Highland Park hosts Chicago Open pickleball tournament with $50,000 top prize

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) — It’s a paddle-based hobby that’s gaining momentum: pickleball! A tournament for hundreds of players starts this week at Highland Park.

The practice is perfect for professionals and pickleball enthusiasts who are pounding the pavement and packing courts out there.

“It takes a lot of tennis, badminton and ping pong and they put it all together on one court,” said senior professional pickleball player Julie Johnson.

She and more than 700 pickleball pros are all playing for a $50,000 prize at the Chicago Open hosted by the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

“Pickleball is right now, any level can play a game, so I think that’s what attracts so many people,” said professional pickleball player Dekel Bar.

Bar is ranked fifth in the world for pickleball doubles. He and organizers said it’s the fastest growing sport in the country because all you need is a paddle, a whistle ball and a pitch.

“And it keeps growing every year, but it’s fun, it makes it more exciting,” Bar said.

Professional pickleball players tell ABC 7 that the perfect serve punches and challenges the other player.

Even amateurs have to paddle with precision to win the game. But pickleball is more than just a paddle or a prize. It’s about people.

“My grandma actually started the whole family in pickleball. And now my dad and mom play, my brother plays, and we go around the country,” said amateur pickleball player Ali Muno. “It’s super social. So you can play with pretty much anyone. My grandma to little cousins. And then friends from the gym who can’t play, we’ve taught everyone “,

So whether you are a seasoned pro or not, pickleball can be your hobby too. Tickets to see the pros play this week are just $10.

You can find tickets here.

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