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Silver and bronze medals in style for Tampa Bay area pickleball players

Silver and bronze medals turned out to be quite fashionable neckwear for four Tampa Bay area pickleball players who recently competed in Winter Haven. One set of doubles

partners placed second and another duo finished third in their respective divisions of

the American Pickleball Tour tournament.


Kathy McCausey and Val Thomopalos were runners-up in the 4.0-4.5, 4.5-4.0 open division bracket. They posted a 5-1 record, coming up short in a 15-10 loss to champions Edith Samuels and Rachel Ruffing.

Kathy McCausey and Val Thomopalos were division runners-up in the American Pickleball Tour series at Winter Haven.

In the 3.5 group for 50-and-over, taking third in doubles with a 2-2 record were New Tampa’s Jill Kwiatkowski and Sue Leitner of St. Petersburg.


“We could’ve easily won the (final) game,” said McCausey, who along with Thomopalos runs Pickleball Fanatics out of Land O’Lakes. “They were not a better team, but they played

better than we did in that game. If we played them two-out-of-three we might win.”


Samuels, from Sarasota, and St. Cloud’s Ruffing wound up with a perfect 6-0 mark to win gold medals. “They played well all six games,” said McCausey, acknowledging that the

pair along with herself and Thomopalos “were the two best teams.”

Sharing their spots on the medals stage were silver medalists Kathy McCausey and Val Thomopalos (the pair at right). They went 5-1 in the 4.0-4.5 open bracket of the American Pickleball Tour tournament at the AdventHealth Fieldhouse in Winter Haven.

As for Kwiatkowski and Leitner, they do not have the familiarity of playing together as much as McCausey and Thomopalos. In fact, the Winter Haven tourney marked just their second

time pairing up. The first came last fall when they were both vacationing in Georgia and teamed up for a series in Blairsville.


Leitner planned to head back to north Georgia this month, but when the Winter Haven tourney was moved ahead of schedule, she reached out to Kwiatkowski and they became partners in their second tourney.

Sue Leitner and Jill Kwiatkowski have paired up for two tournaments and earned medals in both competitions.

“We’re two-for-two now with medals so we seem to be pretty successful,” said Leitner, a retired physical education teacher. “We work well together. We’re both pretty quick.”

Kwiatkowski, a retired law enforcement officer in Hillsborough County, echoed that sentiment about chemistry with her partner, which in part led to them moving up a notch from when they competed at the 3.0 level in the Georgia series.


“It’s just being consistent,” she said. “We’re compatible. We know each other’s movements. The more tournaments you play, I think, the better you get.”


Both said they would play in another series together.


Kwiatkowski, who also has taken lessons in Land O’Lakes, described McCausey and Thomopalos as “great ambassadors for the sport. They really believe in making

the sport better. They really want to make a difference and help people and the

sport grow.”


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos courtesy of Kathy McCausey

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