on going to more tournaments. It’s just fun. It’s so new and everyone around you is having so much fun, you just get eaten up with it.”

Fox is a self-professed pickleball fanatic.

“The first time I ever put a paddle in my hand, I fell in love with it,” he said. “My wife [Pamela Fox] is very gracious and allows me to do this,” he said about his competitions. “I don’t know if she does this so I stay healthy, or so I stay out of her hair.”

Fox has served two terms as vice president of Smoky Mountain Pickleball based in Maryville.

Since he got back from Nashville, Fox has kept the road hot going to competitions.

He went straight to the next contest, winning gold in men’s singles and doubles the next weekend at the Smoky Mountain Pickleball Classic in Gatlinburg.

“We do a lot of traveling,” said Fox, the part-time MRI technician who joked that his job pays for his addiction.

He was in Chattanooga in February, then Nashville and Gatlinburg in March. He plans to be part of the Knoxville tournament in April and then go to Fairfiled Glade, Clarksville, then down to nationals in Birmingham.

“There are several people from West Knox [County] and Maryville that travel and compete in tournaments – about 20 of us,” Fox said. “This weekend we’re renting a house – about five couples. It becomes a pickleball family.”

Massie said she looked into pickleball because tennis has become too hard on her wrists.

“I found meetups at the West Side Y, Deane Hill, Inskip and Chapman Highway,” she said. “I started in August and have already seen it grow. They are starting to teach it at Bearden High school and at colleges.”

Massie has faced opponents of all ages. Locally, she often plays against an 83-year-old man from Oak Ridge.

“I’ve never been able to beat him,” Massie said. “He’s all over the court.”

“The courts are getting more and more crowded,” she said. “What used to be the Smoky Mountain Tennis club is now a pickleball facility. It’s a great community of people who get together to have fun on a regular basis. Pretty cool! At the rec centers, it is set up on a rotation system where you get to play everyone there and have a different partner each time.

“I could play outside everyday with someone different. I'm on several different group texts. Someone sets a time and sends out a group message and whoever can go, shows up and plays.

“I got a text yesterday saying ‘We’re playing at 10:30, who can come?’ There are 12 of us on that group text. We all ended up playing everybody, then we went to lunch together. After that, a lady got out cards and most of the group stayed to play.

“I have more friends than ever before,” she laughed.