Major sports return to Naples with US Open & Chubb Classic
NAPLES, Fla. – Two days before the US Open Pickleball Championships starts, preparations were being made at East Naples Community Park as the pros began practicing for the week-long event.
“This is one of the few international events in pickleball,” said Chris Evon, the event’s co-founder. “We draw from all over the world, but we’ve got to make the best of what this is this year.”
Pros like world number one ranked Ben Johns were at center court Friday getting in some practice time for the event that was canceled a year ago due to the pandemic.
“The US Open is one of my favorites, if not my favorite, tournaments,” said Johns. “There was definitely a lot of buildup since I missed a year. It’s really exciting now because it’s been so long since we’ve played here.”
Meanwhile, about 25 minutes up the road the Chubb Classic of the PGA Champions Tour makes its return to Tiburon’s Black Course but was closed to the general public because of the ongoing pandemic.
“I’ve played the last few times on the regular tour in Florida and there have been more fans, so it’s a little disappointing we don’t have fans here or many of them,” said US Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker. “But it’s still nice to see some people out here.”
Fans or not, that didn’t dampen the excitement of those club members in attendance at the Chubb Classic.
“It’s a nice privilege not to fight the crowds and get up close to watch the players,” said club member Alan Avtges.
Back at the US Open, however, fans will be allowed to attend but while organizers aren’t sure what fan attendance will look like, competitors like Johns have a pretty good idea.
“I’m expecting a full-on US Open party again,” said Johns. “I think the people are going to turn out en mass just like the last couple of years.”
The US Open officially begins on Sunday with men’s and women’s pro singles play while the Chubb Classic concludes Sunday afternoon.
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