BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY — Carolyn Ebbinghaus called it her "bronze curse."
The Traverse City resident won a bronze at the USA Pickleball National Tournament last year — and also took bronze at assorted tournaments this year.
That came to end last week when she won gold in singles and a silver in women's doubles at the national tournament in Arizona.
"Amazing," she said. "And very exciting."
Ebbinghaus won the women's singles 50-plus division by beating Gayle Barnes in the finals — twice. Ebbinghaus lost her first-round match (8-11, 11-1, 11-9) to Meg Krenzer that dropped her into the losers bracket in the double-elimination event. She did not lose again.
"I was determined," she said. "I knew I couldn't lose again or I was out. I managed to work my way back up."
Ebbinghaus came back to beat Pam Cecchini (15-9), Krenzer (11-3, 11-3) and Barnes (11-2, 11-2) — and Barnes again (15-5). She had to play the extra game in the finals to 15 because Barnes was unbeaten prior to their first meeting.
"I thought after I won the two games (to 11), I had won the gold," Ebbinghaus said. "But they (officials) said, 'Wait a minute, you have to play one more game to 15.' That was nerve-wracking, tough. You get so nervous. It's (women's singles) at the end of the week and you've already played during the week so by then you're tired."
Ebbinghaus was entered in five events. She teamed with her sister Cathy Parkhurst earlier in the week to win silver in the women's doubles 50-plus division. They opened with a come-from-behind win (5-11, 11-6, 11-9) win over Cecchini and Dex Decker. They followed that up with a straight set (11-2, 11-4) win over Carol Tripp and Mary Whitfield before edging then unbeaten Che Cui and Trish Graham (11-10, 3-11, 12-10). They had to play Cui and Graham again for the title and lost twice (9-11, 11-3, 11-8) and (15-8).
Ebbinghaus, though, was happy with the silver.
"Absolutely," she said. "It's really tough. These girls (competitors) are the best."
The sisters teamed in the open women's doubles division and finished 1-2.
Ebbinghaus also teamed with Traverse City's Bart Ford in the mixed doubles 35-plus division and in open mixed doubles. They went 2-2 in both.
Ebbinghaus and Ford started strong in the open division, beating Di Shanklin and Stewart Helfrich (11-9, 9-11, 12-10) and Rebecca Warren and Miike Nys (6-11, 11-8, 11-8) before "running into a buzzsaw." They lost their third match to eventual champions Lydia Willis and Steve Wong (11-6, 11-1) and were then eliminated by Heidi Hancock and Dan Gabanek (15-7).
"Steve and Lydia have won nationals the last two or three years in a row," Ebbinghaus said. "We felt pretty good about it."
More than 400 players from 31 states and provinces competed in the tournament.
Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It's played with a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball and wood or composite paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles.