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06-13-2004, 06:51 AM
Touring professionals supplement winnings by holding day jobs

June 13, 2004

By MATTHEW FORNOFF

of the Journal Star

EAST PEORIA - Julie Kelly and Kim Shaw are two of the ten best women's players in the world, according to the Women's Professional Billiards Association.

Despite their high rankings and still being alive at the WPBA Midwest Classic in a field that has dwindled to 12, neither woman makes a living competing at the professional level.

"I work in a pool room four days a week," Shaw said. "Luckily, it's a job where I can practice as well. If I wasn't playing pool, I wouldn't work there."

Megan Minerich was ranked 25th coming into the Midwest Classic. She supplements her income by working at a hotel. A sponsor also covers some costs.

With transportation, lodging and food, on top of entry fees, Minerich said expenses can reach $1,200 per tournament. Figuring in sponsor funds, she should make money this tournament.

"If we had one of these events every other week, I bet a lot of girls like myself or higher ranked would definitely make a better living." Minerich said. "Right now, where I'm ranked, I need to make money."

Shaw does not have a sponsor to cover her expenses.

"Winning money is nice, but it's really about being able to play on the greatest platform - the big stage," she said.

With all eight WPBA events played at casinos, rumors circulate that players attempt to pad their winnings away from the table. Kelly, though, said not many gamble because doing so during tournaments is againt the rules.

Like Kelly, many players must compete in smaller regional tournaments and give lessons to make money.

Jeanette Lee, arguably the most popular tour pro, authored an instructional pool book. Dawn Hopkins and her husband run the Super Billiards Expo - the largest billiards exposition in the world.

Payouts for the tournaments do not promote a wealthy lifestyle. The total purse for the Midwest Classic is $75,000. First through third places win $9,000, $6,500 and $5,000, respectively.

While this is lower than some events, the highest-paying stop is the $25,000 given at the annual winner-takes-all Tournament of Champions.

And victories are not spread around, with Allison Fisher and Karen Corr having dominated women's billiards the last few years. Since 2000, Fisher has 19 wins and Corr 16. In the five other events in that span, four women won. Fisher or Corr has held the sport's top ranking each year since 1996.

Kelly finished third at a WPBA tournament in Las Vegas last month - behind Corr and Fisher.

"The way I look at it is I like to have a higher finish than I did the last tournament," Kelly said. "Everybody who comes here comes to win the tournament. Only one person goes home happy."

Minerich's best finish last year was a ninth place. She does not settle for a lower finish, despite Fisher and Corr's dominance.

"I never come into it saying, 'I'll be happy with a ninth'" she said. "Otherwise, why play? We thrive on upsets. We thrive on the fact that Allison or Karen does not have to win."