Mike Wolfe has been an athlete for his entire life. He played football at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He played tournament badminton for 12 years. He played tournament racquetball for 45 years.
But when he was introduced to pickleball by a friend in 2009, he knew he had found his next athletic passion.
“Almost from the day I first played pickleball I quit playing racquetball cold because this game is much more fun for a variety of reasons,” he said.
Later that year, Wolfe, along with a group of local pickleballers, convinced the city of Washougal to turn two dilapidated, unusable tennis courts at Hathaway Park into six pickleball playing surfaces. He then founded the Columbia River Pickleball Club, which now sports more than 400 members, many of whom play daily at the Washougal courts.
Wolfe and his wife, Tawn, were recognized for their efforts Sept. 25, when the playing surfaces at Hathaway Park were rechristened as Wolfe Courts.
Surrounded by dozens of fellow players, Mike and Tawn were presented with a sign made by Washougal resident, graphic designer and pickleball enthusiast Lynda Boesel.
“When I first started playing in April 2017, I knew nothing about the game, but Mike Wolfe has a knack for recognizing new players, taking them under his wing and making them feel just as important as players that are experienced,” Boesel said. “I’m very fortunate to have him as my pickleball mentor. Many people come to Wolfe Courts because of the reputation of Mike and Tawn. He has made a difference in my life as well as many others who come to play at Wolfe Courts.”
Mike and Tawn moved to Washougal from California in 2002 after Mike retired from his career as a firefighter.
“We didn’t know anybody. We didn’t have family or anything up here. We just thought it’d be a nice place to live,” said Mike, who rides an e-bike from his house 1.5 miles to the park daily to play. “But most of the people that we are now friends with, we met through pickleball. That’s how we got to know a lot of people in the community. They’re great people.”
Even though Mike has had both of his knees and one of his hips replaced, he’s in good physical shape and still has game — he competed in USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) National Championship tournaments from 2010 to 2018.
But the sport’s social nature appeals to him more than winning or losing.
“It all starts with having fun, more than, ‘Can I win?'” Mike said. “I might play 15 games here in the morning and I have no idea how many I won or lost because I don’t really care. Obviously we try to win because we’re competitive people. That’s the nature of sports. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.”