Tuesday, March 24, 2004

Fast Mikie Retires His Willie

Loree Jon Jones is in the Hall of Fame of the world's best pool players, and holds over 50 major titles including 8 World Championships, and was the all time money winner in women's Nine Ball.

Today she came to San Diego to participate in the Women's Professional Billiard Association tournament at Viejas casino. And tonight she put on an exhibition at the Olhausen Billiards store (where I bought my table) in Kearny Mesa. There were less than a hundred people, including the Channel 10 News video crew, who showed up for this very private showcase of her skills. She began with some excellent trick shots, all of which she executed with extraordinary skill.

After the demonstration, she turned to the audience and asked if anyone wanted to challenge her in a game of pool. The room went silent. After all, who in their right mind would want to shoot pool against a world champion in front of a room full of strangers and make a complete fool of themselves? Nobody made a move. It must have been a room full of smart people!

That's when Loree Jon made her first mistake of the evening. She pointed to me, and said "How about you? Want to play some pool?".

Now I learned a long time ago that it's just plain stupid to turn down an invitation from a good looking woman, no matter what. So what could I do but agree to give it a go...

She asked me what I wanted to play. Eight Ball? Nine Ball? One pocket? Being the gentleman that I am, I asked her what her favorite game was, and she said she prefers Nine Ball, so I said "Nine Ball it is, Ms. Loree."

Of course she gave me the break, her being a World Champion and me being just some Rube off the street. Little did she know that I was feeling pretty good after winning my Nine Ball match just a few days ago in the APA (American Poolplayers Association). I had a little bit of extra self confidence going for me because of that, and also because I was packing a pair of new Predator cues (one for breaking, one for playing) I just picked up this afternoon, and with the playing Predator I ran my first 9 ball rack with that new stick.

But something held me back from using the Predators. I was also packing my venerable old Willie Hoppe stick that I bought over 45 years ago, when I was just a green pea in this game. Cost me only 15 bucks to buy it brand new, and that's the only stick I ever used in all these years. Well, with all the abuse it has been getting lately now that I'm getting serious about competition, I figured I should at least get a cue that is designed for breaking the rack, to take some heat off my Willie. And that's what I did just this afternoon. While I was there I also picked up a new playing Predator cue as well, figuring that the new technology shaft would give me less deflection and more accuracy than my old Willie. That Predator sure is a sweet stick, but I haven't played any more than a few racks with it, so when given the choice to play Loree Jon Jones in a room full of witnesses, I went with my tried and true old friend Willie.

Every time I whip out my Willie, people are very impressed, and Loree was no exception. I think she was also impressed to learn that I was playing with my Willie before she was born, and she may have been doing the math on that one when she was racking the balls for me, because I could see she was a lot quieter than she had been during the trick shot exhibition.

Willie pocketed two balls on the break, and I ran the next 3 before getting hooked and I played a safe. She played safe too, but left me a shot, and I ran the rest of the table. The audience didn't know what to think of this, as there was only a faint ripple of polite applause. Everyone knows that the pro is supposed to win these challenges, and then give the opponent a few pointers on what they did wrong, and this also helps everyone in the audience learn more.

And everyone knows that these challenges are supposed to be an opportunity for lots of different players in the audience to have the thrill of playing a World Champion, even if they do get only one shot and lose. It's expected. No shame in losing to a World Champion. Only it didn't happen in this case. And what happened next was even more interesting.

Loree Jon Jones did not offer the opportunity to play her to anyone else in the audience. She wanted revenge! She went straight into racking the balls for a rematch, and motioned for me to get back out of my chair. I was taking my cue apart already, thinking I was done!.

Willie broke those balls real clean but nothing went in, so Loree was up and made her shot on the one ball, and got decent position on the two ball which was lined up with the nine for an easy combination in the corner pocket, and the win. But the unthinkable happened right before our eyes: she missed it! And lucky for me, she left essentially the same combination for me, and I didn't miss. Now Loree Jon Jones, World Champion, was down two games out of two, playing against nobody Mikie McCafferty with his 45 year old Willie.

I was taking my cue apart for the second time, figuring that I would be taking advantage of a lady if I were to play any more, and also figuring that I am also playing a bit over my head, and even thinking that the audience would surely want to see the World Champion play someone ELSE in the audience... but Loree Jon Jones was getting her killer instinct fired up and would not be denied another chance to beat this upstart from nowhere.

So once more I whipped out my Willie, but my heart wasn't in it. Not three times in a row. I just couldn't do it, not to a nice lady like her. Heck, she's a MOM for gosh sake. Got 3 kids and a loving husband. How could I? I just wouldn't feel good about myself, and I also was getting hungry, and I knew that if I kept winning, this woman would never let me leave until she had extracted her revenge.

The details of that third game are erased from my memory now, and needless to say that it was the last game we played. Loree Jon Jones got her revenge, and the score for the evening was Mikie 2, Loree 1. I can live with that. Heck, that just may be the highlight of my entire pool playing career, such as it is.

That's one thing about the game of Nine Ball. It's over so quick that almost anything can happen. Sometimes Lady Luck can be a major factor. And Loree did say something about being jet lagged, so she may not have been playing in top form because of it. But then, I missed a shot or two that I thought I should have made. It could have gone either way, I guess. That's why I like Straight Pool, playing to 150 points. Now there's a game of skill, and endurance. That's my game. But nowadays, it's all about Quick, so the TV cameras can break away for commercials often enough to make it profitable.

When I came home tonight, I officially retired my Willie Hoppe cue. Best to go out on a high note, and it just may never get any higher than tonight.

Thanks for the memories, Loree.

Click here for a photo of Loree Jon Jones, autographed with her written confession that she did indeed get a whuppin' in Nine Ball by yours truly.

Loree and I had a chance to talk a little bit after the crowd died down, and I asked her if she might have some time while she was in town, for some lessons. But she said she might be busy, and it all depended... Now that I think about it again, could it be that she was thinking that I was offering to give her lessons? ;o)

Other Pool Stories by Fast Mikie

The Big Win
(a story of Karma and Victory)

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
(the U.S. Amateur Championships)

Agony and Ecstasy in Las Vegas
(the National Team 9-ball Championships)

Fast Mikie Goes To College
(recollections of a time long ago)

Diary of a Pool Shooter - The Adventures of Fast Mikie
(the blog)

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