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SANTA MONICA : Big Pool of Talent in Women's Billiards

August 11, 1994|JOHN BUZBEE

They're hard-working, hard-training athletes, some making over $100,000 a year through promotional deals. Their competition is as intense as any professional sport. And they have one big advantage over football players when it comes to attracting the television cameras.

"They're not going out and sweating and getting messed up. Their dress can be perfect, and their hair can be perfect. They're a stunning group of women," said Shari Stauch, a professional pool player and executive editor of Pool and Billiard Magazine.

Ten of the top competitors on the Women's Professional Billiard Assn.'s 1994 tour are coming to Santa Monica on Friday to compete for $50,000 in prizes in the Gordon's 9-Ball Championship.

The round-robin competition, which is free and open to the public, will begin at noon at Gotham Hall on the Third Street Promenade. The championship match is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Saturday. The winner will leave with a $20,000 prize.

Women's billiards is becoming an increasingly lucrative business, Stauch said.

"It's getting phenomenal," she said. "It came out of nowhere the last couple of years."

Like many of the top competitors, Stauch started playing pool because of a family connection. Her father ran Harold's Pool Parlor in Roselle, Ill. But as the prize purses and popularity of women's billiards has grown, the game has attracted a more diverse group of competitors, she said.

Lawyers, nurses and businesswomen are now cuing up. One of the top competitors gave up a career as a computer engineer to join the tour.

"As the image of the sport has changed, now you can walk into billiard clubs and there may be more women than men," Stauch said.

Overall, men pool players still outnumber women, who constitute about 15 million of the 40 million players in the United States, she said.

And because there's a larger talent pool of male players, the top men's game is slightly above the women's, Stauch said. But as more women take up billiards, they're closing the gap, she said. And spectators originally drawn by the novelty of women's pool tournaments are sticking around nowadays solely for the action.

"It's a fantastic sport to watch," she said.

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