Only the 81 rectangular lamps dangling above the pool tables were shining inside the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo.The constant clack of balls as they rumbled across acres of green felt sounded like a rollercoaster clicking up that first steep peak.Earlier in the week, two tractor-trailers had pulled up to the venue, where workers unloaded the tables and stacked one on top of another. It happens only three times a year: January, June and September.The tri-annual City Tournament of the American Poolplayers Association’s Charlotte Metro league attracts nearly 1,000 players each time. The weeklong sets of matches weed out teams through elimination until just three remain.This year’s three will represent the Charlotte Metro league during the APA National Team Championships in Las Vegas next summer.APA, considered the world’s largest amateur pool league, began in 1979, when professional pool players Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart saw a lack of recreational leagues in the U.S. Today the association has swelled to more than 250,000 members in the U.S., Canada and China.The Charlotte Metro league has more than 600 teams and 5,000 members. Because the league is for amateurs, the APA uses a handicap system that matches players of various skill levels on a single team.At the tournament Sept. 17-22, men in scrubs fresh from work, women in the financial industry and retired businessmen all come together to share a love of the game. Most of them come just for the fun.In the center of it all, on the middle of the tournament floor, stood K.T. Thompson, the league owner. Perched 3 feet up in a makeshift office made of plywood and red velvet curtains, Thomson, 65, scans the room, keeping a watchful eye.With a reputation for ousting the rowdy before their balls even sink into the pockets, an entourage of stocky men circulate the floor, ready to react on her command. “I have to be very stern or they’ll run all over me,” said Thompson.Some players are serious and growl when a camera flash or anything else disturbs their game. Some just want an evening to unwind.“There’s a lot of people who know they’re never going anywhere, but it’s their night out with friends or family,” said Thompson. “Then, there’s some out there that Vegas is their drive.”Westley Newton, 25, shook the hand of his opponent after a match, then exhaled once the guy walked away. “I’m not able to breathe,” said Newton, who lives in Mooresville. “I’ve beaten everyone I’ve played tonight. Four so far.”Newton, a technician in a behavioral health facility, joined the APA last year and plays every Tuesday evening after work with his team in Mooresville.“It helps me relax,” he said.Some, like Marty Overholser, 59, a retired food supplier, are picking up their cues after years away from the game.Overholser, who lives in Ballantyne, began playing in his youth. As a newspaper boy in Indiana, he would sneak into the pool hall where his bundle of newspapers was dropped and play.He eventually started wagering dimes and quarters in the games, until his parents found out.“I made more money doing that than I would selling papers in the same amount of time,” he said.For others, this tournament is their first.“I literally started three weeks ago,” said Maggie Smith, 24, a financial consultant from Charlotte. “I like the strategy. Not only trying to make the ball in, but positioning for the next play.”Smith doesn’t expect to represent the league in Las Vegas this year, but she’s just as happy with the consolation prize.“It’s a fun thing to do on a Wednesday night.”
Friday, Sep. 28, 2012
Amateur pool league sends city winners to Vegas
Most play just for a fun night out with friends and family
Want to go? The Charlotte Metro league of the American Poolplayers Association is an amateur league for recreational players. For information, visit www.charlottemetroapa.com. The following winners of the September City Tournament will represent the Charlotte Metro league during the APA National Team Championships in Las Vegas next summer. They’re listed by team name, with the team’s home venue and captain’s name: • Norm’s, at The Smokin’ Cue. Captain: Jack Gibbs. • Blinded Monk, at Crazy Friends. Captain: Phillip Denton Jr. • 8 Y’all Up, at Randolph’s. Captain: Allen Gambill.
Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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