The U.S. Open of Pickleball: How Two Women Shaped the Sport’s Future

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Photo by Ron Alvey from AdobeStock

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Pickleball, a sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis, has gained significant popularity in recent years. The Pickleball US Open, founded by female duo Terri Graham and Chris Evon, is an important event that has contributed to the sport’s growth. Let’s explore the history of the US Open of Pickleball, its development, and its influence on the sport.

The Founders’ Journey into Pickleball

Terri and Chris discovered pickleball during a vacation in The Villages, Florida, in 2010. Intrigued by the game, they decided to introduce it to their hometown of Naples, Florida, and began organizing local pickleball tournaments. Terri found the sport appealing due to its accessibility to people of all ages and skill levels, making it a perfect family activity.

Establishing the US Open of Pickleball

In 2015, Terri and Chris founded the US Open of Pickleball, an event that quickly gained prominence and attracted top players from around the country. The couple faced initial challenges in securing a venue but eventually found a home for the tournament at the East Naples Community Park. The inaugural Pickleball US Open drew over 800 participants, and the event has continued to grow in size and prestige annually.

Naples is the Ideal Destination for Pickleball

Naples, Florida, became a prime destination for pickleball. Its beautiful weather, picturesque scenery, and welcoming atmosphere make it an attractive location for players and visitors. Additionally, Naples boasts a thriving community of active, health-conscious individuals who have embraced pickleball as a fun and social way to stay fit. The city’s commitment to enhancing recreational facilities, like the East Naples Community Park, has further solidified its reputation as a pickleball hub. This combination of factors has contributed to Naples becoming the perfect backdrop for the US Open of Pickleball, as it embodies the sport’s spirit of inclusivity, camaraderie, and enjoyment.

The Perfect Venue for the Event

The East Naples Community Park proved to be the ideal location for the US Open of Pickleball. The park could accommodate the growing needs of the tournament. With its spacious layout and modern facilities, East Naples Community Park has become synonymous with the Pickleball US Open. The park’s transformation into a premier pickleball destination has not only elevated the event’s status but also provided a welcoming environment for players, fans, and the local community. Today, the venue stands as a testament to the passion and dedication of the female duo who pioneered the prestigious event, further solidifying the sport’s presence on the national stage.

The Secret to the Event’s Success

Chris credits the event’s success to the inclusive and welcoming nature of the pickleball community. The sport’s accessibility and ease of learning also make it appealing to newcomers. Furthermore, the US Open of Pickleball offers a festival-like atmosphere, featuring live music, food trucks, and family-friendly activities, creating a vibrant and engaging environment for both players and spectators.

Evolution of the Pickleball Tournament

The US Open of Pickleball has evolved over the years, now featuring various categories, including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events. Age divisions range from 12 to 80+ years old, demonstrating the sport’s widespread appeal. The event has also attracted major sponsors and partnerships with companies such as Paddletek, Selkirk Sport, and Margaritaville.

Promoting Pickleball and Supporting the Community

Terri and Chris have actively promoted pickleball both locally and nationally. They established the US Open Pickleball Academy, which offers coaching and training for aspiring players. They also created the US Open of Pickleball Championships app, providing live scoring, player information, and other updates for fans.

The Impact of the Pickleball US Open

The US Open of Pickleball has had a monumental impact on the sport. The tournament has garnered media attention, increasing visibility and awareness for pickleball. Moreover, the event has fostered a sense of community and camaraderie among players, fans, and sponsors, contributing to the sport’s growth at a grassroots level.

Looking to the Future

As the Pickleball US Open continues to thrive, Terri and Chris remain committed to supporting the sport’s growth and fostering a sense of community. They aim to inspire more people to pick up a paddle and experience the excitement and camaraderie that pickleball offers.


The Pickleball US Open has played a pivotal role in the growth and popularization of the sport. Founded by Terri and Chris Graham, the event has evolved into a prestigious tournament that has fostered a strong community and increased visibility for pickleball. As the sport continues to grow, the US Open of Pickleball remains dedicated to supporting its expansion and creating a welcoming environment for players and fans alike. 

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Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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may, 2024

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