Top ranked pickleball pro holds court on Daniel Island
The record-breaking temperatures on May 25 were sizzling hot, but those gathered on the pickleball courts at LTP, formerly known as Family Circle Tennis Center, got a super cool experience when international pickleball pro Kyle Yates brought his talents courtside at the Daniel Island facility.
LTP has a thriving pickleball program, with more than 150 members. Yates’ recent visit gave a group of about two dozen players a unique opportunity to learn from one of the biggest names in the sport, which combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.
“If I can attack it, I’m attacking it 100 percent!” said Yates to his captive audience, as he demonstrated his skills.
Winner of five consecutive U.S. Open gold medals and numerous other championship titles, Yates conducted drills during two clinics at LTP – and posed for pictures and signed autographs for players afterwards. Currently ranked No. 5 in the world by Pickleball Global, Yates made the stop in Charleston, his first in the Holy City, on his way to the 2019 Atlanta Open, the fourth largest pickleball tournament of the year. He heads to California to compete this month and then it’s off to Michigan and Illinois in July, Utah in August, and France and Spain in September.
“I do 15 tournaments a year,” he said. “All over.”
Yates, 24, got his start in the sport about 7 years ago.
“It kind of spiraled out of control!” he said, when describing his pickleball debut. “I started playing a lot in college (at the University of Florida) and met the right people.”
His freshman year, he went to nationals in California and won gold in men’s doubles. By 2016, midway through his junior year, he told his mom he wanted to put school on hold to pursue pickleball. He needed the extra time to train and play more tournaments. It turned out to be a smart career move. That year, Yates ended up winning the Pickleball U.S. Open in April, another major event in September, and nationals in November. “As soon as I quit school I won all three majors,” he recalled. And while most pickleball players tend to be older, there are many young players, like Yates, who are helping to energize the sport.
“It’s cool,” added Yates, who was the top ranked pickleball player in the U.S. in 2018. “There are quite a few top players who did the same thing, younger guys who just found out how much fun it is, and some that compete and travel, and it’s exciting to watch. We get sponsor money and prize money…and meet a lot of nice people.”
Scott Mannetta, the S.C. District Ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association and the teaching pro at LTP, was thrilled to host Yates on Daniel Island.
“Kyle Yates is the most prolific player in the sport,” said Mannetta. “He’s the top rated player. He’s won probably more national events and U.S. Opens than anybody else. He’s such a great guy – he’s friendly, he’s knowledgeable and he’s eager to teach at all levels. We’re very lucky to have someone like Kyle come to Charleston.”
Yates is at the forefront of a sport that is seeing wild increases in participation all across the country. According to Mannetta, pickleball has grown some 650% in the last six years. There are well over three million players nationwide, he said, and it’s expected to double by 2021.
“It’s easy to play, it’s multi-generational, so you can play from 9 years old to 90 years old,” added Mannetta. “It’s fun, it’s competitive and it’s healthy!” Yates’ presence in Charleston speaks volumes for the sport and what is to come here, continued Mannetta. “I have no doubt in my mind that Charleston will become a top pickleball destination in the country in the not so distant future. We’re making history here. There’s no doubt about it.”