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Southern Charm feels the pickleball craze

Unlike some mobile home parks, country clubs and recreational facilities that mark out blended courts for pickleball and tennis players, there is no such configuration at Southern Charm.

That mobile home park in Zephyrhills has six outdoor courts specifically designed for pickleball, which has been the case since they were built for residents of various Sun communities in 2018.

Lynne Railling serves alongside his partner Bob Peeples.
Lynne Railling serves alongside doubles partner Bob Peeples.

Organizers Tony and Lynne Railling, snowbirds from Michigan, are among the more experienced of the group, both having played the sport for seven years.

“When we first came here there were no courts,” Tony recalled. “We used to go to Majestic Oaks (adjacent to the Samuel W. Pasco Recreation Complex). We had good crowds when it

first started.”

Added Lynne, “The only thing (Southern Charm) offered was shuffleboard and we wanted something a little more exerting.”

For some people looking to spend time in Florida in an RV community or park, access to pickleball courts is becoming a major factor.

“When people call to inquire about the place the first thing they ask is, ‘Do you have pickleball,’” Tony said. “It’s in demand.”

Annie Bouffard follows through with a backhand shot.
Annie Bouffard follows through on a backhand during a match

Unlike most people in the park, Tony played college football at Saginaw Valley State in Michigan. While others have various athletic backgrounds, he noted that people can do well in pickleball with or without experience in other sports.

“You don’t have to be the best athlete to play,” he said.

As is the case with many pickleball players, tennis is in their background. That includes Annie Bouffard and her husband Greg, snowbirds from Quebec. They still play tennis, mostly at the courts at Zephyr Park, but tend to spend more time on the pickleball courts.

“There’s more pickleball players,” said Annie, reasoning that it is easier to find more people to play with or against. “It’s becoming more popular, even in our country.”

Flip Altman has been playing at Southern Charm for the past three years. Like many pickleball players he has a background in a similar sport, having played racquetball for years.

Tony and Lynne Railling pose for a photo.
Tony and Lynne Railling helped start the pickleball program at Southern Charm.

“Holding the racquet was not new for me,” he said, adding that pickleball “is a lot slower and it’s fun.”

Instructor Jeremy Symes came up with an idea for a challenging group that he labels Zephyrhills Advanced Pickleball (ZAP), and Randy Hall, a 73-year-old who has endured two cardiac arrests, focuses primarily on helping others.

“I love the people here,” he said. “They’ve got a tremendous group of players and they’re getting much better.”


Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee

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