From humble beginnings come great things.
This statement has proven relatively true over the course of time. The Masters began as a small, invitational tournament at the Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club; championships rings originally resembled men's wedding bands; and pro athlete contracts were so low, they often forced players to work off-season jobs.
All three of the aforementioned objects have become monstrosities in the sports world. And it is the hope of members of the Ogden Pickleball Association that their annual tournament, next week's Dennis Forbes Memorial, now in its second year, will become a premier sporting event in northern Utah.
The tournament initially was the brainchild of several local pickleball enthusiasts, notably local businessman and philanthropist John Gullo.
Gullo, who has organized several well-known community events in the Ogden area, says the tournament came about because of the growth of the sport in the region.
"The Ogden Pickleball Association was organized and grew very rapidly," Gullo said. "We created a how-to manual, and after the first year, we had over 200 members paying to be in the Ogden Pickleball Association."
In the Ogden Pickleball Association's infancy, the organization picked up members thanks to a clinic held by Dennis Forbes, a snowbird retiree who alternated between Idaho and Arizona. Thanks to his experience as an instructor at the United States Military Academy, his teaching soon found its way to Ogden, where he gave free clinics to grow the sport.
Forbes passed away last year, leaving many saddened by the loss of a strong promoter of the sport.
His work has not gone to waste in northern Utah, however, as the entire region had demonstrated a commitment to growing the sport. Cities from Kaysville to Brigham City are building or expanding facilities, and Ogden City has worked to improve its current facilities- something which has had a significant impact on the viability of a large-scale tournament in the area.
Already, this year's tournament at Mount Ogden Park is hosting over 200 players at the pickleball facility, playing non-stop from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the Ogden Pickleball Association is also hosting a Tournament of Champions within the Forbes Memorial -- an event which has picked up the endorsement of the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), and will pay prize money of up to $3,000 for winners.
That partnership and incentive has made the overall tournament stronger, meaning the already tough logistics surrounding the event have gotten even tougher.
"From a logistics standpoint, you need to have the number of courts for the participants," said Jeff Gardner, Ogden Pickleball Association treasurer and operations point man. "We have software which helps with estimating facilities, and that's how we figure what we can get done in a certain timespan."
The hope is the tournament will be successful enough to attract attention from the national organization, and help Ogden host a national tournament in the very near future.
"We could host a national pickleball event, and I've been contacted personally by the International Pickleball president, and he wanted to know what we could accomplish with an international event," Gardner said. "We're working with the city, and we've been very pleased with the response we're getting. It's just, money is the biggest issue."
Besides the economic impact of the event, the local association simply wants to continue to promote the sport across the area, and wants to showcase its viability across a variety of age ranges.
"In this sport, you can have a teenager all the way up to a senior citizen," said Greg Shreeve, Ogden Pickleball Association president, referencing the unique nature of the sport.
All in all, Gullo, who began his involvement with the sport after a health scare, is excited for the possibilities which lie in this year's event.
"We are the talk of the country right now," Gullo said of the tournament. "Because it's never been done before, Ogden can become Wimbledon for pickleball."