View Full Version : Starting young pays for masters of pool hall

06-17-2004, 07:49 PM
Posted on Thu, Jun. 17, 2004

Starting young pays for masters of pool hall

Based upon my recently acquired knowledge of billiards and what it takes to become skilled, here's my advice:

Hang around pool halls, preferably with relatives who own one.

The Midwest 9-ball Tour held a tournament in Wichita last weekend, and the women's champion was Rhonda Shafer of Topeka.

When she was a child, not yet tall enough to peek over the edge of a pool table, she would move chairs at her grandmother's pool hall, climb on one and start to play.

Billiards was her babysitter and, soon, her passion.

"I played in my first tournament when I was 18 and lost to my mom," Shafer said. "She put me out of it, and I went to the bathroom and cried."

The men's winner last weekend was Jesse Bowman of East Moline, Ill.

His father, Dwayne, opened a pool room in 1977 and now owns two "upscale" halls -- one in East Moline and the other in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

By upscale, Dwayne Bowman means clean, with expensive felt on the tables and no clouds of cigarette smoke choking the patrons. Gentlemen, and ladies, play with dignity and grace.

That's the environment in which Jesse Bowman learned to play, and it started when he was 3.

"We'd put him up to the pool table on a chair before we took him to preschool," Dwayne said. "And when he was finished with preschool, he'd come right back to the pool room, climb back up on the chair and start playing again.

"He'd get his little fingers wrapped around the cue just like he was a natural."

Which is the way Jesse, 21, plays.

He defeated Wichitan Junior Brown twice to win the 9-ball tournament. Earlier he had won a one-pocket tournament.

His earnings: $1,800.

Then it was off to another place to play more pool.

"I don't know where he is," Dwayne Bowman said of his vagabond son. "He doesn't have any more pre-paid minutes on his phone, so I haven't been able to reach him."

Jesse Bowman obviously moves quickly, and he plays pool the same way.

While other players study their shots -- sometimes to the point of irritation -- Bowman rattles off one shot after another with little hesitation.

"It's unusual to see players who play as fast as Jesse does," Dwayne Bowman said. "There are very few who can play that fast and that good.

"He just knows what he wants to do and just steps up to the table and does it. He doesn't give it a lot of thought, because he's confident he can make the shot."

Brown, who has worked at various pool halls around Wichita, beat Bowman in their first-round match. But Bowman came all the way back through the losers bracket and defeated Brown 9-3, 9-8 in the finals.

Brown didn't grow up in a pool hall; he didn't start playing until he was 16.

"I lived close by to the Golden Cue at 31st and Seneca, and I would just go over there and start playing," Brown said. "And I didn't play very good at all when I first started."

Brown plays good now. So good, in fact, that most of his income is a result of pool tournaments and the friendly side wagers that accompany them.

Brown had run up against Bowman in other tournaments and knew he would have trouble -- even though Bowman had to beat him twice to win the tournament.

"All of us in these tournaments, we all know one another," Brown said.

They'll run up against one another again someday. And most of them will have their parents, or grandparents, to thank.
Reach Eagle sports columnist Bob Lutz at 268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.co

06-19-2004, 04:22 PM
yeah i heard about the 21 year old who beat Junior. Its the talk of the town around here since Jr is one of the best around. I wish i would have went and watched him play.

06-19-2004, 04:32 PM
and on another note, i started playing on a 9 foot table before i was tall enough to see over it. Ive had a table my whole life from the time i was 3 till the present. Ive had 9 footers, 8 footers, bar boxes, and now i have a snooker table. I grew up watching my uncles and grandpa shooting amazing jump shots and banks and kicks (thought they was amazing at the time) and they all showed me how to play. Now i can clean all their clocks but i cant come close to beating a player like Junior Brown. That 5 years of marriage and not a single game of pool except when i came home to visit mom and dad(once a year) really hurt my game. When i was 16 i could take almost anyones money at the game room, now im getting beat by 16 year olds.

06-19-2004, 04:51 PM
Thanks for that info on starters within this superb game of pool! Enjoyed the read Nick...sid