Mike Welter is an incredible athlete and has rightfully been named the 2017 Florida Senior Games Athlete of the Year. Sadly, Mike suffered a stroke on September 30th this year which will prevent him from playing in the 2018 Senior Games, but he currently plans to take about a year off then leap right back into the fray.
This former Marine Corps colonel shows no signs of slowing down despite the health scare. The stroke initially paralyzed Mike's left arm and leg and he lost his sight, but he's since regained the use of his limbs and is beginning to see more clearly. Mike explains:
“I’m walking a mile or more each day and my sight is improving. The doctors are taking good care of me and I’m trying to get better. I’m going to take a year off from pickleball, but I’m going to be Comeback Player of the Year when I return.”
We admire Mike's determination and look forward to his return! At the Games last year he played in three medal events and placed in each for his 5th consecutive year. Mike partnered with Bobbi Little to win mixed doubles for the 3rd consecutive year, and also snagged gold in men’s doubles and silver in singles.
His win streak doesn't stop there. Mike has won many medals in competitions across the world, even traveling with his wife to Mexico to participate in tournaments. He notes, 'The game, when it’s played in big matches, can involve a lot of strategy, like a chess match. You have to put the ball in the right place.”
Here's another interesting fact about Mike—did you know that he's Kyle Yates' uncle? That's right; we not only have Mike to thank for his impressive personal records, but for getting one of the world's best picklers into the game!
When Kyle was only a tender 15-years-old, he was convinced by his uncle to give the game a try. Mike noted (like many!) that Kyle initially thought that pickleball sounded stupid, but then 'he picked it up in about one minute. He was very, very good, but I beat his butt (the first time). A week later he beat my butt, and he hasn't looked back.'
Mike has been a big supporter of his local hospital's wellness center in Cape Coral, having helped outfit the center with pickleball equipment so established fans and newcomers could play. He's also been excitedly waiting for a new pickleball complex to be built by Lake Kennedy, which he's certain will help spread the sport even further.
With this recognition from the Florida Senior Games, he's become the first ever pickler to win the honor and the fourth from Lee County.
We appreciate all of Mike's efforts to assist pickleball in reaching more participants and can't wait to have him back!