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The Golden Paddle hosts the Bradenton Bash

With some players in sweats for a two-day tournament, the Bradenton Bash at G.T. Bray’s C.V. Walton Racquet Center drew nearly 400 competitors vying for trophies in 17 divisions. They played in chilly weather with temperatures dipping into the low 50s. 


The Golden Paddle, based in Orlando, organized the event. That marked the second series in Bradenton for the fledgling organization formed early in 2022 and it most likely will not be the last one. 


Doubles partners Nejc Sitar and Bharat Karunakaran compete during the two-day tourney
Doubles partners Nejc Sitar and Bharat Karunakaran compete during the two-day tourney

“Florida’s kind of our home base, so there will be others there,” tournament director Bharat Karunakaran said. 


The Golden Paddle has hosted four tourneys in the Sunshine State and another one in New Jersey. The tournament director expects to schedule more out-of-state events as well. 


As for the competition, Karunakaran also played in the Moneyball Doubles division, which featured 4.5 and above players. He teamed with Chris Crouch to place fourth, losing in the semifinals to the championship duo of Andres and Gabriel Tardio. 


A competitive men’s doubles match takes place during the Bradenton Bash.
A competitive men’s doubles match takes place during the Bradenton Bash.

“We had never played together,” Karunakaran said. “It took us a while to get used to playing with each other, but once we did it was smooth sailing.” 


As for local players, two doubles teams who often play pickup at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg fared well in Bradenton. Jack Norris and Rafael Harris were silver medalists in the 50-plus 4.0-4.5 bracket, and in mixed doubles of that same age group and talent level, Norris and Deborah Koontz took third. 


“I always want to be better but I’m feeling happy with the progress I’ve made,” said Norris, who has played for two years and for the past two months trained with Evan Pratt. 


My Edmonds and Kathleen Phomsakha, both from St. Petersburg, warm up before their women’s doubles match.
My Edmonds and Kathleen Phomsakha, both from St. Petersburg, warm up before their women’s doubles match.

Two other players from Crescent Lake, My Edmonds and Kathleen Phomsakha, were paired for the first time. They were silver medalists in the 3.0-3.5 women’s bracket, posting a 6-1 record and playing in a championship game. 


“We were very excited to get to the final and we felt really good going into it, but it was a bummer that we didn’t win,” said Edmonds, who has played in three tourneys, one more than her partner. 


The first-time teammates felt that their play improved as their series progressed. 


Bharat Karunakaran and Sravan Tummala, who run The Golden Paddle Pickleball Club, pose for a photo on the pickleball courts.
Bharat Karunakaran and Sravan Tummala run The Golden Paddle Pickleball Club.

“After our first game we needed to strategize,” Edmonds said. “After that, we were much more consistent.” 


Django Chassang, a former standout tennis player at Plant High (Class of 2021) who now attends the University of Florida, won the Open Moneyball Singles division. 


“It might’ve been one of the easiest tournaments I’ve played,” said Chassang, a third-year pickleball player. 


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee

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