About

Brief History of the Upstate Pickleball Group

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 over 300 players in the Upstate.


An Upstate Pickleball tradition is the “Passing of the Pickle.” Every year someone is recognized for going above and beyond in growing the game of Pickleball in the Upstate. Since 2009, eleven pballers have received the illustrious Pickle.

PASSING OF THE PICKLE Recipients:
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)

The Passing of the Pickle Official History
written by Ron Blake

ThePickle

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). Below is an actual unretouched 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 BLOG. Ron accepts the award below.

RON BLAKE

RON BLAKE

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.

STEVE JOHNSON

STEVE JOHNSON

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 to 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.

GARY ALLEN

GARY ALLEN

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 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. 

CAROL and JOHNNY GIBSON

CAROL and JOHNNY GIBSON

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.

DON DANIELS

DON DANIELS


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.
JULIA HALL

JULIA HALL