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  • Peter Burwash International

Swinging Into High Gear

The California desert morphs quickly each year from "inhospitably hot" to one of the world's most ideal climates each fall. Racquet programs change greatly with the seasons as well.

The JW Marriott Desert Springs Lawn & Tennis Club, ranked in the top 5 in the world for "Instruction & Tennis Programming" for the past 13 years, is such a resort. This year saw 106 degrees on October 20 and 82 degrees on October 25. What is often handled by one professional in the summer suddenly needs the assistance of five more PBI professionals to keep up with the tennis and pickleball seasonal program and demand.

The Desert Springs tennis center has hosted movies, music videos, a plethora of tournaments, a wheelchair program and Wilson's top ATP and WTA players for their annual photo and video shoot on 9 separate occasions. Twice, Desert Springs' professionals have rallied charitably for more than 15,000 shots with no breaks and no misses. That's about 9 hours, folks!

Jim Leupold, Director of Racquet Sports, arrived to the resort in October 1987 as the PBI Head Professional. Since 1991 he has directed a dynamic program that has something for every player. Whether players are looking for a workout (private lesson or drill session), great instruction (clinics and privates), a novel experience (Grand Slam Round Robin – fun doubles on hard, clay and grass), or entertainment (PBI Tennis Show), it's available here. As well as two round robins, two Drop-In-Doubles and 10 clinics each week round out the pickleball program, including a few new clinics such as "Master The Dink" and "The Third Shot."

Leupold and former PBI Professional Dan Aubuchon had both traveled the world with the PBI Tennis Show (billed as the "Harlem Globetrotters of Tennis"), and they wanted to bring that experience to the desert. So they started a 2-man show which eventually grew into a 5-person extravaganza of great music, hilarious skits and the world's best teaching concepts. On hiatus since the pandemic, the PBI Tennis Show is something Leupold hopes to be able to revive this season.

During the BNP Paribas Open in March, nearly 500 players a day converge upon the tennis facility, where seven PBI professionals "wow" their students from dawn to dusk.

This year, Leupold is happy to have John Behm and Scott Lumpkin back for a second season for tennis as well as Linda Paulding for pickleball. Joshua Warrilow is winging in from Austria to join in on the tennis fun as well as local Santiago Gomez, a second pickleball professional.

Surrounded by palm trees and (sometimes snow-capped) mountains, the warmth of the sun by day, and a welcoming slight chill at night, guests feel as though they are kissed by magic in this wonderful tennis sanctuary.

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