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From grandma to the family and beyond, pickleball flourishes in local neighborhoods


Photo by Thuy Furbish
Friday night pickleball at Westchase always draws a crowd.

The pickleball explosion in Westchase can be traced, in part, to Julie Phillips of Odessa. While on a three-month vacation with her husband Larry near Asheville, North Carolina in fall 2022, she tried a free pickleball class at a recreation center.


On that ensuing Thanks-giving at the home of her daughter, Suzy Bump, the family set up a makeshift court and played pickleball.


“I was so excited that I told Suzy’s family about it,” Phillips recollected. “We played in the driveway with these rinky-dink paddles. We all loved it.”


“Tons of fun” is how Bump aptly describes the group that expanded to several families and throughout the neighborhood. “My mom got us into it. I thought it would take off like this, only because it’s so much fun.”


Bump’s son Trent began playing pickleball with his girlfriend, Mina Ma-Wenberg. Both are seniors at Sickles High. Ma-Wenberg got her mother to play, and soon Thuy Furbish and her husband Kevin were playing.


Naturally, that spread to the entire Bump, Furbish and Ma families, with David Ma and his wife Tiffany joining the pickleball craze.


How crazy? How about crazy enough that the so-called Pickleball Addicts Anonymous players now meet every Friday on the courts at Westchase. Some also play at Keystone Park and Tampa Bay Pickleball’s indoor courts at the Oldsmar Flea Market.


Photo by Thuy Furbish
The Bump, Furbish and Ma families often meet up for pickleball.

“It’s just really crazy,” Thuy Furbish said. “It’s the only sport that I see with different ages and families coming out to play together. It’s intergenerational.” 


“I really enjoy playing with my mom,” Ma-Wenberg said. “It’s something we can do together.”


Kevin Furbish, who owns two gyms — The Exercise Coach in Westchase and Carrollwood — relishes that aspect as well: “This is the first time we have something that we’re loving together.”


As part of Ma-Wenberg’s search for colleges, she hopes to attend one with a pickleball club and already has researched that.


Photo by Thuy Furbish
Thuy and Kevin Furbish won in the mixed doubles division of a tournament at Tampa Bay Pickleball.

As for Trent, he is among many who foresaw the sport’s growth potential.


“I knew it had potential to take off like it did because people of all ages can play,” he said. “You don’t have to move around a ton and it’s competitive.”


So much so, in fact, that at the age of 74, Phillips plays five times a week. Even after fracturing her left arm, she continued playing while in a cast with a sling.


“I would never take a break from pickleball,” she said. “There’s no stopping me.”


Crazy?


BY STEVE LEE

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Thuy Furbish

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