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Linda Arnold wins gold medal at Pickleball National Championships

Bayfield resident won in amateur women’s doubles Monday in Dallas
Linda Arnold, right, with her playing partner Diane Benford at the Pickleball National Championships. (Courtesy Linda Arnold)

In most sports, Linda Arnold would have been out of luck after her first match at Brookhaven Country Club. Arnold lost her first-round matchup at the Pickleball National Championships in amateur women’s doubles after only meeting her playing partner on the court for the first time.

However, because every team was guaranteed two matches, Arnold and her playing partner Diane Benford were sent to the losers bracket. Arnold and Benford then turned it on and advanced through the losers bracket to the championship game between the winners of both the winners and losers brackets.

“We started at 11 o'clock in the morning and made it to the gold medal match at right about 11:15 p.m. that night,” Arnold said.

Arnold and Benford played 10 matches, including the match against the team from the winners’ bracket which they beat.

“If the losers beat the winners of the winner's bracket, then that makes those winners become losers,” Arnold said. “And you're equal. Then we had to play to 15 in the final match and win by two and we beat them.”

Arnold finished first out of 24 teams in women’s doubles and fifth in mixed doubles on Wednesday out of 48 teams.

There are numerous sanctioned tournaments across the United States for people to try and qualify for the national championships, according to Arnold. She won one of these tournaments in women’s doubles and therefore qualified.

Arnold has been a resident of Bayfield for over a decade and has been involved in the local pickleball scene since she was invited to play four or five years ago. She played tennis for over 30 years but gave it up entirely in the past year to focus on pickleball.

One of the issues in the local pickleball scene has been the lack of pickleball courts in the Durango area. Because of this, Arnold’s husband built Arnold her own pickleball court on their ranch so she and others could play.

To help improve the local pickball scene, Arnold served on the board of the Southwest Colorado Pickleball Association for a few years fundraising to get pickleball courts in Durango. She got her wish as work began a few months ago on six pickleball courts in Schneider Park in Durango. Arnold then resigned from her position on the board.

The courts in Schneider Park should be ready in the spring after the snow melts, according to Arnold.

“The main thing is anybody can do this,” Arnold said about playing pickleball. “If they have just a whim they don't have to have any tennis background, it does help. There was a gal that I spent a lot of time with and she won two gold medals and she's 60 years old and she's only been playing pickleball for a year. She's very athletic, but she's never picked up a tennis racket. It's an everybody sport. It's all in the family. It's guys, it's women, it’s mixed, it's just good, healthy, fun.”

bkelly@durangoherald.com