HALL: Get Ready, Set, Go!

Laura Hall
Bob Stephens and Pat Markey show me the paddles and ball used for playing pickelball.

Researching information for this article I hope to uncover several activities for seniors of Destin. Boy oh boy, I find a lot of surprises. I find enough adventures specifically designed for Destin adults to make my knees quake and my heart jump around in my chest. 

If you are interested in having a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, it is right here under your nose at 101 Stahlman Avenue just waiting for you.

A friend of mine, Bob Stephens, takes me to the Destin Community Center to talk with Pat Markey who is the Destin Seniors Program Coordinator. I ask Pat what programs they offer for seniors. When he gives me a delightfully charming smile, I know I have asked the right question. 

I am told there are 23 activities each month and the plan is to have so many diversified programs that there is no room for an excuse for anyone not to participate in something. 

Pat says, “We want to have quality activities for the people who live here in Destin.” I’m thrilled as he starts naming the activities:  pickleball, tennis and golf along with bingo, yoga, zumba, line dancing and aerobics. 

If this sounds too energetic for you, how about Mexican Train dominoes, bingo or Scrabble at the Senior Center on Legion Drive? This community center covers most anything fun you can think up. 

Want to travel to Biloxi to try your luck with the slots or tables? The bus leaves from Destin eight times a year with a group bent on having a good time and winning some green stuff. Like to eat and try out different local restaurants? On the third Friday of every month Pat books a different restaurant for lunch with a great discount for everybody. 

You can’t get involved with these activities without having a ball. Tennis, ping pong and pickleball are ongoing.  Golf is played at the Golf Garden and once or twice a month, the group goes to different local courses. Starting in April, introductory golf lessons will be given at the Senior Center. If you enjoy the game of tennis, you will be matched with someone of your ability level, one who will give you a good game but be unlikely to beat the tar out of you. 

Pat tells me, “Generally people don’t care how good or how bad you do — just have fun.”

I have heard much talk about how much fun the game of pickleball is. I asked Pat if he and Bob could give me a quick introduction to the game so I could see how it is played. Out came the paddles used to hit a light polymer ball, which is like a whiffle ball. 

These two demonstrated to me how it was played and it looked easy enough. So, okay, let’s have a go. Pat instructed me on how to hold the paddle, like giving a handshake and then swinging into the ball with an even movement. 

I was ready.

On my first swing at the ball I completely missed. All I hit was air. What!! How could I miss a ball coming that easy with a paddle this big? Pat did his best to correct my mis-swing and we tried again. Another swing, another miss. 

Oh my goodness, this is bad. Pat, a great instructor, has the patience of Job himself. More instructions and finally, I return the ball with a smashing hit. I had several returns and all of a sudden, hey, this is really fun. Okay, I’m getting carried away — back to the story.

Pat is ultimately qualified for this job with a Masters in Recreational Administration from the University of West Florida, Recreational Director for Walton County and now six and a half years as Destin Seniors Program Coordinator. 

Earlier, Pat was a tennis teaching pro for 30 years. We are blessed and lucky to have this guy in Destin. His wife, Margaret, teaches at Destin Middle School and they are the proud parents of three grown kids.  You can reach Pat at 654-5184 or                                                                                                                                                                             

Watch for the next installment of this Senior coverage which will be the incredible Florida Senior Games. For a monthly calendar of senior events go to and click on Parks and Recreation and then “Senior Program.”

Anybody for a game of pickleball?

Laura Hall is a freelance reporter and longtime Destin resident.  Have an interesting topic, contact her at