Saturday, December 16, 2017
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Brian Bissillion, of Pine to Palm Resort, takes a shot on one of the new 20 shuffleboard courts at the resort in Welsaco. Brian and his wife Gina are among the top shuffleboarders in South Texas.

Gina and Brian Bissillion haven’t had a chance to find their favorite shuffleboard court at Pine to Palm Resort in Weslaco. Chances are, they won’t.

“We’re more likely to have an unfavorite than a favorite,” joked Gina. “We’re glad though about the new courts here. They’re really nice.”

Pine to Palm Resort renovated its activity area for residents. The park completely removed the 24 shuffleboard courts that had been in place for 40 years and built 20 new shuffleboard courts and two pickleball courts, complete with new lighting, over the summer. Park Manager Gretchen Hovda kept residents informed on the progress through regular emailed newsletters.

The park not only saw an increasing demand for pickleball, but it has a large and competitive group of residents when it comes to shuffleboard. The Bissillions are just two of the several players who are considered good enough to play at the international level from the park. In fact, the Bissillions competed in July in the International Shuffleboard World Team Championships for Canada (West). The women’s team finished second, behind USA (East) and ahead of the United Kingdom in third. The men finished third, behind only the USA (East) and Brazil in first and second, respectively. The competition was a week-long event.

The event hosts teams from all around the world including Germany, Holland, China and others. If a country doesn’t have enough to put together a team, the association will create a team called the U.N. team. Teams qualify based on their resume and accomplishments throughout their career.

The men’s team was made of up park residents Brian Bissillion, Earl Doell and Peter Hilderbrand, and Doug Cowling from Ranchero Village in Weslaco. The women’s team had residents Gina Bissillion, Eileen Hilderbrand and Carol Klem, plus Marlene Cowling from Ranchero Village. Most recently, the Bissillions finished third in the Don Johnk Memorial Expert Mixed Doubles Tournament at Leisure World in Weslaco. They finished behind park residents – and Canadian teammates – Doell and Klem.

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Gina Bissillion, of Pine to Palm Resort in Weslaco, watches her shot while playing shuffleboard on one of the 20 new courts at the resort. Gina and her husband Brian are among the top shuffleboarders in South Texas.

“There are some great shuffleboarders in the Valley, that’s for sure,” Brian said. “Plus you meet so many great people, people from all over the world at the World Doubles event.”

The Bissillions have played all over the world and have played on many different types of shuffleboard courts, the ones at Pine To Palm being pretty much the standard. Courts are rated based on their draw speed. The ones around the Valley are usually about eight seconds – which means it takes that amount of time from the time it leaves the shuffleboard cue until it stops. There was a court in California that the Bissillions played on where the draw took 20-to-22 seconds.

“All you had to do was touch the disc ever so slightly and it would go,” Brian said. “The court was so slick. I had one disc stop and then it slid again after a full stop. I just couldn’t figure those out. Some use beads, some use wax on the court. There are a lot of different types of courts.”

Gina said that players also need to be able to read the courts. An avid golfer with a low handicap, Gina likens it to reading the breaks on the golf course greens.

“There are subtle breaks on the courts that you need to see. Is my disc going to go this way or that,” she said. “You play with a lot more finesse and strategy than a lot of people think.”

Competitors gain points based on how they finish in tournaments. Reaching 1,000 points is a huge milestone. Gina, who was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Shuffleboard Association Hall of Fame this year, has 975 points and should reach that mark this season. Brian is at 900.

Pine to Palm has several top-notch shuffleboard players other than the Bissillions and those who joined them at the World Team Doubles event.

“There are 12-14 people, at most, across the Valley who have 2,000 points,” Brian said. “This park has three of them.”

For more information on upcoming shuffleboard tournaments in the Rio Grande Valley, visit

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