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Practice Room 107

Tournament Drama in Beloit

storytelling by John Woods


6:20 AM Saturday – 1/31/2009

The alarm goes off, trying to make sure by 8:30 Mike and I are on the road, or at least, at a gas station topping off for a 2-hour drive to The Carom Room, Beloit’s internationally famous poolroom and host venue for its own $1,000-added nine ball tournament, which was set to begin at noon.

By 9:30 we were headed out. By 11:45 we were at the director’s table, just in time. The Carom Room was unsettled with anticipation. Everyone was going somewhere else, moving from group to group, person to person. Every bar table was occupied by at least one person intent on polishing their stroke or calming it down. Across the room, local sharpshooters were playing golf on the snooker table.

Players came in from all over the Midwest. Dan came down from LaCrosse, making the 180-mile 3-hour drive that morning. We started playing 9-ball for fun. He won way more than his competition.

Dave began the 46-player auction. In retrospect, the favorites placed as expected, but there were a few surprises, like Henry and Carlos. First round action, narrowing the side to thirty-two, began soon after the last bid and the frenzied mood amped-up a notch.

With so many byes, there were a lot of people not playing and therefore free to wonder around making spectator noise. Entire groups moved from one preferred viewing area to another as who was playing who became apparent.

The mood was great as were the people in the room. We were glad to be there, full of spirit of adventure and excitement because we were on our way.

Well, some were. I went out 1 – 2. From then on, there was nothing to do but pay attention to what was really important. Like the kitchen, which makes an excellent garlic-herb chicken sandwich.

By then, things calmed down a lot. Everyone was waiting out the slowdown while the one-loss bracket catches up. Henry disappeared, maybe to his car to get some rest. It was somewhere in the mid-twenties outside. Not bad for so far north.

Others stood around in small groups, speaking softly and watching the drama. People talked about Louisville and the Derby. Tommy was on the phone with friends who were there, so ever so often there was some news.

Jim and I talked while watching matches. Carlos, we noticed, was quietly and solidly stomping on a series of loser bracket hopefuls. He whacked Mike 9-3, making everyone wonder, and finished fourth overall.

Henry promptly appeared before each match on his way to taking the winner side. He met Jesse in their first of three power matches of the day.

They tied 5 – 5 when Jesse scratched the break while making three balls. Henry ran out then broke leaving a one-eight combo, but he missed. Jesse played safe but Henry made a ball and ran out.

Jesse breaks. Henry runs out to make it Henry 8 Jesse 5. Henry breaks and scratches. Jesse quickly runs out. Jesse breaks empty. Henry rolls out. Jesse kicks. Henry kicks. Jessie runs out to 8 – 7.

Henry breaks and scratches. Jesse runs out to double hill then breaks and makes nothing. But the 9-ball hangs near a corner pocket and a few inches away sat the cue ball and 1-ball. Henry stood nearby, staring down the table. After the longest pause in the match, he very calmly slow draws the cue ball back into the 9-ball, politely bumping it into the pocket.

By the time they met again in the final, it was close to closing time. Jesse won the first race, 9-4, in what must have been near record pace Then, as other customers were being asked to leave and no one was around except employees and those with a vested interest, he won another fast-paced race 9-5, after being down 1-4. Whew!

We left soon after and by 3:20 AM were headed south. By 5:30 we were getting close to home, and by 6:30, 24-hours after hearing the alarm the morning before, exhausted and reeling with fatigue, we were back where we started, much better off for having made the trip and definitely ready to do it again.

Copyright all John Woods 2010

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