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07-06-2004, 08:24 PM
When playing pool, Burr is one to fear

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

By LYFORD M. MOORE
Courier-Post Staff

College was good to Melissa Burr.

Not only did the Mullica Hill resident walk away from the University of Delaware with a degree in business administration, she also left with a skill she could fall back on some day if needed - shooting pool.

She may not be as well known as Allison Fisher, arguably the best all-around female pool shooter today, but players throughout the Delaware Valley know all about the 22-year-old Burr, a slender woman with long hair, a steady eye and nerves of steel.

"Every pool room in the area knows her," said Rich Del Bianco, 56, of Turnersville, a regular at Hot Shot Billiards in Deptford, where Burr racks 'em up three or four times a week on Table 1 - reserved for the hall's elite. "She's in the top 10 percent of all shooters here - male and female."

Since taking up the sport four years ago as a freshman at Delaware, Burr has won 15-20 tournaments throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. She's known as a winner.

"I'd enjoy playing her," said Amanda Ragen, 19, of Wenonah, who took up pool 10 months ago and has never played Burr. "I think I'd learn a lot."

One of the first things she'd be likely to learn is that, unlike football or wrestling, you needn't be strong to excel in pool. The late great Willie Mosconi once said, "There are only two ways to hit a ball, light and lighter."

Burr, who lives with her parents and works as a management trainee for Talbots in Marlton, says she got into pool quite by chance. Allergic to alcohol, she sought alternative ways to socialize during her years at Delaware and quickly discovered pool.

But she was picky when it came to choosing opponents, always preferring men. To this day, she rarely plays other women.

"I liked the fact pool wasn't really a common thing for women to do and that guys have this conception that girls can't play," she said. "I kind of went on a mission, wanting to beat certain people - people I looked up to."

Before long, she discovered she, too, could make many of the shots she'd seen on TV and that it wasn't all that tough running a rack.

"I learned it pretty quick," she said. "Of course, I was investing like 6 to 8 hours a day for the first couple of years."

Today, Burr is an ambassador for Viking Cue and a familiar figure in many of South Jersey's pool halls.

Of all the various pool games, she prefers 9-Ball because it's fast-paced and demands multiple skills. Her least favorite is 1-Pocket, which she describes as being "long and boring and very tough mentally."

She finds the mental aspect of pool the sport's biggest challenge and says she never feels awkward in a pool hall, despite the fact she's often the only woman there.

"More and more women are getting into it, but I never feel out of place," she said. "Once you play someone for money or in a tournament, you're pretty much their equal whether you're male or female. I've made a lot of friends and acquaintances playing pool and now it's like walking into a bar and everybody knows who you are."
http://www.courierpostonline.com/news/sports/s070604f.htm