PoolRoom

Tools of the Trade

Pool players have a love/hate relationship with their cues. We talk to some of the game’s best to better understand how equipment impacts performance.

Photos by Mel Evans

Pool isn’t baseball, where an inside fastball can snap a bat in half. Pool isn’t golf, where an errant drive can wind up with a driver floating in the nearby pond. Pool definitely isn’t basketball, where LeBron James might never wear the same shoe twice. Pool players and their cues have a markedly different relationship. Maybe it’s the function of the cue, as a literal extension of the human body. Maybe it’s the sheer amount of time one spends with it, hours at the table, in the airport, in the car. It’s not an exaggeration to call it an intimate relationship, even if that 20-ounce hunk of wood and leather can be a fickle partner when it’s needed the most. For the Cue Issue of Billiards Digest, we talked to nine of the best players in the world. We asked them about their preferences, about their horror stories, about any advice they might have for the average player.

Kelly Fisher

Like Allison, Kelly Fisher dominated snooker before switching to American pool. The three-time snooker world champ has won a pair of 9-ball world titles and a handful of WPBA titles in her dozen years as a pool pro.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
I once left my cues circling on the conveyor belt at the airport. I didn’t even realize I had left them there until I got home three hours later.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
I’ll never forget it. I was 13 or 14 years old. My dad took me to a custom cuemaker and I was allowed to choose it all by myself, whatever I wanted.

Do you have a particular horror story that comes to mind?
When I arrived at the 2015 Women’s World 9-Ball Championship in China, I went to practice the night before, only to find my tip was half off. I got my spare shaft out of my bag and, I have no idea how, but that tip was also hanging off. One of the players helped me reattach the tip, but the uncertainty was in the back of my mind. (Editor’s note: She finished in ninth place.)

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I don’t clean my cue. I actually don’t do anything to it — and I like it dirty.

Do you have any superstitions with your cues?
I take them out and put them back in my case in the same place and order.

Darren Appleton

In the decade since “Dynamite” made the switch to American pool from its English counterpart, he has won world 9-ball and 10-ball titles, two U.S. Opens and seven Mosconi Cups as a part of Team Europe.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
In 2005, I lost, 9-8, on the TV table in the quarterfinal of the World 8-Ball Championship (in English pool). On the way out of the arena, I put my 10-year-old craftsman ash one-piece cue over my knee. I broke it right in half and threw it in the corner. Afterward, I was a little unhappy since that cue was like my right arm. I couldn’t find a good cue for the next two years. Nothing made me happy. I was never the same player again. Then, in 2007, I switched to American pool, so that was my savior really.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first cue was a Riley two-piece when I first started, around 1991 or so. I loved it because Stephen Hendry, the world snooker champion, used a Riley. I thought it was the best cue ever, even though it was worth all of $30. But Hendry won his seven world titles with a $30 cue, which is pretty amazing.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
I don’t think it says much. My favorite color is red, so I’ve had a few of those.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues?
What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
Switching cues in English pool is very difficult, because no two ash cues are the same. But American cues are made of maple, so a lot of brands are pretty much the same. It’s more like golf clubs.

What’s the most common misconception among players in terms of tip maintenance?
Most amateurs don’t have a clue about their tips. Really, if you just have a nice dome shape, you should be good. But having the right tip is important. A player with no cue power should be using a soft tip and a player with a lot of power should be using a medium or hard tip.

Justin Bergman

One of the best young players in the United States, Bergman is dangerous in all of pool’s disciplines, while also being a dangerous barbox player. The Illinois native has represented Team USA three times in the Mosconi Cup.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first cue was a Dufferin, one of those made for little kids. My first normal cue was a McDermott — it was all red with a black snake on it.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I never do anything to my cue except replace the tip.

 

Allison Fisher

It’s not often “Hall of Famer” is an understatement. The “Duchess of Doom” is arguably the greatest woman to ever pick up a cue. She’s a four-time world champ, 40-time winner on the WPBA tour and 11-time world champ in snooker.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first cue was a gift. It had a screw-on tip.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues?
What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
The difficult part is adjusting to the deflection and throw between cues. I can adjust pretty quickly because I am a feel and method player. I pay close attention to what happens to the path of the cue ball. The mental obstacle is the different feel of the hit.

Do you have any pet peeves about how other people handle cues (your or theirs)?
I don’t like it when people bang their shaft into balls to gather them for shots. I sometimes let people shoot with my cue, but I have to know they respect cues before I do. I observe what they do with their own. I don’t like people picking up my cue without my permission.

Thorsten Hohmann

The German now residing in Florida has nearly done it all in his career. “The Hitman” has won a pair of world 9-ball titles, a straight-pool world championship and $350,000 for his win at the International Pool Tour’s North American 8-Ball Championship.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
I once made the mistake of wanting the front end of my cue to be heavier. I had a friend add an ounce of weight right behind the ferrule. It created so much deflection that when I put sidespin on the ball, I missed the object ball entirely.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
It was blue.

Do you have a particular horror story that comes to mind?
I once left my cue at a Guinness Beer booth during an event in Indonesia. It was my birthday, so I went to celebrate in a different part of the mall. When I went back to pick up my cues and go play, I realized someone had poured Guinness down the pipes of my case. The shaft had expanded and everything was filthy, wet and stunk like beer. I had to get all new equipment.

A good carpenter never blames his tools, but do you remember a time it was definitely your cue’s fault?
It’s always the cues fault—unless it was the crooked table, the very bad roll, the sharking opponent, the terrible lighting, the annoying spectator or the wind gust that made me miss.

Rodney Morris

“The Rocket” is one of the game’s most explosive players. The 1996 U.S. Open Champion and BCA Hall of Famer has dozens of titles and has represented Team USA in the Mosconi Cup 10 times.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
The most bone-headed thing I did with a cue was grab my whole case and throw it across the room after losing in the World 9-Ball Championships in 2004. The best part was that it was a soft case! Very lucky that all my cues didn’t snap.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
The first real cue was a Barry Szamboti. I love everything about it — the feel, the hit, the sound. I knew right away I had something special in my hands.

Do you have a particular horror story that comes to mind?
I remember playing in a big match when my tip flew off right in the middle of a shot. I didn’t have another shaft, so I just quit.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I don’t do any of my own maintenance on my cues except for scuff or tap the tip when I feel it needs it. I never learned how.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues? What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
There was a 15-year stretch where it seemed like I used a different cue about every six months. The hardest part is learning the deflection on slow spin shots — and they always come up when it’s hill hill! Mentally, you’re in big trouble at that point.

What does a player need to consider before switching to a low-deflection shaft?
Before switching, you need to try it out. A cue should fit you right away. It shouldn’t mean you have to adjust to it.

Do you have any pet peeves about how other people handle cues (your or theirs)?
I hate the way some people chalk their cues if they make a loud squeaky sound. That irritates the hell out of me. Or when they drag their cue around behind them when they walk around the table.

Monica Webb

A perennial top-10 player on the women’s tour, Webb has won two WPBA titles. She currently runs her own poolroom in Georgia while continuing to compete at the highest levels.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
I once slammed the ivory butt of a cue once. The [bumper] was worn down, so it cracked all the way up.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
It wasn’t a “real cue” but when I was 8 years old, I kept my own house cue behind the bar. I got my own cue when I was 9 or 10. It was my favorite — being able to have a proper cue and get more consistent.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I don’t clean my shaft much at all, but my ferrule needs to be clean.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
Beyond something flashy versus simple and conservative, I think it might say something about a personality, but it doesn’t say much about the player.

Jennifer Barretta

New York’s own has been long been among the elite women in the U.S. She also starred in Tru TV’s “The Hustlers” and is a regular on the Women’s Professional Billiard Association tour.

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
All of my bone-headed things I’ve done have been at the table. The mishaps and mistakes were definitely not the cue’s fault. No cues were injured in the making of my career.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
I remember my instructor telling me about the Predator shaft when it first came out. I knew nothing about pool, but I sure did like the name.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
I never clean my cue. Other players touch it and cringe.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
Flashy? They are the players with flashy games. Subdued and technical? Their game matches. Very expensive and filled with inlays? Play them for money. They usually suck.

What’s the most difficult thing about switching cues? What kind of mental obstacles do you face?
I’m not a fan of switching cues. You put so much trust in this instrument that you play with. How can I trust a stranger?

Do you have any superstitions with your cues?
Sometimes when I’m having a good tournament, I find myself “making them comfortable” in the hotel room—laying them on the sofa, making sure they’re out of harms way, ridiculous stuff like that. I think they appreciate it, though!

What does a player need to consider before switching to a low-deflection shaft?
That they won’t miss as much. Consider your decision very carefully!

A good carpenter never blames his tools, but do you remember a time it was definitely your cue’s fault?
I was sponsored by a new cue company right after I came off a very long break. I stuck it out because I thought I had forgotten how to play. That sponsorship ran out and I started playing with my Lucasi Hybrid. It was like night and day the moment I put it in my hands. Definitely the cue’s fault.

Mike Dechaine

A mercurial talent from Maine, “Fireball” has used his powerful stroke to take a place among the best in the U.S. The four-time Team USA member in the Mosconi Cup also starred alongside Barretta in Tru TV’s “The Hustlers.”

What’s the most bone-headed thing you’ve ever done with your cue(s)?
Wow, there are so many things I’d like to take back when it comes to cues. My biggest mistake was switching from something I really liked. When you get used to something, keep it. Also, I’ve changed tips in the middle of tournaments when I was playing perfectly fine. I do not recommend doing that.

Do you remember your first “real” cue? What was your favorite thing about it?
My first “real” cue was a McDermott my father gave me. It was simple but played extremely well. It was before I knew anything about high or low deflection. I actually still have this cue, so maybe I’ll dust it off and start playing with it again.

Do you have any unique maintenance habits?
Most everything about my equipment is straightforward. I use a specific tip, taper, like my shaft smooth but dirty and prefer a forward-balanced cue. Some have commented on my unique chalking habits. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with it, but I guess it’s strange from what I’ve heard.

What, if anything, does a cue say about a player?
For me, all I care about is if the cue plays well. It could be the ugliest looking thing in the world, but if it hits good, it’s in my bag.

A good carpenter never blames his tools, but do you remember a time it was definitely your cue’s fault?
I’d like to say every time, but we all know that’s not the case. One situation I wish I could take back was a week before the 2015 Mosconi Cup when my ferrule cracked. This was heartbreaking for me because I was playing excellent when this all happened. That time, it was 100% the cue’s fault!

Fill in the Blank

The most important single thing about a cue is _____.

Kelly Fisher: You trust it.
Monica Webb: The shaft.
Jennifer Barretta: The shaft.
Darren Appleton: The tip.
Rodney Morris: The hit.
Allison Fisher: The balance.
Justin Bergman: The tip.

Nickel- or dime-shaped tip?

K. Fisher: Dime.
Webb: Nickel.
Barretta: Nickel. I get too much spin with a dime.
Appleton: Nickel.
Morris: Dime.

I’m especially aware of my cue’s _____.

K. Fisher: Crisp hit.
Webb: Wrap.
Barretta: Balance.
Appleton: Tip.
Morris: Tip hardness.
A. Fisher: Balance.

Players who name their cues are _____.

K. Fisher: Odd.
Webb: Goofy.
Barretta: Lonely.
Appleton: Bipolar.
Morris: Participation-trophy kids.
Bergman: Strange.
A. Fisher: Interesting.

When I’m walking with my cues/cue case, strangers most commonly mistake them for _____.

Webb: Musical instruments.
Barretta: Musical instruments.
Appleton: Guns.
Morris: Arrows.
A. Fisher: Musical instruments.

As far as its hit, the most underrated aspect of a cue is _____.

K. Fisher: Vibration
Morris: The age of the shaft wood.
Webb: The ferrule.
Appleton: Again, the tip.
A. Fisher: Weight distribution.
Bergman: The joint.

How many cues do you currently own?

K. Fisher: Three, though hundreds more if you count the ones at my pool hall, retail story and Kwikfire line of cues!
Webb: Not many. Less than five.
Barretta: They seem to accumulate, but I only own three that I actually use.
Appleton: Three.
Bergman: 10.
Morris: Just two.
A. Fisher: Quite a few, but I only play with one.

How many cues have you owned in your lifetime?

Appleton: Around 20.
Barretta: Around 20.
Morris: Hundreds.
Bergman: Hundreds.

What’s the most you’ve paid for a cue?

Barretta: $200 for my first cue.
Appleton: $100
A. Fisher: $2,500
Morris: $12,500
Bergman: A couple thousand dollars.

How much does your cue weigh? Your break cue?

K. Fisher: Both my playing cue and break cue are 19.5 oz.
Webb: My playing cue is 19 oz. and my break cue is 18.5 oz.
Barretta: My playing cue is 19 oz., my break cue is 20 oz.
Appleton: My playing cue is 19.5 oz. and my break cue is 19 oz.
Bergman: My playing cue is 18 oz.
Morris: My playing cue is 20 oz. and my break cue is 19.5 oz.
A. Fisher: My playing cue is 18.2 oz. and I don’t know what my break cue weighs.

I prefer a wrap/no wrap because _____.

K. Fisher: A prefer a wrap because it is less sticky.
A. Fisher: I like the beauty of a wrapless cue, but I prefer wraps because the lacquer can be too thick and sticky.
Webb: I like a wrap because of the grip.
Appleton: I prefer an elephant ear skin wrap for its feel.
Bergman: I prefer a wrap because my hands sweat so it gives me a better feel.
Morris: I prefer a leather wrap because I like how it grips my hand.

A good cue repairman is worth _____.

Webb: A lot! Nothing is worse than your tip falling off at a tournament or needing repair on the finish and wrap. It’s very important to me that I have the best person work on those things.
Barretta: Chaining up in your basement!
Appleton: Paying him properly for his work.
Morris: $2 million! (Approximately.)
A. Fisher: A good repairman is worth quite a bit but a good cuemaker is priceless.

Ruijsink to Coach U.S.

Ruijsink will switch jerseys for the Mosconi Cup.

In a move that was met with mixed reviews, Mosconi Cup promoter Matchroom Sport announced Holland’s Johan Ruijsink as 2017 captain for Team USA. The 50-year-old Ruijsink is well known in Mosconi Cup annals as the undefeated captain for Team Europe, having led the squad seven times between 2006 and 2014. Ruijsink voluntarily stepped down as Team Europe after the 2014 event, in part citing the lack of a challenge in leading the European team.

Ruijsink replaces Mark Wilson, who helmed the U.S. squad for three years, coming closest to victory in 2015, when the U.S. lost, 11-7.

With Team USA posting just one win in the last 11 Mosconi Cups, Matchroom said it was seeking a game-changer to “revive America’s flagging fortunes,” even if it meant appointing a European coach.

The announcement caught many American players and fans by surprise. Numerous posts on social media decried the decision as “an insult to the Americans,” while others applauded the selection as America’s “best chance” to become competitive again.

“The reason to take on this job is quite obvious,” Ruijsink commented in the Matchroom release. “I am an authentic lover of the game and especially of the Mosconi Cup. In 25 years of coaching, the Mosconi Cup has proven to be by far the most exciting event in the world of pool.

“As a coach in pool, there is no higher goal then working in the ‘home of pool,’ the U.S.A. My entire coaching career has been founded on seeing the American players compete at the World Championships in Bergheim, Germany, in 1990. There I saw Earl, Varner, Davenport, Mizerak, Mataya, Lebron and a young Johnny Archer, and they made me love the game even more.”

Ruijsink is credited with coaching Holland into a pool powerhouse, mentoring stars like Alex Lely, Niels Feijen and Rico Diks in the ’90s and early 2000s. In recent years, he has been coaching in Russia, developing a talented crop of players, including recent World Pool Series champion Ruslan Chinahov.

“I was shocked at first,” said American Justin Bergman, who has played on the last three U.S. squads. “But I don’t think it’s a horrible idea from a player’s view, since he probably has good ideas and he’s a knowledgeable coach. I think we should all support him.”

“I think it’s good, since he was so huge for Europe’s team,” echoed Skyler Woodward, Team USA’s best player over the past two Mosconi Cups.

According to Matchroom, Ruijsink will get to hand pick his five-player team, so long as each player is ranked in the top 10 in Mosconi Cup points in 2017. Additionally, Ruijsink plans to travel to the U.S. several times during the year to meet with and observe potential team members.

Ruijsink’s first decision was selecting Archer as his vice-captian.

Teams Set For Mosconi Cup

With the announcement of the final “wildcard” selections by the opposing captains, the final rosters for Team USA and Team Europe are set with four weeks to go before the 23rd Mosconi Cup commences at the Alexandra Palace in London, Dec. 6-9.

Team USA captain Mark Wilson used his wildcard picks to add Mosconi Cup veteran and recent Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee “Rocket” Rodney Morris and 29-year-old Justin Bergman to the roster. It will mark the tenth Mosconi appearance for Morris and the third consecutive appearance by Bergman. The duo will join Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward and Mike Dechaine, who earned automatic spots on the team by finishing in the top three in points over 28 tournaments throughout the year. Only Morris did not play on the 2015 team that fell to Team Europe, 11-8, in Las Vegas. (Corey Deuel was the fifth member of Team USA in 2015.)

Team Europe captain Marcus Chamat handpicked reigning World 9-Ball Champion Albin Ouschan of Austria and England’s Darren Appleton, who will be making his eighth consecutive appearance, to join Holland’s Niels Feijen, Scotland’s Jayson Shaw and England’s Mark Gray. The three automatic berths on Team Europe were awarded to the points champion of the EuroTour (Feijen), the top European points earner on a World Events Rankings (Shaw), and the highest-ranked player on the Combined (Gray, who placed third behind already-qualified Shaw and Feijen). Feijen, Appleton and Ouschan also appeared for Team Europe in 2015.

As is customary, the wildcard announcements were greeted by second-guessing in social media. American fans questioned Wilson’s selection of Bergman, ranked sixth on the U.S. points list, over fifth-place finisher Oscar Dominguez. (Morris finished fourth in points.) Given the fact that the 2015 squad was made up of the top five point-earners, and the fact that Bergman lives in southern Illinois, not far from Wilson’s St. Louis home, charges of favoritism and “politics” were bandied about as fans weighed in. “I don’t have a bias and I don’t give those claims any credence,” said Wilson. “I simply picked the team that I thought gave us the best chance of winning this year. I analyze things like late-season performance, strengths and weaknesses and how they fit in with the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team.

“In the case of Rodney,” Wilson continued, “He went to the last six events. The effort and results were there. He gives us the best chance of winning.Last year it just happened that the team I chose finished one through five in points. That doesn’t mean that is the way it was meant to be. People seem to have a hard time with the concept of what the wildcard pick means.”

The concept of a “wildcard” selection was even more pronounced in Chamat’s selection of Appleton for Team Europe. While the former World 9-Ball Champion has been a member of six Mosconi Cup-winning squads, Appleton suffered through a subpar 2016, failing to crack the top 10 in the European Combined points list.

“No player really stood out for me for the last spot,” said Chamat. “There are so many good players in Europe, but I had to weigh the ups and downs. Darren is a big-match player with huge experience. And he is an awesome team player. I could have picked other players, but I believe in Darren. This is the biggest event for all of us and the pressure will be amazing. I think Darren will be amazing, too.”

WILSON ANNOUNCES FINAL SELECTIONS FOR TEAM USA

After making “some of the roughest telephone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson announced his five-man team for the 21st Mosconi Cup, scheduled for Dec. 1-4, in Blackpool, England. The squad features a mixture of veteran players and youth.

Not surprisingly, newly minted U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening will lead the U.S. squad, which has dropped four Mosconi Cups in a row (and six of seven) to Team Europe. The 31-year-old Van Boening will play in his eighth Cup, and will be joined by Cup veterans Corey Deuel, also making his eighth appearance, and John Schmidt, who played in 2006 in Rotterdam. Making their Mosconi Cup debuts will be 27-year-old Justin Bergman of Fairview Heights, Ill., and 26-year-old Justin Hall of Palm Harbor, Fla.

The “tough calls” Wilson made were to Brandon Shuff, Oscar Dominguez and Jeremy Sossei, who have been offered coaching positions in Blackpool. Dominguez and Shuff have each participated in one Mosconi Cup, with Dominguez being a member of the last U.S. team to win the title, in 2009.

“This represents a new era for Team USA,” said Wilson, who was named captain by Matchroom Sport in January, just a month after Team USA was humiliated by Team Europe, 12-2, in Las Vegas. “And I’m counting on these players to be leaders. “The final decisions were difficult,” Wilson added. “Every player put a lot of time and effort into their game over the past nine months. And they all represented the sport and the U.S. well during that time. There were a few close calls, but I’m confident in these picks. It was a pretty thorough process.”

According to Wilson, the three players left off the final squad were asked to travel with the team to England, expense-paid, to assist during the event. “This won’t be a holiday,” Wilson added. “Each player will be assigned special duties, setting up little refresher drills for the team before each round.” Wilson said the duties include an Offensive Coordinator, a Defensive Coordinator (to work on safeties and kick shots) and Specialty Shots Coordinator (for breaking and elevated cue shots).
“I will have drills for the players to work on,” said Wilson, “and the coaches will help the players run through the drills.”

According to Wilson, the team will meet in St. Louis, Nov. 20-21, for intensive practice sessions at Lindenwood University, where Wilson coaches the billiards program. The team will participate in Mosconi Cup-style match play at Starship Billiards in Decatur, Ill., the following two days. After several more days of practice in St. Louis, the team will share a Thanksgiving dinner, before leaving for Blackpool on Friday, Nov. 28. “I feel great about Team USA,” Wilson said. “I’m ready to go to war with these guys.”

Wilson Names Team USA Hopefuls

Mosconi_CupAs was his original intent, Mosconi Cup Team USA Captain Mark Wilson worked quickly to select the players who will compete for the final five roster spots for the 2014 event in December in Blackpool, England. Wilson announced the selection of eight players who will train and compete together through the summer, before the captain whittles the list down to the five players who will wear the red, white and blue in Blackpool.

Not surprisingly, Wilson tabbed America’s No. 1, Shane Van Boening, and immediately announced that he will expect the taciturn star to provide leadership to the 2014 squad. “Shane sets a great example,” Wilson said in a press release. “And I expect to rely on him for leadership this year.”

Wilson also named seven-time Mosconi Cup veteran Corey Deuel, who many thought should have been on the team in 2013, to the squad. John Schmidt, Oscar Dominguez and Brandon Shuff, each of whom has participated in one Mosconi Cup, were named to the team was well. Leaning on America’s youth, Wilson rounded out his selection with Southern Classic One-Pocket champion Justin Bergman, Derby City titlist Justin Hall and Connecticut’s Jeremy Sossei.

“I’m really excited by this team,” Wilson said. “Every player seems so genuinely appreciative and excited. They’re all willing to do whatever it takes to develop a strong team and a strong sense of unity.”

More interesting than who Wilson selected, of course, was the list of players who weren’t invited to “camp.” The most notable omission was Johnny Archer, whose string of 17 consecutive Mosconi Cup appearances will come to an end. Fourteen-time Cup participant Earl Strickland and nine-time team member Rodney Morris were also left off the roster. In fact, Van Boening will be the only holdover from the 2013 squad that lost 21-1 to Team Europe in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t interview those players,” Wilson admitted. “And I explained to Johnny that I thought it best to go in a completely different direction this year. A lot of it is about attitude. Last year I felt there was no sense of urgency. There seemed to be a sense that it was a yearend bonus, and if the team won, great.”

Another player conspicuous by his absence is Mike Dechaine, one of the most consistent American players over the past three years.

“I spoke to Mike,” said Wilson. “In the end I felt that his reputation among the players wasn’t a good fit at this stage for a team event like the Mosconi Cup.”

Wilson added that his plan is to get the players together several times over the summer and fall for practice and team bonding. Wilson said he planned to make the final cut to five players after the U.S. Open, and that Team USA would meet and practice together for a week at Lindenwood University near St. Louis before departing for London. The dates of the 2014 Mosconi Cup are Dec. 1-4.

Lovely Day for First-time Junior Nationals Winner

The 2006 Billiard Congress of America Junior Nationals would’ve been a re-run of last year if it weren’t for the debut of Elizabeth Lovely, who dethroned the defending champion in her division to join the three other defending champions in the winners’ circle.

The 9-ball event brought 94 of the nation’s brightest young pool players to Tucson, Ariz., where they competed in divisions of 14 and under and 19 and under.

In the 14 and Under Girls division, Lovely of Centerville, Ohio faced defending champion Chelsea Hardwick from Evansville, Ind. in the final. Both players felt the pressure to perform and the match was marred by nerves. Lovely took an early 2-0 lead, but Hardwick came back to take the lead at 3-2. That third game would be the last that Hardwick won as Lovely took the next three racks for the 5-3 victory and her first Junior Nationals title.

At age 13, Austin Murphy from Folson, Calif. has accolades well beyond his years including the 2005 Junior Nationals title and a spot on the International Pool Tour. Now he can add two-time winner of the Jr. Nationals, defending his title In the 14 and under Boy’s division. Murphy cruised through the winners’ side to meet Ryan Dunn from Hillsboro, Tenn. in the final. Murphy was cool and confident, controlling the table to the tune of a quick 4-0 lead. It was looking bleak for Dunn until Murphy finally made a mistake in the fifth rack and Dunn capitalized, getting on the scoreboard, 4-1. Murphy continued to commit uncharacteristic errors and Dunn caught up 5-5. He had the chance to sprint ahead and get to the hill first, but Dunn missed a 2-9 combo with the crowd on the edge of its seat. Murphy came back and ran the table to make the score 6-5. Dunn had another opportunity to reach the hill in rack 12, running his way through some difficult shots but a miss on the 6 marked his end as Murphy ran the last three balls to defend his 14 & Under Boys Title.

While both 14 & Under Division Matches were close until the end, the 19 & Under Division Matches were very one sided. The 19 and Under Girls division saw defending champion Anna Kostanian from Albuquerque, N.M. take on 2004 Champion Mary Rakin from Daly City, Calif. The competition looked even at first, with the score tied at 1-1, but Kostanian commanded the table and pounced on every miss from Rakin on her way to a 6-1 lead in the race-to-7 match. Rakin saw a short reprieve in the eighth rack as Kostanian missed the case 9-ball, but the match end after a Konstanian won a short safety battle and ran out for the 7-2 win.

In his 18 years, Justin Bergman of Fairview, Ill. has become a force to be reckoned with by players of any age. As defending champion of the Boys 19 and Under division, it didn’t look like he was going to allow Chad Palmer of Battle Creek, Mich., to come even one game closer to his title in the final. Bergman’s game was near flawless as he cruised to an 8-0 lead and kept Palmer grounded in his chair for the majority of the match. Palmer put together a nice runout in game 9 after a Bergman miss but a foul on the one ball in game 10 would be his end as Bergman confidently ran out the final rack for the 9-1 win.

BCA Junior Nationals Brings 97 Players to Arizona

The 2006 BCA Junior Nationals got under way on July 5 at the University of Arizona student union with a total of 97 hopefuls in four divisions.

The 18 & Under Boys Division has wooed back last year’s winner, 18-year-old Justin Bergman, who also won in 2003. In his last year of eligibility, he hopes to take home his third title with a repeat performance. Last year’s third-place finisher, Kevin Peterson, is anxious to decorate his trophy stand, however. He and Bergman will face off today, July 6.

There is also an impeachment campaign for the returning champion in the 14 & Under Boys Division. International Pool Tour player Austin Murphy, 13, is back and so is last year’s runner up Landon Shuffett. Shuffett dropped a match on Wednesday, but Murphy has dominated all of his matches so far in the event.

The 18 & Under Girls Division has a field of six players. Anna Kostanian won in 2005, after two years of runner-up finishes. She looked to be en route to a second straight title on the first day of play, going undefeated. The 2004 champion, Mary Rakin will serve as the last line of defense in their hot-seat match today.

The 14 & Under Girls Division also has a returning champion as Chelsea Hardwick looks for another title win in her division.

BCA Pool League Bolsters Fierce Eight-Ball Competition

The Riviera Hotel and Casino in fabulous Las Vegas, Nev., was filled with 227 bright blue, brand new Diamond tables and some 7,000 amateurs ranging in skill from recreational to Grand Master, and coming from as far as Tonga to compete in the 30th annual BCA Pool League National 8-Ball Championships, May 12-20.

Teams “Slightly Competitive” and “Strategeary” did Denver, Colo. proud, taking home their division titles. “Slightly Competitive” topped the 17-team field in the Women’s Master division, toppling the California CueTees in the final for the second year in a row. Slightly Competitive consisted of Bonnie Plowman, Julie Schultz, Samm Diep, Katrina Games and Chris Honeman. Team “Strategeary” outlasted all of the 695 five-man teams in the Men’s Open division, made up of Billiard Digest’s own Tom Ross, Scott Tollefson, Bob Winters, Bob Keller, and Chizolm Woodson.

In the most formidable field of the tournament, the Men’s Master Team division saw the Young Guns of St. Louis, Miss. take top honors, after besting the British dream team, Team Manston, made up of Men’s Master Singles winner, Michael Hill, and Men’s Grand Master Singles champion, Darren Appleton. All six members are highly decorated in their homeland game of British “reds and yellows.” The Young Guns have ample trophy cases as well, with four-time Missouri State champion Andy Quinn, Ozark Mountain champion Joe Woolford, two-time NCAA chamption Lars Varderman, Chuck Ralston, and the young gun of Young Guns, 18-year-old Justin Bergman, a former Junior National champion.

The Women’s Open champions, the Las Vegas CueTees, didn’t have to travel far to set forth on their undefeated streak through the 119-team field. Members Norma Deitz, Summer Anderson, Karen Arthur, Pam Fletcher and Sarah Chatterjee credit their team mascots, “Spot” the turtle and “Aces” the river rat, for their win.

In the singles tournaments, Lauren Ward of Los Angeles won the Women’s Open, beating Caroline Pao, who went on to win the Open Scotch Doubles tournament with partner William Rueben. In the Women’s Master Division, Rebecca Wagner, who has recently moved from Chicago to Las Vegas, beat her teammate and Chicago native Amy Latzko, who took first in the Master Scotch Doubles with partner Ike Runnels. In the Women’s Grand Master division, Tammy Jones of Dallas, Tex. defeated a familiar opponent in the final, Pamela Patton of Milwaukee, Wisc.

While friends and Englishmen Hill and Appleton swept the Grand Master and Master divisions for the men, Derek Cumm, a mailman in Buelah, Ariz., delivered in the Men’s Open final against Bergman, winning, 5-1.

In this, the 30th year of the BCA Pool Leage National Championships, over 7,100 players entered, and took home $92,250 more in prize money than the previous year.