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02-12-2005, 06:41 AM
Page back in the saddle again

By Jason O. Boyd, Rocky Mount Telegram

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Even if it was just for one afternoon, Jennifer Page really enjoyed being in the spotlight.

In her first professional tournament in three years, Page left a favorable impression on the Carolina Women's Billiard Classic. She picked up a 9-4 victory over Tina Larsen, who finished ranked 42nd in the Women's Professional Billiards Association rankings in 2004, in the AM session of play. But against Tracie Hines, who was ranked No. 41, Page's run came to an end in the night session as she lost 9-3.

Page, a Wilson resident who had the hometown crowd behind her, had been out of action for three years after giving birth to her son Cody. And for someone who could have looked a little rusty on the playing court, Page handled herself with the grace and confidence she hoped she would display once again.

And despite being eliminated from the WPBA season opener, Page still has the itch to play professionally. She said she's already going to try to participate in some qualifying tournaments in hopes of playing in the other major events this season.

"The match I played today, the match that I won, I know I can do it," Page said moments after her loss to Hines. "I just need more experience in this. The emotion, with the this. The emotion, with the professionals playing in matches, I need more experience in that aspect. I can play, I know that."

Page missed a few opportunities early to rattle Hines, who also got off to a slow start. But it wasn't long before Hines, a relative newcomer to the WPBA, began to get into a groove, taking three of the first four games in the first-to-nine format.

But Page showed her determination and pocketed the last seven balls in the fifth game to close the gap to 3-2. Hines came back to bank the last eight balls in the sixth game to go up 4-2 before a break.

One of the officials informed Page and Hines that they were behind in play and that a 30-second timer would be in place for each shot to help pick up the pace. Initially, that didn't seem to rattle Page, who ran the table scoring on the break and pocketing all nine balls to cut the deficit to 4-3.

But Hines showed why she's an emerging professional, winning the last five games. The highlight was when she sank the 9-ball on her break to go up 8-3 something that's considered a rarity in professional pool.

"This last match, I felt like I was doing pretty good," said Page, who made it a point to thank all the people who came out to support her during the tournament. "I've played in two professional tournaments before and this is the first time I've ever been under a shot clock. I think we were kinda behind all the other girls so they put us under a shot clock, and I just felt rushed.

"Then when she made the nine on the break to make it eight games, that didn't help me any."

Despite not advancing, she still made a name for herself with her performance in the afternoon session.

Page made it look so easy, calmly knocking down one ball after another to start her match with Larsen. It wasn't long before she held a 6-0 lead, which forced Larsen to call a timeout.

Sitting just a few feet away were nine of her closest relatives her father, mother, step-father and boyfriend among the group. As calm and cool as Page looked on the floor, the small group of relatives and fans that were watching her every move was on pins and needles.

"I'm her mother and if she did good, fine, and if she didn't, I would still be backing her up," said Betty Rogers, who couldn't make it to Thursday's match but was there cheering her daughter on all day Friday. "I was just tickled every time she won a game. The more she won, the better I felt about it."

There were enough tense moments to keep that match in doubt. After the break, Larsen won the next four to cut Page's lead to 6-4. During that rally, at 6-2, Page nearly ran the table but sank the cue ball on the final shot. Page later took a timeout, and it seemed to change her demeanor.

She sank the last four balls to go up 7-4 in the next game. Larsen nearly ran the table but her attempt at sinking the 9-ball rattled out of the corner pocket. Page sank the shot to essentially put the match on ice.

"I was hoping it would be 9-0, but obviously I knew that wasn't going to happen," said Jimmy Pittman, Page's boyfriend of five years. "I'm glad she pulled it through and won. I'm happy for her.

"You never expect to miss a ball then get right back to the table. That very rarely happens. It's good when it does."

"I was sitting on pins and needles when the other girl started winning," Rogers said. "I was getting anxious then. After Jennifer took the break and came back, it was kinda tense until right there at the last two games.

"I felt pretty confident that she got her groove back or was in the zone she had to be in. I'm proud of her."

So it seems that everybody is. She received a nice round of applause from the 350-plus in attendance after her loss. All during her two days at the tournament she received kind words of encouragement from many who have never seen her play before this tournament.

It's something Page could certainly get used to once again.

"I've got a lot of support here, which I feel very good about that," Page said. "But there were a lot more people watching me today and I just felt like 'I've got to do it, I've got to do it, I've got to do it.'"

Jason O. Boyd can be reached at 407-9959 or jboyd@coxnews.com