The 12 regional tournaments used to be a straight shot to Nationals but now it’s kind of a two-step process. The first and second place winner at the Diamond Regionals are invited to compete in the Diamond Amateur Championships in Florida at the end of the year and then the first place winners there earn a spot to compete in USA Pickleball National Championships the following year.
Alternatively, there are also a series of National Championship Series tournaments (they are mostly APP tournaments) throughout the year that are “golden ticket” events. The gold medalists tournaments earn “golden tickets” that entitle them to complete at the USA Pickleball National Championships tournament in Indian Wells that same year. So, while the DAC is a two-step process, the NCS events are a straight shot to Nationals.
This year was the first DAC ever so I thought it might be helpful for me to share my experience with everyone. I qualified to compete via the Middle States Diamond Regional back in June 2022. I earned my spot by winning gold in 3.0 35+ Women’s Singles, 3.0 19+ Women’s Doubles (with Kendra Wicks), and 3.5 35+ Mixed Doubles (with Ramon Lozano). I was lucky that both of them were available to travel to Florida and play with me this month for the first ever DAC.
The tournament, which drew nearly 1200 players from 5 countries (including the US where 47 states were represented), was held at Pictona in Holly Hill, FL. Holly Hill is in the Daytona Beach area of Florida and, honestly, other than the amazing pickleball venue, there isn’t much there. In fact, you pretty much have to drive outside of Holly Hill to Ormond Beach for good restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. Since I was there mainly for the pickleball tournament, I didn’t really care about much else, so I was perfectly content.
Pictona is hands down the most amazing pickleball venue I’d ever set foot on. They have 49 dedicated pickleball courts, 13 of which are covered. The venue also boasts a covered championship court with stadium seating. With so many courts, you’d think the courts would be crammed together like sardines, but they’re actually super spacious, each with 8-foot sides and 10-foot baselines. Each of the courts are self-contained and fenced so stray balls are rare (if at all) and you never have to walk through anyone else’s court to get to your own. They also have a couple of restaurants (The Kitchen, which has more options and The Depot, which just serves basics like burgers and hotdogs) so you never have to leave the venue for food. They have so many dedicated pickleball courts there that, even when there is a large tournament happening like the DAC, they still have courts dedicated for member use so they can continue their normal weekly play schedule. Pictona is truly amazing and is the closest thing to pickleball heaven that I have ever seen!
I competed and earned medals in all the events I qualified for thanks to my amazing partners. My first competition day, Thursday, consisted of Women’s Doubles with Kendra. There were only three teams in 3.0 19+ so they combined us with 3.0 35+. We ended up winning Gold overall and also Gold for our age group which qualifies us for the 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships.
On Friday, Ramon and I competed in 3.5 35+ Mixed Doubles. We had the tougher pool with the top 3 DUPR teams so I was just grateful to advance to the playoffs. We earned the right to play in the championship against the one team in our pool who beat us during the round robin and, once again, we could not beat them so we ended up taking Silver.
I got a break from playing on Saturday because it was Men’s Doubles day but Brian and I still went to the tournament to cheer and film our friends who were competing that day.
On Sunday, I completed in Women’s Singles. Once again, my age group (35+) got combined with 19+ because were few entries. Most players do not play singles because it’s just really taxing on your body. I ended up taking third place over all and first place in my age group.
In total, I came home with two Gold medals and one Silver medal and qualified for two spots in 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships next year. I am beyond excited for the opportunity to compete as I have never been to Nationals so 2023 will be my first time.
Besides the US Open, which I competed in back in April, this was the largest tournament I’d ever attended. It an amazing experience that I would highly recommend to any pickleball player who enjoys competing in tournaments.
Leave me a note in the comments if you have any questions or if I can help in any way. See you at the next tournament!