Arizona - New Mexico

USA Pickleball Southwest Region

The USAPA Southwest Region Pickleball is made up of a Regional Director, Assistant Regional Director, District Ambassadors, Ambassadors, and a Board of Directors.



Larry Lite, Regional Director

Life before pickleball
Hatched in a small town called Brooklyn, NY seventy some odd years ago. Lived there my first 18 years, graduated from Aviation HS. At 15, I learned how to fly an airplane before learning how to drive a car and became one of the youngest pilots in NY at age 16. Played numerous sports like Handball, Baseball, Basketball, and just started into martial arts until Uncle Sam came a calling.

Joined the Air Force as an Avionic Instrument Specialist from Nov 1966 – May 1973. Taught martial arts and assisted the Korean ROK (special forces) in hand to hand combat in Thailand and Vietnam. Stationed in Japan and specialized in Japanese Sword fighting (Kendo) and Iaido. (performing kata’s with the live samurai sword). Was also stationed in Korea, TX, IL and CA. In 1972 represented the USA at the 2nd World kendo Championships in San Francisco, CA.

After discharge from the Air Force in 1973, moved to Albuquerque to finish my degree in Business and opened up a martial arts studio. Played Handball, Racquetball and did Triathlons. Around the same time, I joined the NM Air National Guard as a Human Relations Instructor and stayed until 1980.

In 1978 met my wife, Judy, who was also an active athlete at that time and participated in Volleyball, Soccer, Handball and Racquetball.

Worked in Computer Sales for Burroughs Corporation and as a Management Consultant for Arthur Young & Co. Since the mid 80’s, Judy and I worked in the Financial Services industry. I also specialized in Long Term Health Care Planning and at several National conventions was a platform speaker. I continue to support my clients today.

In the late 80’s we adopted Michelle from birth in an open adoption, with the birth mother choosing us in NM (she has American Indian roots) and she is a member of the Chemewavi Tribe.

Our second adoption was a little more adventurous, as we travelled to Bulgaria to choose Kristina when she was 4 and ½ years old. Then had to go back around 6 mo. later to pick her up at 5 yrs old.

Today, Michelle has a 14 year old daughter, Ava and Kristina has two children, Isabelle 11 and Kenshin, 10.

In the 90s, my dad and I took up Clowning. We went to clown school for 10 weeks and came out as Rooty Tooty (me) and Jo Jo the Clown (my dad Joe). We did numerous charitable events, parades and one year attended the World Clown Convention in Las Vegas, NV with over 750 clowns from around the US and the world.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the NM 100 club from a handball buddy and have been a member since. The charitable organization contributes funds to surviving families after a first responder (Police and Fire) has passed away to help support them.

Life since pickleball
Pickleball was introduced to Albuquerque when Judy and I first played in 2009, where it has grown from about 15 of us to over several hundred playing today.

Judy and I have been involved in playing, competing, teaching the sport to people of all ages, working with the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department to build permanent pickleball courts and helping to get grants for equipment to use at new pickleball facilities. We particularly have enjoyed the social aspect of the sport and sense of community as we have made friends all over the country.

My role as a Regional Director for the Southwest Region is to grow pickleball and put on a Regional Championship once per year as a qualifier for the Nationals.

Over the past several years Judy and I have gone on Ambassador Retreats, pickleball trips to Cancun, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos. In 2016, I was fortunate to go on the first pickleball trip to Japan with Scott Moore, his wife Susan and son Daniel along with 12 other pickleball enthusiasts. We travelled around the country demonstrating and teaching pickleball to a number of communities throughout Japan.

In 2017, I became a Certified Referee and have refereed and competed in numerous tournaments, including the Nationals, our Regionals, the National Golden Age Veteran’s Games (Pickleball) and the National Senior Games in 2019.

Medical anomalies – Double knee replacements, both shoulders – rotator cuff surgery, double hernias, fractured fibula, torn Achilles, torn hamstring, torn planter fascia and had my head jarred smashing into a steel pole trying to do an around the post shot at the National Senior Games in 2019. (the post won out). I am available for consultation.

Peg Travers, Assistant Southwest Regional Director and Assistant Tournament Director for the Southwest Regional Championships

Peg Travers was born and lived in Massachusetts until 2010. Peg was a nurse for 13 years and then ventured into Medical Sales with Abbott Laboratories.

Peg now lives in Prescott, AZ with her partner, Tom Riley and daughter Joy.

Peg's first experience with pickleball was at Prescott Lakes where she learned to play. Peg was not an athletic person so it took a while to get the "eye hand" coordination to play. It was so much fun, she kept with it until she was playing every day and laughing all the way to the courts.

Bob Atherton asked Peg to become an Ambassador in 2015 . Her first task was to round up a team to build public courts. Not knowing anything about building courts or fund raising, she and the team founded Prescott Pickeball Association and partnered with Arizona Community Foundation to start a collaborative fund (501c3) to raise the money. In less than 1 year they had raised over $150,000 and 8 courts were up and running. Almost immediately they realized more courts were needed so again funds were raised and now there are 12 courts at Pioneer Park, Prescott - 4 are lighted.

Peg is also on the Board of Advisors for Prescott Parks and Recreation, and Vice Chair for Prescott Well-Being. Peg also teaches meditation at the Prescott Adult Center.

Bob Atherton, District Ambassador

Education: Mac Murray College, Jacksonville Illinois. State University of Iowa Law School, Iowa. Chapman College, Orange California advanced degrees in Social Science, Business, Teaching certification.

Teaching: Los Alamitos High School Los Alamitos Ca. 32 years Retired 2003. Taught social studies, men's women's golf, tennis, football.

USAPA: Ambassador, 2011. Taught basic through intermediate Pickleball 2009 to date. Established Willow Hills Club in 2010. International Pickleball Instructor Level 1 2019. District Ambassador 2013 to date.

Bob Atherton, Prescott Arizona

Marlene Berwald, District Ambassador Central West Valley

My Life in Indiana
I was born in East Chicago, Indiana in the late 1950’s. There were 5 children in my family, 3 boys and 2 girls. Life was so simple back then! Swimming pool, riding our bikes, playing tag and hide and seek all day long! The years flew by. Off to high school I went. Graduated from Morton Senior High in 1975. Now what do I do. I always chopped off the hair of every doll I owned, so off to beauty school I went. Graduated and worked as a hairdresser in a salon for 1 year. I loved it and met many wonderful ladies. Then I decided to put an application in the same steel mill that my dad, sister, and brother worked in. Back then there was a BIG difference in pay for a hairdresser and a person that worked in a steel mill. Not to mention the health and dental insurance, 401 K and the full pension. So, I got hired in #3 Open Hearth department as a laborer. Boy was that a rude awakening. But I stuck with it and eventually landed a job in the office. The best part of my Indiana life is having my daughter Lindsay and marrying my husband Steve. Along with my marriage came along 2 wonderful children, Jennifer and Brandon. My husband Steve and I worked at the same company for over 30 years. In 2009, we put our house up for sale and sold it in 3 days. Gave our 2-week notice and off to Arizona we went.

My Life in Arizona
I knew for years I would eventually move to Arizona because my best friend moved there and for years, I went there to visit her. I fell in love with Arizona the first day I came there. So now we have a house in Arizona, and we are retired. So, what do we do?? Steve got himself a part time job and I volunteered at a local dog shelter and the senior center. 2 years later I found my true love for pickleball. Boy did I fall HARD. Played 2-3 times a day, 7 days a week. The best part was I lost 35 pounds having fun!

Then I volunteered at a tournament in Surprise and it just went crazy from there. I became the Vice President of Surprise Pickleball Association, started giving free lessons at the city courts. Then became a USAPA ambassador and started running the first senior newbie leagues for the city. My passion is running tournaments. Monster Smash, Tommy Wong Memorial, Grand Canyon Games, SSIPA, SW Regional just to mention a few.

Now I am presently the DA for the Central West Valley of AZ. Love working with Larry “Bud” Lite. Looking forward to running the next SW Regional in 2021 at the Mesa Tennis Center.

BEST part of my life is now having 7 wonderful grandchildren. LIFE is GOOD.

Tom Starrs, District Ambassador Southern Arizona

The eldest of 8 children I grew up in Grosse Pointe MI and attended Catholic schools from grade school through college. I spent my sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. During that school year I was lucky enough to travel extensively and visited Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, England, Scotland, Ireland, and the former Soviet Union.

After graduating I returned to Hamburg, Germany, and worked for a large insurance company in data processing. I now speak German and I still enjoy playing Skat, the German national card game, here in Tucson with German ex-pats. When I returned from Germany to the States, I enrolled in a Masters degree program for teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, and I taught both mathematics and language arts in the inner city of Detroit for several years, and then in Ohio and Ontario. I became involved in adult education in the Catskill Mountains of NY and then was transferred to New Hampshire where my responsibilities eventually morphed into becoming Program Director at a retreat & conference center.

After 15 years in New England, I traveled for several months before I finally discovered Tucson. I’m currently an active realtor with Long Realty Company. I volunteer and sit on a couple of nonprofit Boards of Directors including Tucson Area Pickleball (TAP). I was a volunteer docent at Tohono Chul Park for some years. I’m an amateur photographer and enjoy capturing the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in all its glory. I’ve sung baritone with a number of choral groups over the years. I love rock hounding. I’ve been playing pickleball since 2008 and I’ve been networking with pickleball players in the greater Tucson metropolitan area ever since. My wife Deborah calls herself “a pickleball widow.” We have over 100 kinds of desert plants in our front yard. And I’ve loved every place I’ve ever lived.

Philip Pickard, Treasurer for the USA Pickleball Southwest Region Board

Philip Pickard was born in Atlanta, GA. As a boy he lived in both Albany, Ga and Sumatra, Indonesia. At the age of 15 he moved to Pasadena, California. It was there that he began to excel as the quarterback of his high school football team, eventually going on to play at Pasadena City College. At PCC he helped his team to win the 1977 National Championship in the Rose Bowl. Philip received honors as a first team all conference running back and would eventually be inducted into the Pasadena California Sports Hall of Fame on April 28, 2018. After an illustrious career in Pasadena, he moved on to start as a wide receiver at Kansas State University, where he studied both Political Science and Business. Once his ambitions diverged from athletics, Philip spent his final year of college working under Senator Pete Domenici in the US Senate in Washington, DC.

After graduating college, Philip went to work for Chase Manhattan Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa. Because of his athletic history, he was eventually invited to appear on SABC's nationally syndicated sports show "Sports Vision" to explain, in depth, the rules of American Football to the entire country of South Africa. This successful spot eventually led to Philip having his own weekly television show in which he would teach young African kids in the Soweto Province the fundamentals of Basketball. Utilizing this new-found fame, and in the spirit of competition, Philip created, coached, and played on the first multiracial basketball team in South African history...The Converse Allstars. He also played for the South African national basketball team.

The success of his TV show, as well as his South African-celebrity, propelled Philip to become almost immediately involved in the movie industry in Los Angeles, where he then moved in 1985. Once in LA, Philip worked both in front of the camera (as an actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild) as well as behind the camera (as a partner in a movie advertising agency). As he grew older Philip noticed an opportunity to invest and develop real estate in New Mexico and upon visiting numerous times, decided to move and settle in Albuquerque. He still currently resides there along with his Wife Irina and their two daughters. They share time at their homes in Mexico and Moldova. Philip also has two sons who live in Los Angeles.

Denise B. Smith, District Ambassador East Central Phoenix

Born in Kingston, Jamaica WI immigrated to the US (Brooklyn, NY) in June 1960. Lived there until my Sophomore years of HS. We then moved to Queens, NY (Rosedale to be exact). Graduated from Springfield Gardens, HS. Attended F.H. LaGuardia Community College then Queens College, graduated with a BS degree in Elementary Education.

Joined the US Navy in December 1977 after graduating from Queens College. During my career in the Navy I met and married my husband Al, had kids, received a MA degree in Management and lived in 9 states. Transferred to Phoenix from San Diego in March 1994, to recruit pilots and nurses for the Navy. Retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander (O-4) in Oct. 1995 after serving for 18.5 years. We have three children Brendon, Onisha and Jenine (who are all attorneys). Brendon and his wife Becky live in San Francisco with my two granddaughters Mikayla 17, and Naya 15.

After retiring from the Navy in 1995, I taught Middle School Math/Science. First in the Creighton School District, then in the Kyrene School District. I retired from teaching (after 15 years) on May 22, 2014 and started playing pickleball soon after.

I was introduced to Pickleball by a feature profile on NBC Nightly News. It looked like something I could do in my retirement years. I went online and found that pickleball was being played at my community center. I started playing with members of the center. Fred and Kathy Miller along with Dutch Vander Laan taught me the general rules and how to play.

I later became an Ambassador, a Certified Referee and an IPTPA Level I Instructor. Member of the Southwest Region Tournament Board to help organize volunteers for the 2021 SW Region Championship. I was one of the members that petitioned the City of Phoenix to build public pickleball courts, which resulted in the city constructing 25 pickleball courts throughout the city. Attended HOA Board to request two tennis courts be converted to pickleball courts. This was accomplished within two years. Became a vendor for the City of Phoenix Parks and Rec to teach pickleball. Have taught over 500 adults and children the sport of pickleball. Facilitated and assisted with instruction at Workshops, Pickleball Clinics, Health Conventions, Court Openings, to teach pickleball to PE teachers, other adults and children. Assisted with the formation of the Arizona Pickleball Players League (APPL), and I’m currently working on forming teams for the league that will include 2.5 level players.

SWRP Board of Directors

Larry Lite, President
Peg Travers, Vice President
____, Secretary
Philip Pickard, Treasurer
Denise B. Smith

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