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By Zach Cavanagh

San Clemente was the focus of the pickleball world from Thursday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26.

The Orange County Cup of the Professional Pickleball Association was contested at Lifetime Fitness Rancho San Clemente, and the event and venue garnered rave reviews.

Nearly 1,000 athletes competed in front of an estimated crowd of more than 3,000 spectators over the course of the tournament, and more than 300 medals were handed out in 136 overall events. There were numerous divisions of varying skill levels and demographics, with men’s, women’s and mixed doubles competitions in all the divisions.

Vern West, 83 years old and a 40-year San Clemente resident, won a silver and a bronze medal in one of the Professional Pickleball Association’s many skill levels and age divisions at the Orange County Cup last weekend in San Clemente. West is pictured with world No. 1 women’s singles and doubles player Simone Jardim of Brazil, who won the mixed doubles and women’s doubles titles. Photo Courtesy of Mary Jo West.

In the various skill level divisions, there was plenty of local representation among the medal winners, as the South Orange County pickleball community has continued to expand at a rapid rate. San Clemente, in particular, has seen large growth in its pickleball community numbering about 500 players now, and more than a few won medals at the Orange County Cup.

The main events were the open divisions, in which some of the sport’s top players came to San Clemente to showcase their skills, as well as take home some hardware and part of the $65,000 prize payout.

Ben Johns, the PPA’s No. 1 men’s singles and doubles player, won the men’s singles open pro, men’s doubles open pro and mixed doubles open pro divisions. Johns lost the first game of the singles match, but he took the next three games for the win. In the men’s doubles, Johns won with his brother, Collin, in straight sets. In the mixed doubles, Johns paired with No. 1 women’s singles and doubles player, Simone Jardim of Brazil, and they won in straight sets.

In women’s singles, Lea Jansen, the No. 5 women’s singles player, won her first PPA title. The No. 2, 3 and 4 players were all upset, which opened the road for Jansen to take the title in a tough five-set match.

In women’s doubles, Jardim paired with the other women’s No. 1 doubles player, Lucy Kovalova of Slovakia, and they walked through their bracket before a four-set championship win.

The Professional Pickleball Association’s next event will be back in Orange County at the Takeya Showcase on Aug. 5-8 in Newport Beach.

The PPA will likely return to San Clemente in the future, as well, thanks to the rousing reception it received this weekend.

Our City Scoreboard keeps you updated on all of the local San Clemente youth and community team accomplishments and special individual performances of the week. Email for submission.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at

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