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The Quiet Man

BY THE end of high school, Van Boening was something of a phenomenon. Following in his family's footsteps and playing with his Dan Janes cue, he competed and excelled in BCA and VNEA state and national championships.

Although he had earned a modicum of respect in school on the golf team, and in the classroom with a 3.7 grade point average, he couldn't wait to leave. Given the choice between attending the VNEA national championships and going to graduation, he chose the VNEAs.

"Kids at school were mean," he said. "They would pick on me. I said, 'I don't have any respect for any of my classmates. I don't even care. I could care less about school.'"

The next step in his pool education led him outside his comfort zone. In summer 2003, he moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., where he lived with his uncle, Mike. They spent some time playing on the road, hitting the Midwest's hot spots for action.

He continued to play the VNEAs until he could no longer claim amateur status. He collected three national 8-ball titles, including back-to-back Men's 8-Ball Masters Singles in 2004 and 2005.

In Sioux Falls, another father figure of sorts entered Shane's life. He made the acquaintance of Chuck Moss, a local real estate broker and developer. A fan of the game, Moss quickly recognized Van Boening's stellar potential.

"I'm pretty good with the business side of things, so I thought I should do what I can to help this kid and point him in the right direction," Moss said.

"When I do things, I go 100 percent," he continued, which meant buying a poolroom in Sioux Falls - Lucky's - and structuring Van Boening in as a partner. Although he was penciled in as house pro, Van Boening's job essentially entailed practicing his game, which he did for five or six hours per day. Moss assumed the roles of backer, manager and adviser.

In early 2005, Van Boening took his first tentative steps to a pro career, entering the U.S. Bar Table Championship. In the 9-ball division, he placed third, beating top talent Cory Deuel along the way.

"My very first pro tournament and I got third," Van Boening said. "It said to me, 'This is just the beginning.'"

Like most of the pool world, he spent much of 2006 preparing for the International Pool Tour's $8.5 million debut season. Not among the initial tour members hand-picked by founder Kevin Trudeau, Van Boening entered the ultra-competitive qualifiers for tour spots in early '06 and earned a card at his second event.

He didn't exactly set the tour on fire, placing tied-for-121st at the North America Open Championship, and 71st at the World Open 8-Ball Championship. Then, of course, the entire tour folded.

The nadir of Van Boening's year came at the Sands Regency Reno Open in December, where he exited tied-for-25th and then lost a considerable amount in action.

He decided he needed to get serious about making a living as a tournament player. "I figured, 'I'm tired of this,'" he said. "How can you make a living playing pool? You have to start playing tournaments. Otherwise, go get a job."

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