Brief History of Upstate Pickleball

Ken and Lynn Corbett discovered Pickleball at Highland Lakes Community in Leesburg, FL in the spring of 2007. With the help of their friends, Ron and Sharon Blake, they started a Pickleball group in Greenville in the fall of 2007. What started out as a few friends getting together to play Pickleball has blossomed into a growing athletic and social community with well over 3,000 players in the Upstate.


Upstate Pickleball has grown too big to “award” just one person for going above and beyond in contributing to our growing community. In 2023 we introduced UPSTATE PICKLEBALL HEROES to celebrate players in our community giving back in unprecedented ways.



“Shari Carpenter has a mission of making Southside Park a welcoming, tight knit pickleball community! Shari is the force behind the Southside Socials, a time where players can get together to feast, play and get to know each other!”


“Gary Link is an indispensable member of the Upstate Pickleball community. Everybody knows him as a kind and generous person who wants to do right by everyone.”


“Gina Mason and Jennifer Merritt have been the authors for much of the positivity, good spirit, laughter and social bonding we experience at Timmons Park. Anybody who experiences them putting together countless social events will know that both women put their heart and love into it. They want the pickleball community to share more than a sport — they are helping to make the Upstate Pickleball community a family.”


“Akan Malici’s spirit on our courts is something to behold. He consistently builds others up, while promoting inclusivity and kindness to all those around them. He models a level of civility and character that far surpass our sport. Akan and his son, Selim, beautifully model the intergenerational aspects of pickleball.”


Upstate Pickleball lost someone dear to many of us in 2019, Walter Jacobs. Walter always brought humor and an upbeat spirit to the court. We are proud to keep Walter’s fun-loving attitude alive by recognizing someone who embodies the spirit of Walter. (Learn more about Walter here.)

The 2021 recipient of the Walter Jacobs Spirit Award is SALLY & DAVID SCLAR.

Sally and David Sclar began playing Pickleball in 2018. They both came from strong tennis backgrounds and have become 120% addicted to Pickleball. As very competitive players, they’ve made deep friendships on the courts and gladly welcome new players to our group. In late 2020, Sally and David helped lead a small group of players to formulate a plan of action to get more Pickleball courts built in Greenville. Quickly, they became the driving force behind getting the City & County Parks and Rec Departments to make dedicated Pickleball courts happen at Timmons Park, Southside Park, and more spots. Upstate Pickleball is proud to award the 2021 Walter Jacobs Award to Sally and David Sclar.

The 2020 recipient of the Walter Jacobs Spirit Award is GREENVILLE REC.

Greenville Rec is a massive supporter of Upstate Pickleball. Since 2017, Greenville Rec has been the driving force behind the yearly Greenville Smash Tournament. This tournament has provided competitive play for Upstate players and players from nearby states. The Smash has become a fixture in the Pickleball tournament scene. 2020 was a difficult year and most tournaments were cancelled because of the COVID pandemic. Greenville Rec found a way to hold the tournament. Additionally, Greenville Rec was incredibly accommodating by giving refunds to registered players for COVID concerns and because the second day of the tournament was cancelled. Upstate Pickleball is proud to award the 2020 Walter Jacobs Award to Greenville Rec.

The 2019 recipient of the Walter Jacobs Spirit Award is CATHY HAILSTONE.

Cathy brings a smile, laughter and an always improving game to the court. She has helped teach countless new players how to play. Cathy plays with the older group in the morning and with the younger players in the evening. She never has a bad word to say on the court. Cathy even doubles as the DJ providing music during Timmons Park play. You never lose a game when you partner with Cathy. That’s the way it was with Walter too — you won because you got to partner with such a fun and friendly player.


An Upstate Pickleball tradition is THE ORDER OF THE PICKLE. Every year someone is recognized for going above and beyond in growing the game of Pickleball in the Upstate. Since 2009, thirteen people have received the illustrious Pickle.

2018 – Sandy Halkett and Joe Montgomery
2017 – Kim Ronin and Neil Turner
2016 – John Moore
2015 – Eric Thomas and Joe Boch
2014 – Julia Hall
2013 – Don Daniels
2012 – Carol and Johnny Gibson
2011 – Gary Allen
2010 – Steve Johnson
2009 – Lynn and Ken Corbett (subsequently passed to Ron Blake)

written by Ron Blake


The tradition started when Mike and Ann Kaplan acquired the pickle ornament shown above. During our 1st Christmas Party (December 15, 2009) at Corona’s, Mike awarded the Pickle to Lynn and Ken Corbett in recognition of their introduction of Pickleball to The Upstate (imported, by them from Florida). Above is an actual un-retouched photo of Ken’s hand holding the Pickle (a Kosher pickle by the way).

Soon after, Lynn and Ken left for a 3 month stint in Florida in preparation for their eventual relocation to the Sunshine State. They returned to Greenville for a few days in March 2010 and participated in a Pickleball session on March 16 at Timmons Park. On that occasion they presented the Pickle to Ron and Sharon Blake for taking on the responsibilities of tending to the equipment, scheduling sessions and caring for the Upstate Pickleball blog website. Ron accepts the award below.



During our 2nd Annual Christmas/Holiday gathering at Jan Amacher’s home on December 3, 2010 the award was presented to Steve Johnson (3rd recipient) for taking over the scheduling and equipment transportation duties while Ron and Sharon were traveling. Official, uncut photo below shows Steve graciously accepting the award while friends look on.



The 4th Passing of the Pickle (During the 3rd Annual Christmas Party – December 14, at Gary and Muriel Hayler’s home) was somewhat unique in that the recipient was not present because he was out of state tending to his father. In true UPG form – the show must go on and all that – the presentation was made by Steve to Gary Hayler who kindly received the Pickle on behalf of Gary Allen. Gary A received the award for the work he did organizing the UPGs participation in the Lake Lure Games this year, for volunteering for the ‘Orderer of the Balls’ position and for taking on other UPG missions.

But, that’s not the end of the story.

Finally, on 12/20/2011 – a rainy day at Gower, with six UPGers present (others having the good sense to stay home) the Pickle was formally presented to Gary Allen by Steve Johnson (presentation pictured below). Sharon Blake was also on hand for the playing session but had adjourned to the car when the rain picked up, just before this photo was snapped.



The saga continues:

The Passing Of The Pickle took place for the 5th time. The occasion was the 4th Annual UPG Holiday Party, on December 5, 2012 at the Riverwalk Clubhouse. The much-sought after and Nationally hailed award was presented to Johnny and Carol Gibson during a solemn ceremony that reflected the significance of the event. The Kosher Pickle is awarded to UPGers whose contribution to our group and the promotion of Pickleball in general goes well above and beyond the call of Pickleball duty. The Passing Of The Pickle is akin a collegiate football player being awarded the Heisman trophy. Johnny and Carol initiated a Pickleball course for beginners under the OLLIE program at Furman University. They rustled up paddles and balls, conducted several classes and trained about a dozen players over a period of several weeks. Some of the newbies continued on and came to Gower where they received more instructions from J and C and other UPGers. Some of those new players are – or, soon will be hard core UPG players. Good show Johnny and Carol and congratulations. PS: The Pickle survives best if it spends at least part of the year on a Christmas Tree.



On the occasion of the belated UPG Christmas Party held on January 8, 2014 Don Daniels became the 6th recipient of the highest civilian, and most coveted award given to UPG members. The event: THE PASSING OF THE PICKLE. The gathering took place at the Travinia Italian Kitchen and was attended by 26 UPGers and guests. The “Awards Committee” (a division of the UPG) thought long and hard about the recipient – but in the end – Don was deemed the the logical choice for the treasured PICKLE. It is given each year to a UPGer who goes out of his/her way to advance the sport and otherwise contribute to the promotion and enjoyment of the game. Don spends considerable time training new players in the fine art of the game, has repaired the nets several times and eventually convinced the County to replace the nets. He is also an official “ball carrier” and is an all around good guy, unless you are his opponent. As a not-very-interesting side note: Don is the only UPGer to single-handily construct a very temporary windbrake on the fence at the east end of the courts. It self-destructed after a half hour.



The 2014 award recipient (7th recipient) was named at the annual UPG post-Christmas soiree at Travinia’s Italian Kitchen. For her omnipresence at UPG sessions, her morale boosting abilities, her attention to newbies, her ball retrieval skills, and her many other contributions to the game of pickleball, the Order of the Pickle was bestowed upon Julia Hall. A placard fashioned by Don Daniels with the inscribed names of previous and current inductees accompanied the Pickle. In the tradition of others who didn’t attend their own Pickling, the award was subsequently presented court-side at a UPG session. Photo below: L-R: Don Daniels, Julia Hall and Gary Allen.



2015 to 2018 Recipients: