“I’ve qualified to go to West Monroe, Louisiana, for the national tournament, and I’ve decided to go,” my brother told me on the phone in September. “My friend, Ray, is also going out there. We’ll compete with other seniors in the national 8-Ball tournament and 9-Ball tournament.”
I raised my eyebrows and looked down at the phone.
“That’s great, Andy,” I replied. “I’m so happy you’re doing that. I bet it will be a great experience.”
Andy has always been a strong pool player, but it never crossed my mind that he would win a national pool tournament.
But he did. My brother won both national titles this past weekend — 2022 NAPA Seniors 8-Ball National Champion and 2022 NAPA Seniors 9-Ball National Champion (NAPA stands for North American Poolshooters Association).
He drove over on Friday — a trip that took almost nine hours. On Saturday, he kept us updated by sending our family members a group text message after every match. He won the first match. Then the next. Then the next. That’s when I started getting excited. I found the brackets online and followed his progress that way, as well. Andy kept winning, and by Saturday evening, he had earned his first title and sent us a photo of him standing with a gold trophy and certificate. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. My mind flashed back to about a dozen phone conversations I’ve had with him.
“I’ve often thought about becoming a professional pool player and traveling the country and shooting pool,” he told me a few years ago for the first time. “I’m pretty good, and I think I could do well.” “Don’t quit your day job,” I snapped back at him, rolling my eyes on the phone. “You’re pretty good, but you’re not that good.” Well apparently, I was wrong. My siblings and I grew up with pool cues in our hands and a big Gandy pool table in our game room, and as a result, we all learned how to play the game. Our rambling, gambling father, Herman Lanier, loved to shoot pool and found great solace in doing so. In my eyes, my dad was one of the best pool players who ever chalked a cue — civil servant for the U.S. Air Force by day, Minnesota Fats by night. And Andy learned from him. About a year ago, my brother went with his friend, Faye, to a local place and shot one afternoon. A week or so later, Faye introduced him to some friends who shot pool on Sundays in the tiny town of Elko, Georgia. He shot pool there, made friends there, built up some confidence there, and kept shooting. A few months later, he was working his day job and shooting pool on a league in the evenings. Our family recontinued from page
ceived emails every morning chronicling his nights, the tournaments, the scoring, and the rankings (it’s not as straightforward as you might think).
He won locally several times, and that was pretty cool, and then we learned that he had played well enough to qualify to go out to Louisiana for the NAPA national competition.
Yesterday, I followed the Senior 9-Ball brackets as he kept winning. Then, just a few minutes before he played his last match, I received a text.
“They are going to live feed the final match,” the text read, and then he sent a link.
I sat down with my iPad in my lap and grabbed my phone and pushed in Mom’s phone number.
“Mom, do you want to watch Andy play his last match?”
Of course she did, and so I talked her through the process of pulling it up on Facebook. Andy was dressed like Andy — old shorts, a black “Roco’s Bar” t-shirt, tennis shoes that have seen better days, and a ball cap. And as luck would have it, he competed against his friend, Ray, in the final match. My brother was on fire, making shot after shot and moving around the table as if he were playing a friendly game in our family’s game room. If he had nerves, he didn’t show it. And then he won. “Did he just win?” my husband asked me. “Oh my God — I think he did,” I answered. And several of us got to witness it through the magic of a live streaming feed.
“I don’t know anyone who has won a national title. Do you?” my husband asked last night. “Well, I guess we do now,” I said. “My brother has two.” He plays again later this week for the overall championship — all age groups. Please join me in wishing him luck.