ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, and as it continues to gain popularity, players are making a name for themselves. New Mexico native and former Miss New Mexico USA Kamryn Blackwood has climbed the ranks and is now one of the top pickleballers in the world.

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Blackwood got into the sport almost by accident. She was living in Los Angeles working as a model and actress when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and she was forced to move back home. As a former college tennis player at Nova Southeastern University, Blackwood saw an opportunity for a new career as a tennis pickleball coach.

“I was just seeing these pickleball courts pop up everywhere and I’m like hey if this is what I can do to make money during the pandemic, this is what I have to do,” said Blackwood. “Like lets gamble this out and see if I can’t make something of myself in this new sport that’s just taking off.”

After pairing with Pro Sports as a coach, Blackwood’s business partner encored her to try playing in tournaments. She began training in April 2021 and competed in her first pro tournament in October where she won her second match.

Now Blackwood sits as the top ranked player in the southwest, regardless of age or gender, and has a top 50 ranking in the world. She plays professionally on tour with both the PPA and APP and works as an analyst for MLP.

Even though its only been around a year since she got into the sport competitively, Blackwood is no stranger to shining on a big stage. She was named Miss New Mexico USA in 2014, and believes competing in pageantry gave her some of the confidence she has on the pickleball court.

“So, yes the presence of miss USA and having to be on for miss New Mexico helped a lot, but it was the belief in myself that, hey I’ve never done this, but I was successful. So same with pickleball, I’ve never done it, but I know I can be successful and it’s paid off.”

When Blackwood is not touring, she spends her time in New Mexico coaching. While she has already left her mark on the sport, she wants to put the Land of Enchantment on the map for the next generation of players.

“My goal would be to bring a professional tour here in 2025, make a stop here in New Mexico. It’s a beautiful place to play, we need it, I think we deserve it here in New Mexico and that’s my goal. So as an ambassador of this amazing sport, I would love to bring a professional tour here.”