Pickleball takes on Highland Park for APP Chicago Open

HIGHLAND PARK, Illinois – What sport other than pickleball could you play professionally alongside your kids?

“I can’t think of one, it’s amazing,” said Julie Johnson, the world’s top senior pickleball player.

The Johnsons are the first Pickleball family with mother Julie, 19-year-old son JW – the world’s second-ranked male player – and his 16-year-old sister Jorja – the fourth-ranked player in the worldth Placed female singles player.

“I’m the smartest, JW has the fastest hands, but Jorja hits the hardest,” Julie said.

“Mom’s not a competition,” JW said. “My sister is a bit short but mum I’ve been taking care of is not a problem at the moment.”

The Johnsons are part of the 700 Pickleballers – pros and regular Joes and Janes – who show off their drinking skills all week at Highland Park for the 4th Annual Chicago Open, a stop on the Association of Pickleball Professionals Tour.

“Our first year [2018] was in Naperville, and we had 400 people in our first year, so as everyone has seen, this sport has really taken off,” said Ken Herrmann of Libertyville, founder of the APP Tour. “After refereeing the Chicago Open I realized that there was no tour. So I teamed up with some consultants, went down to my basement for six months and put together a program. Now this year we have over $2 million in prize money and 32 stops while we hope to release our 2023 schedule around next week.”

The sport’s growth coincided with an influx of tennis players, who replaced their racquets with paddles and turned to the country’s fastest-growing sport. But while not everyone becomes a pro, pickleball remains easily accessible to almost everyone.

“It’s a great sport because you get good pretty quickly, unlike tennis, which takes months or years to develop,” Herrmann said. “I can’t think of any sport where grandfather and grandson are outside together.” Pickleball takes on Highland Park for APP Chicago Open

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