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2020 Hindsight

After the disaster that was 2020, we asked the game’s top players for career lowlights and road mishaps to put a bow on a year we’d all like to forget.

By Nicholas Leider
It was the year that felt like a dozen. Now that we’ve officially flipped the calendar to 2021, it’s only appropriate to eulogize the rolling dumpster fire that was 2020 by asking a broad sampling of professional players to revisit career lowlights and mishaps. Lives spent barnstorming from match to match and event to event provide plenty of fodder for misadventures – and these tales go a long way in proving it.

Also, while pool and everyone in the sport face plenty of challenges in 2021, these pros take a moment to touch on what hopes they have for the new year and what goals they have for on-table action.



Darren Appleton
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

DA: Bizarre. It was a blur and mentally testing for so many people.

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

DA: There are too many to mention. I’ve missed a few flights from staying out too late, saw a terrible car wreck, and had plenty of things happen that I can’t mention. I’ll never forget my flight on a 30-year-old sea plane in the Philippines. It was the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced and the most horrific landing.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

DA: I’ve conceded and walked out of a few matches, which I really regret. But one time, I missed the game ball and then whacked it off the table. I barely missed hitting someone. That made me really think and I learned a lesson. I also slept in for a semifinal of a $20,000 event—that wasn’t too good a feeling.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

DA: I just hope to get back to playing tournaments. It’s been very frustrating because I was back to my very best in June, but there were no pool events.

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

DA: If we get to play big events then to win a major event and get back in the Mosconi Cup.





Allison Fisher
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

AF: It was sad but made me grateful for what I have.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

AF: I shot the wrong ball when I first came over for the WPBA National Championships. I had planned my run out in my mind and got down and shot the 3 before the 2 ball.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

AF: I hope that everyone is safe first and foremost! I hope players can start competing again in person.

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

AF: I’d like to do a makeover of my game. I have had plenty of time off and I want to change a few subtle things.





Jennifer Barretta
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

JB: It wouldn’t be what most people would expect. The year has been amazing for me in so many ways and I will never forget it!

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

JB: Traveling always leads to crazy stories, but the one that stands out is my trip to Taiwan for the 2004 World Championships. I used to pack my cue separately from my clothing, and when I arrived, my cues weren’t there. I ended up playing the tournament with someone else’s cues, and I finished in the top 10. The moment, I landed in New York, I had a voicemail from the airport saying that if I didn’t pick up my stuff, they were going to start charging me a storage fee!

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

JB: The dumbest thing I’ve ever done is fouling on the break on ESPN. I jumped up and barely hit the top of the cue ball. At this point, it was 5-5 in a race-to-7 and I ended up losing.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

JB: I hope to get back on the road and play. After so many years of traveling, it’s hard to sit still for so long. I may start taking road trips to local rooms for some action just to get my blood flowing again!





Mika Immonen
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

MI: I’m alive and healthy. I want to thank all the friends and loved ones for their support. I’m definitely looking forward to turning a new page.

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

MI: One of the weirdest and funniest moments of my life was when I was in Manila in 2002, hanging out with a friend of mine. We were driving around Makati and my friend made a safe but illegal U-turn. A cop pulled us over and asked, “Do you know what you did?” My friend, without reaching for his license or anything, said, “I’m driving the Iceman, Mika Immonen to a tournament!” The cop was shocked but happy. He immediately took the position to salute and said, “Sorry, sir. Have a nice day!” I was dumbfounded. That gives you an idea how popular pool was in the early 2000s in the Philippines.

BD: Pool players like to blame bad luck, but can you remember a specific time (either at the table or not) that you were really unlucky?

MI: In 1993 or so in Hamburg, Germany, at a house tournament, I played someone who made five golden 9s in four different pockets. So crazy!

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

MI: I just hope we can get out and play tournaments again and get our industry back on track. Everyone is suffering after this very bizarre year. We need so many things to happen to get there. I’m crossing my fingers but not holding my breath.

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

MI: I want to be in more pressure situations. Pressure is something that is hard to create playing in online challenges. I’ve also learned a lot in how I approach teaching the game, so I look forward to being able to put those lessons into practice.





Karl Boyes
BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

KB: In 2015 after the Mosconi Cup, we were taking off after a layover in Philadelphia. All of a sudden, I hear the loudest BANG!, the plane went sideways and I smelled something burning. Safe to say, I soiled myself. All the flight attendants were still sitting down, so I thought this is bad and it was over. But the captain said a flock of geese had blown the engines and we had to emergency land back to Philly. All of a sudden, the plane just felt calm again and we glided back safely.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

KB: A vaccine and some normality!

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

KB: I don’t play in pro tournaments, so I can’t say my game matters anymore! But I have recently put a table back in my house because I’ve started a YouTube channel. (Please subscribe!)





Mark Wilson
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

MW: We toughed it out and endured the worst of times while praying for a positive future.

BD: Pool players like to blame bad luck, but can you remember a specific time (either at the table or not) that you were really unlucky?

MW: While playing the Icelandic Snooker Champion on television in Reykjavik, I was in close to the open red balls and could produce a match winning run. All of sudden, the television lights superheated the fluorescent snooker lights and they exploded, showering glass fragments and white powder everywhere. It took a half hour to clean up and the game was restarted, which I then lost.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

MW: I always hope that the sport finds some unity and structure –men’s and women’s professional tours, a semiprofessional tour, and a youth program based upon creating something aspirational alongside creating a proper culture to proliferate the sport of billiards.

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

MW: I would like to improve the quality of my cue delivery and run 100 balls in straight pool.





Ewa Laurance
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

EL: Good riddance!

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

EL: My friends used to call me the travel queen from hell in the ‘90s! Between the WPBA tournament schedule and spending countless days on the road doing shows both in the U.S. and abroad, I took catnaps at airports quite frequently. I used to write a sign with my flight info and lay it on my chest, letting the staff at the gate know which plane I was supposed to be on. Only once did they not wake me up — and I ended up missing that flight!

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

EL: Taking ball in hand when I didn’t have it.

BD: Pool players like to blame bad luck, but can you remember a specific time (either at the table or not) that you were really unlucky?

EL: Playing a match against Ga Young Kim at the 2012 Masters Championship to get into the final four on the winners side, I had a fairly easy shot on the 8 to win on the hill. Just as I was shooting, Jeanette Lee must’ve gotten unlucky herself and she yelled out. I missed that shot, but it turned out OK, because I came back on the one-loss side.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

EL: My hopes for 2021 mostly involves this virus being a thing of the past.

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

EL: I’ve had back issues now for the past four or five years and haven’t really played for the past two. I would have to say, my goal is to be able to play again, enough to where I can feel comfortable enough with my game to compete.





LoreeJon Hasson
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

LJH: It was challenging. 2020 sucked in many ways but slowed me down a bit to realize important things like my family and friends.

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

LJH: Ewa Laurance and I flew into Baltimore for a tournament and had to fly out of Washington, D.C., so we rented a car—a green car with four doors. We were late heading back to D.C. and the hotel valet brought us our car. I went to shift gears in the center, but the shifter was on the steering wheel. I didn’t pay that much attention to it because we didn’t drive much. We got back to Avis and they kept ignoring us. Finally, our hearts fell when they said that is not our rental car! The hotel brought us the wrong car and we just noticed it was green with four doors. Ewa and I still laugh when we think about that.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

LJH: Playing straight pool, I took an intentional foul during a safety battle forgetting I was on 2. So my intentional third foul meant minus 16 points and a rebreak. I still kick myself about that one.

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

LJH: I just want to play in tournaments again. I miss that more that I realized! I also want to play more one-pocket to better my game.





Kelly Fisher
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

KF: The most unimaginable and challenging experience that I hope we don’t have to go through ever again.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

KF: I don’t kick myself for this, but it was sure dumb. In the final of the 2012 Women’s World Championships, I made the 9 ball to go up 9-6 or 9-7 and then went to get the balls out of the pocket for the next rack. But as I put my hand into the pocket to get the balls out, everyone began to cheer and clap. Turns out, it was actually a race-to-9 and not 11 like I had thought. Maybe a blessing in disguise!

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

KF: I just hope we can have real events to begin as soon as possible. I hope we can have a full schedule and get the tours and events up and running back even better than before!

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

KF: Well, exactly this time last year, I won the world championship in China, so I guess my goals are the same as from then: I’d like to maintain a high standard and do well in the future events to try to become No. 1. (I’m only 50 points behind now.)





Ralf Souquet
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

RS: It’s like a nightmare and I wish to wake up one day and hope it didn’t happen.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

RS: Four things that pop up right away. 1. I took ball in hand, even though the opponent didn’t commit a foul on his break shot. 2. Instead of picking up the cue ball after a foul by my opponent, I grabbed another object ball. 3. I dropped the chalk and it hit an object ball for a foul. 4. After my opponent shot at the wrong ball in a 9-ball match, I got ball in hand and also shot at the wrong ball.

BD: Pool players like to blame bad luck, but can you remember a specific time (either at the table or not) that you were really unlucky?

RS: As you probably know, I am not known for gambling or betting, but there were a few times I made a bet on some soccer matches. I had picked nine games from different leagues and picked seven underdogs and two favorites in accumulation to win. The odds were outrageous and I didn’t really believe that there was a chance to win. One favorite and all underdogs happened to win, so I only needed the biggest favorite (Bayern Munich) to win their match in the German Cup against a team from the fifth or sixth division within the regular 90 minutes. Guess what? They went into overtime, where they still won and qualified for the next round, but I lost the bet and didn’t win $15,000.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

RS: I hope that people really take that virus seriously and follow the rules as much as possible. When that’s the case, and the vaccine works and is available all over the world, we may have a relatively normal life toward the end of 2021.





Joann Mason Parker
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

JMP: After 2020, all the people in my world are breathing, so that’s a good thing. I consider myself to be an exceptionally patient person, but this year has certainly tested that.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

JMP: I was chewing the one piece of gum I had in my purse during my practice session before playing the finals of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships. I was so incredibly nervous that I figured I needed it. I then proceeded to almost choke on it before the match even began! I played the whole final with a piece of Juicy Fruit stuck in my throat.

BD: Pool players like to blame bad luck, but can you remember a specific time (either at the table or not) that you were really unlucky?

JMP: I consider myself to be extremely lucky, on and off the table. But right before the pandemic hit, I ran 99 and then scratched in the side on the 100th ball! I count racks when playing straight pool, so I didn’t even realize it was the 100th ball, but oh well, lesson learned!

BD: What goals do you have for your game in 2021?

JMP: I’m working really hard on my game. My focus is to improve my mental focus. I’m training by doing yoga and meditating. My approach is much more cerebral than it used to be.





Niels Feijen
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

NF: Patience, family time, learning, perseverance, and adaptation.

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

NF: At the World 8-Ball Championships in Fujairah, we always had problems with bugs and flies in the arena. Once, the cue ball stopped dead in its tracks and wiggled back a bit. Apparently, I ran over a bug because there was a blood stain on the felt, so the ref had to do a bit of minor cleaning. Bizarre.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

NF: At the 2004 U.S. Open, I was playing Keith McCready, when he made a run to third place. We played in the final 16 and were tied 9-9 to 11. I was chalking my cue and looking at a tricky shot with the cue ball about two feet from the corner pocket where I was standing. Well, the chalk flies out of my hand and, straight as an arrow, runs right at the cue ball and hits it full in the face. It was like voodoo. Keith got up and said, “I don’t think that’s allowed.” He took ball in hand and ran out, eventually winning, 11-9.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

NF: I hope we get to come out and play again. I’m always challenging myself because that’s in my blood, but I miss the adventure, freedom and excitement that comes with competition and travel.





Melissa Helland
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

MH: 2020 has taught me a great deal about patience, fortitude, and what things are truly important in my life. So even though 2020 has been difficult, I try to continue to stay positive, strive for personal growth, and always look for the silver linings.

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

MH: I once introduced my father to Buddy Hall. Before they met, I mentioned to my dad that Buddy had once been flirtatious with me. When I introduced them, my father said, in his best stern father voice, “It’s such an honor to meet you Mr. Hall, but I heard that you’ve been flirting with my daughter.” At this point, Buddy looked a little nervous, but then my dad said, “I want you to know that you can go ahead and keep flirting with her, but only if I can have lessons from you!” He had Buddy roaring with laughter.

BD: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done at the table during a tournament/match?

MH: Before I turned pro, I was playing in the WPBA Amateur Nationals. In my first match, I was down 3-0 and struggling. My opponent ran the table but hung the 9 in the corner pocket. I walked up, grabbed the 9, marked a game for myself and started racking. Well, she hadn’t conceded, so I committed a foul and gave her the game.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

MH: I hope that 2021 brings healing – not just to the individuals that need it, but also to our country. And I hope that the pool world can find a way to rebuild and get back to normal. Hopefully, pool rooms can reopen, leagues can start back up, and the small businesses that deal in pool accessories/apparel can survive and even thrive in the new year.





Billy Thorpe
BD: If you had to sum 2020 up in a few words, what would you say?

BT: If I had to say a couple words for 2020, it would be “shit show.” Don’t know if I can say that but that’s how I’d describe it.

BD: Considering all the traveling you do, what is one story that comes to mind when you think of something crazy, random, unexpected, etc. that happened on the road?

BT: On the road was when I was younger, my stakehorse and couple of buddies were driving through the mountains. We were laughing and talking and the next thing we know, there are eight deer right in the middle of the road. My buddy Dale swerved and drifted around every single one of them perfectly. That’s why now I call him Dale Earnhardt!

BD: Pool players like to blame bad luck, but can you remember a specific time (either at the table or not) that you were really unlucky?

BT: Last year in Qatar at the World 9-Ball Championships to get into the final eight, I was playing Alex Pagulayan. It was 10-9 in his favor in a race-to-11. I played a nice safety on him, where he had to just hit the 7 ball and hope for something. He looked at me and said, “Well, kid, sometimes you gotta go!” He jacked up and fired this ball two rails in the side and got straight on the 8 ball.

BD: What do you hope for in 2021?

BT: I hope that this virus goes away, and we can all get back to our normal lives. That and hopefully more tournaments come about.

 

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