Seniors Shine in Shelburne at VSGA Pickleball Tourney

After months of delays, venue shifting, and COVID-19 frustrations, the Vermont Senior Games Association was delighted to be able to stage its annual Pickleball tournament at the Davis Park Courts in Shelburne over three days, September 11 – 13, 2020.

            The VSGA wants to sincerely thank the Town of Shelburne for working with us to make the event a reality. It was a great site for the tournament, with six courts and lots of space for social distancing. And, the senior athletes turned out in droves (despite strict limits on out-of-state registrations), with almost 90 individuals participating – many of whom returned to play multiple days.

            A total of 95 medals were awarded over the weekend, and the VSGA is pleased to announce that the top FOUR finishers in each age group actually qualified for the 2021 National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, scheduled for next November.

            Play began with the Singles competitions on Friday, and four athletes emerged as standouts, all sweeping the opponents in their age-bracket pools.

            Annie Bessette made the journey up from Londonderry to win the overall women’s title, along with the gold medal in the 60-64-year-old age group.

            Barre’s Mike Keene emerged undefeated from the men’s 50-59-year-old pool, while Shelburne native Scott Hadley topped the field amongst the 60-year-olds. Jim Hill, from Middletown Springs, swept his matches with the players over age 70.

            Saturday’s Mixed Doubles participants enjoyed the best day of the weekend weather-wise, blessed with beautiful sunny conditions and moderate temperatures.

            The pool for the 55-59-year-olds was stacked, with eight teams vying for the championship honors – and the competition was fierce. When play concluded, the pair of Thomas Lucas from Shelburne and South Burlington’s Rhonda Colvard earned the gold medals, squeaking out a tight 12-10 tiebreaking victory over runners-up Barbara Maltby and Brian O’Connell. Ms. Maltby deserves special recognition as a 72-year-old contestant thriving in an age bracket with athletes more than a decade younger.

            The outcome in the 60-64-year-old competition also came down to a tiebreaker. In this instance, it was a four-team pool, so the groups played each other twice. Sue Riggen of East Montpelier and Gary Griffin from Waterbury actually split their matches with Cindy Lindemann and Steve Wing, only emerging victorious on the combined scores from their two rounds.

            In the other brackets, Winooski’s Tree Bertram and Waitsfield’s Todd Keller swept their pool to take the crown amongst 50-54-year-olds, while Bob and Libby Corran topped the field of those over age 65.

            As Sunday dawned, there was significant doubt that the Men’s and Women’s Doubles events could occur. It was simply nasty weather, with crazy gusty winds playing havoc with the pickleballs and storms forecast for the afternoon. The conditions could charitably be described as “challenging.” Fortunately for the players, VSGA tournament director Joanne Winter was up to the task, urging the players through the day with admirable aplomb and a tightly organized schedule.

            Four women’s teams stood out at the end of the rounds. Tree Bertram earned her second gold medal of the tournament, teaming with Burlington’s Karen Venner to win all their matches in the 50-59-year-old combined age pools. They only secured the title by surviving a razor-thin 12-10 triumph over Barb Maltby (again playing amongst the 50-year-olds) and Shelburne native Cara Cavelli. Maltby and Cavelli did achieve the consolation of still claiming the gold medal for the 55 – 59 age bracket.

            For the women aged 60 and above, the duo of Melissa Lafayette and Rhonda Colvard ended up play tied with Kirstin Hartley and Jeanne Hulsen, both with 4-1 records in the pool. Once again, it came down to the head-to-head tiebreaker, with Lafayette and Colvard eking out a 13-11 decision for the gold.

            There were three pools of play for the men. Jim Hill joined with Leicester’s Rick Nelson to take his second title of the tournament, sweeping the field of teams over age 70.

            Gary Griffith also repeated top podium honors in the 60-year-old group, this time working with Rob Allen from Berlin to win all of their matches.

            Finally, for the men in their 50’s, a tightly contested seven team pool came down to the final match, with Thomas Lucas and Scott Hadley undefeated and facing off against the similarly unbeaten duo of Brian O’Connell and Todd Keller. With every other match completed, all eyes were focused on this outstanding struggle. When the final shot fell, Lucas and Hadley had both earned their second gold medal of the weekend, prevailing in a terrific 11-9 match.

A complete list of medalists can be found using the links below. Pickleball has become perhaps the most popular Vermont Senior Games event recently, and the enthusiasm and quality of play over the weekend reflected that reality. Thanks to all the participants for their support and cooperation in making this event a success in these trying  COVID-19 times.