Pickleball Points: Ladies in pickleball

Recently I wrote about pickleball tournaments. This week, I am writing about several women who have excelled at playing pickleball. 

The first, of course, is the Queen Mother of Delaware Pickleball. I have written about Marion Lisehora before, and Tripp Colonell wrote a wonderful article in Coastal Point in 2016 which can be found by the search function at coastalpoint.com. She has been competing in the Huntsman Senior Games in volleyball and basketball since 1993, and started to compete in pickleball since it was included in the games. Last month, she took a silver medal in volleyball, and a bronze medal in mixed doubles. Because she has been competing in the Huntsman Senior Games for two decades, she was awarded a very impressive 20-year watch by the Huntsman tournament committee.  

The first time I interviewed Marion, I asked about her diving horse. Yes, that is correct. Her diving horse. She said something to the effect that she has done a lot of exciting things in her life, but everyone wants to know about “that horse.” She was referring to the years when she and “the horse” dove 40 feet down into a round tub of water at the Atlantic City Steel Pier. As a kid, I frequently saw the act featured in the weekly news roundup at the local movie theater. When I asked her how the horse reacted to the dive, she said the horse was enthusiastic about the dive. In fact, the horse was so enthusiastic about the dive, if she wanted to join him, she better get on as he passed her on the entrance chute to the diving board.

Thanks for sharing two decades of the Huntsman Cup as well as your diving horse stories, Marion. It is a lucky pickleballer who gets their first lesson from Marion.

Marion’s daughter, Diane Milam, along with Delaware’s Linda Rhodes, took silver at Huntsman in the 4.0 Rating, 50 Years Plus in Women’s Doubles, while two other women from  early Ocean Pines, Lynne Schwabe and Linda Horst, took gold in the 3.5 Rating, 65 Years Plus. Well done, ladies!

But I also want to speak of a relative rookie compared to these ladies. Sherry King moved to Ocean View from Maryland, and took a job with local real estate guru, Vickie York. Vickie also has a respectable pickleball game, but Sherry, since being introduced to pickleball by Vickie, has significantly worked her way up the skill rating levels to almost a 4.0. 

I remember playing her in one of her very first tournaments and recognized she was going to be quite good. She brought her softball and volleyball skills to the game, but she also has the perfect personality for pickleball because she finds the competition great fun. She has a dynamite smile that just doesn’t stop regardless if the score is 11-0 or 0-11.   When I asked her how many tournaments she has played since that first event three years ago, she said about as many as she could possibly enter. She goes to www.pickleballtournaments.com every week to check out events that she might be able to play without jeopardizing her job. 

This year she has teamed with Dover’s Becky Moody because these two compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they brought home gold, silver and bronze. They recently took gold in a tournament in Virginia that might have been one of the highest regional levels of competition yet. Well done, ladies!

I asked Sherry how she would rate the level of competition the last three years and she said that the playability level in the tournaments has greatly improved. She used to be able to count on a couple easy matches, but every match is now longer and the scores much closer. When I asked Sherry what the one major thing she might like to pass to my readers about tournaments, her answer was, “Two things: They are FUN; and the other competitors are very NICE.

At the other end of the spectrum is recreational pickleball, which most people play. Joanne Timchalk is one of those outstanding captains in the Coastal Community Pickleball League.  She was born in Washington, D.C., before her parents moved to Cheverly Forest, Md., which probably influenced her decision to go to Georgetown University and their School of Radiology Technology. Her last employment before retirement in Delaware was at the University of Maryland  in their famous Emergency Medicine and Shock Trauma Center. She had been visiting South Bethany since she was a child, and more than a decade ago she and her husband bought their home in Bethany, and became full-time residents in 2009.  After playing her first session at Ocean City Indoor Courts she was hooked, and the Delaware pickleball community benefited from her enthusiastic participation. Thank you, Joanne.

Then there is Betsy Ziomek. She taught 7th Grade Life Science for three-plus years before becoming a contractor at NASA as an Engineer Associate (ie. Microbiologist) working on water reclamation projects for SkyLab, the first space station. Her main project was the “Super Dry John” and, yes, it is what it sounds like! 

Along the way she had a job many of us might envy as the senior QC tech for Anhauser Busch in their Williamsburg Brewery.  She and her husband purchased a condo in Ocean City more than two decades ago and visit regularly. She started to play pickleball five years ago after surgery for cancer and was hooked. She raves about all the wonderful people she has met playing pickleball.

Please give all these women a “Job well done,” and no doubt when the International Space Station flies across our Delaware skies, the astronauts aboard likely will toast Betsy with a “Bottom’s up!”

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.

By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point