A Sault Ste. Marie woman says she owes her fairytale wedding to the sport of pickleball, which is becoming more and more popular in the city and beyond.
Lorrie Zorzit is active senior and was a regular squash player at the local Y, but a friend convinced her to pick up a new sport after the death of her first husband.
“He said, ‘Lorrie you should really play this game pickleball, I think you’d like it.’ Of course, once I started I was absolutely addicted to it,” said Lorrie in a video call from her winter home in Sarasota, Florida.
That new obsession led Lorrie to continue playing while on vacation in Florida a few years ago.
“I was just there for the sunshine and to play pickleball. I was in a trailer with another girl and her boyfriend just sharing the rent — I did my thing, they did their thing,” she said.
Pickleball is played on a court, similar to tennis. The paddle is shaped somewhere in between a tennis racket and a ping pong paddle and the ball is similar to a wiffle ball.
“When you play pickleball you just put your paddle in the stand and then the next four people go on when the last four people come off the court. So you’re playing different people and you’re meeting different people,” said Lorrie.
That’s exactly how she met Chet Babcock in Florida in 2019. Like Lorrie, he had also picked up the game after the death of his first wife.
“We played some games together and some games against each other and we got to chatting after a game, sitting on a bench sharing stories with each other and chit chatting,’ said Lorrie. “This went on for about a week and then he said, ‘I’d like to take you for dinner.”
“I said, ‘whoa, I don’t date,’” said Lorrie of the exchange. She had been a widow for almost four years at the time.
“I hadn’t been on a date in 54 years,” said Chet, also on the video call.
“He said, ‘let’s not call it a date, let’s call it a conversation,’” recalled Lorrie.
With some encouragement from friends, Lorrie agreed to go out to dinner with Chet in November of 2019.
“When we did it was an immediate connection,” she said.
Chet lived just four-and-a-half hours from Sault Ste. Marie in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The couple said they would have never met if it wasn’t for pickleball.
“You play tennis, you book your partners and the court. With squash you book the court, you book your one partner so you don’t really meet anyone, unless it’s maybe a tournament situation,” said Lorrie.
“It’s a very social game,” said Chet.
Fast forward to July of 2020 and the couple were getting married on the dock behind Chet’s Grand Rapids home.
“My family couldn’t come and we couldn’t get married in Canada because he (Chet) wouldn’t be able to come,” said Lorrie.
Lorrie got picked up at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport in a private plane, allowing her family to give her a send off on the tarmac, blowing bubbles and playing music.
“It was a fairytale day,” said Lorrie. “I got to sit up with the pilot. We flew to Grand Rapids where there was roses to greet me.”
The couple were married with Chet’s children and grandchildren on the dock and his brother officiating.
“This was the only way to do it and I am quite happy with that,” said Lorrie. “It’s pretty amazing, really. One American, one Canadian meet in Florida and end up married. Pretty darn cool.”
The couple even found a way to work in the sport that brought them together in the first place.
“We had the arch all decorated and hanging down where people would put flowers — we put pickleballs,” said Lorrie. “It’s a fun game and it changed my life. It really did.”
Lorrie said she is excited to check out the eight new pickleball courts recently built by the city in the west end when she returns to the Sault in the spring.
“It’s nice to have designated courts,” said Lorrie. “And everyone will have access to them, you don’t have to buy a membership to play there.”