Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Jack Munro goes pro, signs with Major League Pickleball

Kevin Kim
Jack Munro practices at Austin Pickle Ranch on Nov. 15, 2023.

After a baseball accident left his dominant arm in a sling, then 10-year-old Jack Munro took up pickleball to satisfy his athletic energy. 

“As soon as I got the sling off, I said, ‘Screw baseball, I just want to keep playing this,’” Munro said. “I’m ambidextrous just because I played in that sling for a bit.”

At 13 years old, Munro became the youngest 5.0 pickleball player, the highest level of play at the time indicating non-professional mastery of the sport. Now an economics sophomore, Munro continues his practice, and in September announced his three-year contract with Major League Pickleball effective beginning in 2024.

“It was a big deal for me because it meant that I had enough eyeballs to attract the biggest tour to have interested in signing me,” Munro said. “Then that snowballs … and helps with sponsors and stuff like that.”

According to Forbes, Munro made one of 70 pickleball players to sign to MLP during the “pickleball civil war.” The conflict between the two largest professional leagues, MLP and the Professional Pickleball Association resulted in both leagues feverishly signing players exclusively to their rosters after a history of allowing players to compete simultaneously in both tours. 

“It screwed the viewers over because if the top players are going to one tour, but then some top players are going to the other tour, then you’ll never see that matchup,” Munro said. 

The conflict ended in September when the two leagues merged, forming a single company backed by $50 million. However, for players, the merger may keep the leagues from paying out all their contracts, Munro said. With players from both leagues, Munro said there is now likely too much talent to accommodate. 

“The first bit (after the merger) was not being able to sleep at night because you’re so stressed like, ‘Am I actually gonna get paid out? Where am I gonna go? What’s the plan?’” Munro said. “Even today I still don’t know.”

For now, Munro continues to train around Austin. As a young sport, pickleball lacks an abundance of retired professionals who would typically coach young players. Munro said he does not really have a coach, he just drills with other professionals in the Austin area. 

Due to the pickleball court shortage in Austin, Tim Klitch, the founder and chief fun officer of Austin Pickle Ranch, an eight-court rooftop pickleball facility, allows Munro and other players to practice on his personal home court.  

“I’ve mostly seen him practicing with Ben Johns, who is the number one pickleball player in the world right now,” Klitch said. “If you’re good enough to practice with Ben Johns, you’re pretty good.” 

Munro said practicing with potential competitors creates a unique dynamic. While the top professionals withhold skills and information from each other, that’s not true for him, Munro said.

“Since I’m still a rising pro, people are still trying to help me out,” Munro said. “I’m not at the point yet where they’re withholding everything that they know because they’re worried that I’m going to eat their lunch.” 

Though a pro now, the pickleball community of Simi Valley where Munro found his humble beginnings still roots for him. Craig Evans, Munro’s one-time doubles partner and family friend, said Munro brought youth to the budding pickleball community.

“It was odd to see this young kid playing with everybody else (who was) 50 and over,” Evans said. “It’s a weird phenomenon, but that’s the magic of pickleball.”

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