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.

Fisher ‘Great’ Following Heart Surgery

“Everything went really well,” said a fatigued but upbeat Kelly Fisher, from her hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Golden Jubilee National Hospital near Glasgow, in the United Kingdom. “The doctors were over the moon. They said it couldn’t have gone better.”

Fisher, ranked second in the world by the World Pool-Billiard Association and the sixth-ranked player on the Women’s Professional Billiards Association tour, underwent surgery on July 22 to repair an atrial septal defect, also known as a “hole in the heart.” While a congenital defect, the 35-year-old Fisher had not experienced any severe problems until recently.

“I’d been bothered with a palpitation for many years,” Fisher said a week prior to the surgery, “but was told in 2009 that it was just a heart murmur, and that I had nothing to worry about.”

Fisher said she noticed that the palpitations were becoming more frequent in the past year, so she scheduled a doctor’s appointment in early March, following the Amway Cup in Taiwan (where Fisher finished second to Yu-Chieh Chou). Following tests at her local hospital in Dumfries, Scotland, Fisher was referred to Golden Jubilee in Dunbartonshire. An MRI and further tests discovered the congenital defect, which showed damage to a valve and a dilation of the right side of her heart.

“I was very lucky that it was found now,” Fisher said, “before it caused any permanent damage to my heart.”

A full recovery is expected to take three months, but Fisher said she hopes to shave a few weeks of the recovery time to participate in the Women’s World 9-Ball Championship in Guilin, China in mid-October.

“The doctors and staff were fantastic in my preparation for the operation,” said Fisher, who was expected to be out of ICU less than 48 hours after surgery. “I was off the ventilator very quickly. With plenty of rest and physio, recovery should be good. My goal is to be fit and ready for the 9-ball world championships.”

Corr Pulls Ahead of the Pack

Karen Corr is on a roll. Last month at the Florida Classic, she knocked off Allison Fisher in the final, and this month, at the Midwest Classic, she defeated the other Fisher, Kelly, in a final that tested the bladder control of many an audience member. With three titles so far in the 2006 season, Corr has left both Fishers, who have a title apiece, in the dust for the Player of the Year race.

Nine of the tour’s top players competed in the International Pool Tour’s North American Open just days before the Midwest Classic commenced at the Par-a-dice Hotel and Casino in Peoria, Ill. Sarah Ellerby went the farthest in the 8-ball event, and had to fly overnight from Vegas to make it in time for her first match in the Midwest.

While an exhausted Ellerby was knocked out early, the rest of the IPT members didn’t seem affected by the transition from 8-ball to 9-ball. After three rounds, eight players remained undefeated: Corr, Monica Webb, Kim White, Kelly Fisher, Allison Fisher, Jeanette Lee, Xiao-Ting Pan, and Belinda Calhoun.

The remaining players battled it out in the one-loss side to reach the top 16. The bottom eight were Sarah Rousey, Val Finnie, Julie Kelly, Ga-Young Kim, Ewa Laurance, Megan Minerich, Gerda Hofstatter and Pam Treadway.

In the single-elimination matches to determine the semifinalists, Allison Fisher was knocked out by Chinese up-and-comer Xiao-Ting Pan. She, along with Webb, Corr, and Kelly Fisher advanced.

Both semifinal matches were decided by crucial plays at 4-4. Kelly Fisher outplayed Pan in the semifinal, 7-4, after the tiny 24-year-old fouled on a jump shot. Fisher said that revenge was sweet, as Pan had knocked her out in San Diego. Corr also won 7-4, pulling ahead against Webb after an untimely scratch.

In the final between Fisher and Corr, the game of 9-ball had never so resembled ping-pong. The former snooker players battled back and forth, going 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, and 5-5 after Corr jarred an easy 9 ball. With a race-to-2 determing a difference in payouts of $5,000, Corr ran out to reach the hill. Fisher broke in the case game, and executed a safety. Corr mulled over the shot, and ended up scratching. Fisher sank the 2 and played safe on the 3, which Corr pocketed with a surprising two-rail bank shot, which proved to be the winning shot. She ran out the rest of the rack for the $13,000, and her third title of the season.

Check out www.wpba.com for the full bracket and photo highlights.

IPT Open Continues: Filipinos Dominate; Fisher’s Perfect While Most Women Falter

The IPT’s North American 8-Ball Open is shaping up to be the Philippines 8-Ball Smackdown.

The Filipino contingent flew their flag high and often on Monday — the second day of the history-making, $2 million event — as six Pinoy shooters scored perfect 4-0 records in round-robin play: Efren Reyes, Alex Pagulayan, Francisco Bustamante, Marlon Manalo, Dennis Orcollo and Ronato Alcano.

Joining the ranks of the undefeated was Brit snooker and 9-ball superstar Allison Fisher, who steamed through a fairly soft bracket to qualify for the next round of play. However, she was one of only two women of the 15 female tour members to score a winning record, and one of only four to advance. The U.K.’s Sarah Ellerby had the other winning record, 3-1.

Top female pros making early exits Monday included Ireland’s Karen Corr, who went 1-3 in a particularly tough draw; the U.K.’s Kelly Fisher, 1-3; Helena Thornfeldt of Sweden, 0-4; and American Monica Webb, 0-4.

Play on Monday centered on the second set of 100 competitors in the 200-player field, divied up into 20 groups of five. The top three in each group advanced to today’s round, featuring the remaining 120 players, parsed into 20 groups of six.

The 80 eliminated players from the first round will settle for $2,000 each. The winner of the event will pocket a record $350,000.

Here’s a brief wrap-up of Monday’s highlights:

• One of the biggest surprises of the Open so far is the number of players who qualified for the event — those not among the 150 regular IPT tour members — who are posting undefeated records. These surprise contenders from Monday’s play include Dutchman Rico Diks; England’s Karl Boyes; and Anthony Ginn of Australia.

• Keith Bennett, a 27-year-old house pro at Breaktime Billiards in Wilmington, N.C., who made it into the Open as alternate after Hall-of-Famer Jim Rempe bowed out, posted a 4-0 record in the first-round on Monday.

• The four women to advance to Tuesday’s matches in the round-of-120 were Allison Fisher, 4-0; the U.K.’s Sarah Ellerby, 3-1; Hall-of-Famer Loree Jon Jones (U.S.), 2-2; and Austria’s Gerda Hofstatter, who managed to limp into the next round with a 1-3 record when her games-won percentage topped two other players in her group with the same record (Ed Kelly and Jim Weast, both of the U.S.; Hofstatter’s games-won percentage was in fact just 1 percent higher than Weast’s).

• Beyond the Filipinos, who were expected to do well, several favorites sent messages to the field that they were not to be underestimated. Also posting 4-0 records were well-regarded Americans Johnny Archer and Shannon Daulton, and Germany’s Oliver Ortmann.

Ouschan Upsets Fisher; Souquet Gives Archer Second Second-place Finish

Jasmin Ouschan, who has become known as the “Ice Princess” for her arctic facial expression during competition, couldn’t help but crack the no-nonsense mask, revealing a stunning smile after ousting the undefeated defending champion Allison Fisher, 7-5, in the 2006 Enjoypool.com 9-ball Championship final, held May 20 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Ouschan joined German Ralf Souquet in the winner’s circle after Souquet gave Johnny Archer his second second-place finish at the event, 7-5, after a 7-0 whitewashing by Thorsten Hohmann last year. Both victors worked hard for the $20,000 payout, battling back from the one-loss side, where they had to overcome some stringent competition.

Just 20 years old, Ouschan is an Austrian native who came onto the U.S. women’s pool scene four years ago. Ouschan made waves early on in the tournament, knocking two-time World Champion Ga-Young Kim to the losers’ side in the first round. She had a mettle-testing road to the finals after Melissa Herndon knocked her down to the one-loss side in the third round. She beat the likes of Dawn Hopkins, 9-8, Karen Corr, 9-7, Kelly Fisher, 9-3, Pam Treadway, 9-3, fellow Austrian Gerda Hofstatter, 9-3, and Shin-Mei Lui, 9-2, to meet Helena Thornfeldt in the semifinal, who she defeated, 7-6.

In the final Ouschan faced the favorite Allison Fisher, who remained unscathed through the winners’ side. Fisher was flawless early in the match, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Ouschan then came back and won 3 games of her own to tie the match at 3-3. The match was tied again at 4-4, but Ouschan won two in a row to get to the hill at 6-4. From there, they split racks on their breaks and Ouschan won, 7-5.

After making it to the fifth round by beating the revered Efren Reyes, 11-8, Souquet was knocked to the one-loss side by Archer, 11-8, where he had to face Reyes again. He came out on top once again to redeem himself against Archer in the final, 7-5.

Both Archer and Fisher took home $10,000 for their efforts.

Kelly Fisher Defends Her Title at San Diego Classic

It was a case of deja vu in the finals of the WPBA’s Sand Diego Classic, between defending champion Kelly Fisher, ranked third in the WPBA, and second-ranked Karen Corr.

On April 23 at Viejas Casino in Alpine, Calif., the same place and the same score as last year, Fisher beat Corr, 7-4, in front of a packed audience. Initially Corr dominated with a 3-0 lead, but the tide turned and it became all Fisher. Fisher pocketed the 9 ball on two breaks and capitalized on some rough misses and bad rolls by Corr.

In semifinal play, Fisher defeated fellow Brit and snooker convert, Allison Fisher, 7-4. Corr creamed Sarah Ellerby, 7-2.

The WPBA also celebrated its 10 year anniversary with the Viejas Casino and awarded a plaque to the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians in appreciation for their support.

Four Finalists Remain In the San Diego Classic

A face-off of the Fishers: Allison and Kelly, will take place today, April 23, at 1 p.m. at the San Diego Classic, the third 2006 stop on the Women’s Pro Billiard Tour currently being played out at Viejas Casino in Alpine, Calif.

Kelly dismissed Jeanette Lee and Allison defeated Dawn Hopkins to reach the semifinal match. Kelly is the returning champion of this event, and will do her best to defend the title.

Also among the undefeated, Karen Corr and Sarah Ellerby will face off at 1 p.m. as well. For ongoing results and event highlights, visit www.wpba.com

The Heat Is On In San Diego

Ready, set, rack! WPBA President Kim White of Texas and Val Finnie of Scotland rack in the first round.

Ready, set, rack! WPBA President Kim White of Texas and Val Finnie of Scotland rack in the first round.

It’s day two of the San Diego Classic, the third stop of the WPBA’s 2006 season, and the winner’s side is fraught with contenders for the coveted $13,000 paycheck.

Defending champion Kelly Fisher won her first match over California’s Darlene Stinson, 9-1, and looks well poised to make her way to the finals. Local favorite Tina Pawlowski suffered her first loss at the hand’s of Virginia’s Sueyen Rhee, but will return today to compete against Wisconsin’s Jeri Engh.

First round upsets included #51-ranked Lisa D’Atri over Colorado’s #24-ranked Laura Smith; #42-ranked semi-pro Leslie Anne Rogers of Texas over #26-ranked pro Melissa Little; newcomer Julia Gabriel over #31-ranked Stacy Hurst of Southern California; and the Florida Flash, #43-ranked Ellen Van Buren over #19-ranked Romana Dokovic.

Big matches in the winner’s bracket will take place tonight, including Jeanette Lee vs. Kelly Fisher and Kim Shaw vs. Dawn Hopkins, who dismissed both Tiffany Nelson, 9-5, and Kim White, 9-7, in preliminary rounds.

Stay tuned for more coverage here at HeadString, or follow updated tournament brackets and highlights at www.wpba.com.

WPBA San Diego Classic Underway

First-round matches are underway today, April 20, at the 2006 WPBA San Diego Classic, at Viejas Casino in Alpine, Calif.

Kelly Fisher won her first U.S. title at this tournament last year, when she defeated Gerda Hofstatter in the final match. Both players have returned this year and, providing they both win their first three respective matches, are destined to meet again in the fourth round, scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22.

Stay tuned to HeadString News for highlights, or watch for ongoing results at www.wpba.com.

Fisher Wins 46th WPBA title

Allison Fisher, “The Duchess of Doom,” fended off some hungry foes and battled some personal demons, but managed to pull off her 46th Women’s Professional Billiard Association tournament win at the Great Lakes Classic stop of the WPBA’s 2006 season, March 8-12 in Michigan City, Ind.

Fisher suffered defeat in her very first match of the tournament, by Chinese up-and-comer Xiaoting Pan. Pan, age 24, speaks little English, but surely knows how to use the technique of the same name. With a fluid stroke and precise ball placement, she defeated her childhood idol, 9-7.

“She didn’t think that she could beat Allison Fisher so early, she didn’t expect it at all. It was a boost of confidence,” Pan communicated through her interpreter.

Fisher dropped down to the losers’ bracket where she had a near-fatal match against Wendy Jans. A 22-year-old Belgian that plays far beyond her years, Jans’ solid play found her leading Fisher, 7-5. Jans’ felt the pressure in the final games, however, dogging a 9-ball, followed by a scratch on a crucial play. Fisher closed out the match, 9-7.

“I just couldn’t finish it today. I had my chances, so actually I should’ve won, but I didn’t,” Jans said .

That win put Fisher in the final eight of the distinguished one-loss side, among Ewa Laurance, Vivian Villareal, Monica Webb, Jeanette Lee, Laura Smith, Kim White, and Alice Rim. Following a new format for 2006, the final eight submitted to a blind draw of the winners’ bracket players for single-elimination games. The winners’ side represented a melting pot of players including Pan, Karen Corr, Gerda Hofstatter, Ga Young Kim, Kelly Fisher, Helena Thornfeldt, Jennifer Barretta and Belinda Calhoun.

White, of Houston, has been struggling to recapture her top 16 ranking after an injury in 2004. The confidence boost of being recently elected WPBA president for 2006-07 was apparent in her play as she defeated veteran Calhoun, 9-5, and then squashed the steady advance of Alice Rim, 9-1, to land her in the semifinal, her first televised match and best finish to date.

Villareal was uncharacteristically quiet, but her play was unpenetrable as she whipped Kelly Fisher, 9-3, to meet Korean Ga Young Kim in the semifinal. Kim, who had just defeated Webb, fell victim to the “Texas Tornado,” 9-6.

Pan put away Smith, 9-4, but despite her earlier brilliance, could not make a run against Lee, who eliminated her, 9-2.

Meanwhile, Fisher drew the formidable Corr, who was coming off a big win at the first WPBA tour stop two weeks prior. The format dictated that one of the top two players would not make it to the semifinal. That unfortunate player was Corr, whose defensive play couldn’t slow down Fisher. Her sniper-like jump shot at hill-hill might have been the tournament-winning shot.

The semifinal matched Lee vs. Villareal, Fisher vs. White. Villareal’s patient defensive play against Lee eventually afforded her a win in the lengthy battle. White came out strong against Fisher, 2-0, but made a few untimely errors that allowed Fisher to heat up an run away with the 7-4 win.

In the final, Fisher looked fatigued against Villareal and made several uncharacteristic errors, but the former snooker player’s safety play took the wind out of the “Texas Tornado.” “I might as well just play with my jump cue,” said Villareal of her frequent escape attempts.

Fisher made it to the hill, 6-1, and despite Villareal’s best efforts, coming back 6-4, “The Duchess” eventually administered her doom, sinking the final 9 ball.

The semifinals and final game of the Great Lakes Classic will be aired on ESPN in April. Check back with HeadString News for specific air dates and times.