Four courts have been set up inside of the Life Center at Destin United Methodist Church. The courts mark the playing grounds for the inaugural Emerald Coast Pickleball Championships hosted by the Emerald Coast Pickleball Club.

Thursday was opening day for the competition and saw seventy-seven participants register for the three-day event.

“We have a lot of people that travel through the area that stop and play,” said Emerald Coast Pickleball Club President Karen Parrish. “For this tournament we have people from five different states; Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.”

Although the largest demographic in the room were middle-aged adults, Parrish explained that she is hoping to draw younger players to the sport with events like this tournament.

“We are trying to get the younger crowd interested because everybody thinks Pickleball is an older sport, but it really isn’t,” she said.

One family, the Elliotts from The Villages, Fla., brought two fresh young faces to the competition by way of 15-year-old Josh and 12-year-old Rachel, both accomplished National Jr. Pickleball Champions.

“We travel and we home school so we are allowed to do this,” said Jodi Elliott. “We also started a pickleball company that we manage from the road called Engage Pickleball.”

The competition was friendly but highly engaging as the game played out much like a tennis game. The court was set up with a low net in the center, hand-held paddles, and a wiffle-like ball with one referee calling the shots from center court. Other participants sat in the wings watching and cheering the players on during each match.

The Emerald Coast Pickleball Championship wraps up today with play beginning at 8:30 a.m. For more information on the club visit http://ecpcfl.wix.com/ecpc.

For more photos of the event CLICK HERE