Popping the question at Pictona

Popping the question at Pictona

DALLAS, TX - During the Hertz Gold Cup in Daytona Beach, Alex Lavene proposed to his girlfriend and doubles partner, Connor Jenkins. Spoiler alert — she said "Yes!"

Lavene’s idea to propose at Pictona was based on previous proposals featured on jumbotrons at sporting events around the country.

“I thought that would be cool to do at a pickleball tournament and propose in the stands, during a match, or a commercial break. I haven’t seen anybody do that for pickleball yet,” explained Lavene.

The plan to get down on one knee was hatched in July, and Lavene hoped to accomplish his goal before the end of the year.

“Pictona was the perfect timing,” said Lavene, an attorney. “It’s in November, right before the holidays.”

For Lavene, proposing at a pickleball tournament was the best way to guarantee that both families could watch the exciting moment together, without raising any suspicion from Connor.

Their loved ones were all in attendance, including Jenkins’ brother who’s currently serving in the Army. He traveled from Alaska to surprise his big sister.

As for Lavene's plan, it was elaborate to say the least.

He had a court hearing the morning of Jenkins’ 4.0 women’s doubles match on Friday, Nov. 17.

“I filed a motion to continue and it was granted, but she didn’t know that,” said Lavene. “I told her I still had to go to this court hearing, but I could try and make it later to watch her play.”

Little did Jenkins know that while she was competing, her soon-to-be fiancée evaded their Ring doorbell camera and left the house without his usual courtroom attire.

He carpooled with his parents to the venue and walked in through a back entrance to make sure Jenkins wouldn’t spot him.

And then the moment arrived.

“DJ Selkirk gave me the mic. He just told me to say, ‘I love you’ and do the proposal,” shared Lavene. “I had the microphone in my hand and everyone was watching us. I thought, 'Well, I have to say something good now,' so I went with something funny.”

Jenkins conveniently wore a white workout dress that day. She stood on Championship Court as Lavene walked out to meet her sporting a “Will you marry me?” T-shirt.

“I didn’t know what I was missing until I met you, and now I know. It’s pickleball,” said Lavene.

“I love you, Connor,” he added, as he knelt down with specators aplenty watching from the stands. “Will you marry me?”

The crowd erupted in cheers when Jenkins responded in the affirmative and the newly-engaged couple sealed it with a kiss.

“It was perfect in every way,” mentioned Lavene.

Lavene and Jenkins stayed for the rest of the Hertz Gold Cup to watch the pro matches and celebrate.

“I felt like a pro that day because people kept coming up to me and congratulating me. Even pros were congratulating me,” said Lavene. “It was a great day.”

To be the first to propose at a pickleball tournament, this couple must be pretty serious about America's fastest growing sport.

“Pickleball has just been this huge part of our relationship since the beginning,” explained Lavene. “We met in law school, and I had a crush on her. We became best friends, and when it came time for me to meet her family, I met them on a pickleball court.”

That was in 2019, before pickleball’s boom in popularity. Lavene had never heard of it before then.

His future in-laws not only played it, however. Jenkins' step-dad was senior pro, Jeff Jauschneg, who’s known as “Big Country” on the courts.

“They were all really good, but they taught me how to play. I never played a racquet sport in my life, but I loved it. We got addicted,” shared Lavene. “We played three or four times a week throughout law school and it really brought us together. Pickleball was a huge bonding thing for us. We’d always play together and it’s what started our relationship. Without it, I’m not sure if we’d be together right now.”

Some couples struggle to find a mixed doubles partner, but for these two, joining forces in pickleball formed a solid foundation for their relationship.

“Partnering up really helped build our relationship. We fought, but then we learned how to communicate and figure out what we can and cannot say to each other during games,” said Lavene. "It helped us figure out when one person is in a good or bad mood. Partnering in pickleball related to our actual relationship at home.”

Once Lavene got hooked, his parents started playing, too.

“Ever since then, we’ve just always had these family events around pickleball - Thanksgiving pickleball events, July 4th events, we’ll set up these round robins and they’re so fun. It ties everybody together,” said Lavene. “I couldn’t think of anything that’s more us than pickleball, and I thought Pictona would be the perfect place to do it since it’s such a huge part of our whole relationship."

These lovebirds have a bright future ahead of them.

Now, it’s time to plan a pickleball wedding reception.