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06-19-2005, 06:51 PM
Sunday Morning: Pool proves timeless

Sunday, June 19, 2005
By Dave Budinger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

To the legendary pool-shooting names of Minnesota Fats, Willie Mosconi and Fast Eddy can be added Bryce Billetdeaux and Lois Frank, who out-hustled all challengers at the Sidney Street Billiards Tournament the other day.

You can be excused if you missed the action on ESPN or the Billiard Club Network. They made the mistake of not carrying it.

In its ninth year, the Sidney Street Billiards Tournament draws a rather select but exuberant audience at The Village of St. Barnabas retirement community in Richland.

Billetdeaux, 85, pocketed his fifth men's championship since helping re-establish the tournament in 1998.

"Pool shark? Don't call me that. I'm more of a minnow," he said with a chuckle.

Frank, a Barnabas resident who never touched a pool cue before moving to the community four years ago, came away with her third straight title in the women's competition.

"I'd never even seen the game played before I moved here, but it was a good way to meet a lot of women," she said.

The prize money wasn't much -- a gift certificate to the shops and pub at The Village. The winners don't even get their own trophies, which is OK with Frank. "We told them, 'Don't give us anything that needs dusting,' " she said.

Their names do go up on house trophies that are kept in the billiards room.

The planners at St. Barnabas were smart to include a billiards room as part of the community's recreation amenities. The pool table, it seems, has a magical pull on certain people, encouraging socialization.

The tournament itself, Billetdeaux noted, has residents lined up along the walls and spilling out into the hallways as they watch the competition.

Frank has a charming way of not revealing her age. ("Obviously I'm a senior citizen. I'll let you know when I reach 90.") She's originally from Beaver and came back to the area from South Carolina at the urging of her family. She was looking for volunteer work to help her meet people when she discovered this roomful of women shooting pool. She asked if she could watch.

"They said no and put a cue stick in my hand and taught me to play."

Billetdeaux, formerly a controller of engineering construction at Dravo Corp., also shoots eight-ball more for the socialization than the glory. He shot a little pool in his youth but really didn't pick it up until he moved to The Village in 1997.

"Sometimes," he said, referring to the tournament, "I get a lucky day."

Five championships is a bit more than an occasional lucky day. And Billetdeaux has a son who was a pool champion at college.

It must be in the genes. web page (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/pp/05170/522816.stm)