This year was bigger than ever for The Villages Billiard Club as they hosted the 2016 Florida Billiards Expo at La Hacienda Recreation Center last weekend. More than 1,200 billiards fans attended the expo, enjoying tournaments, clinics, and a chance to meet some of the most famous names in billiards.The success of prior shows (formerly known as the “Billiards Expo in The Villages”) over the past two years supplied the momentum to bring in Sunday’s marquee event: The Legends of Pool.
Six legendary champions were featured this year and fans were treated to several opportunities to rub elbows with their billiards heroes. This year’s activities included tournaments, the Legends Pro Pool School, Golf Pro-Am, a Ladies Wine & Cheese Night, Dinner & Lunch with the Pros, free clinics, and the main event, the Legends of Pool Championship. The show was a great opportunity for billiards enthusiasts to see and hear up close the nuances that take place during matches of some of the most gifted participants in the sport.
This year’s event reunited for the first time in decades billiard legends including “King” James Rempe, Ewa “Striking Viking” Laurance, Buddy Hall, Joann Mason Parker, and Loree Jon Hasson. The champions will also for the first time be competing against each other in singles, mixed doubles, and a Battle of the Sexes 8-Ball match.
During an early match Sunday afternoon, spirits were high among players and spectators. Though some moments were quiet as a golf tournament as each expert sized up their best shots throughout the match, bouts of laughter were just as frequent as the competitors good-naturedly ribbed each other between shots. Renowned billiard champion Cecil “Buddy” Hall, known as “The Rifleman” for his straight shooting, seemed unaffected by the pressure of competition, teasing the crowd about their “oohs” and “aahs” as they reacted to the success or failure of particularly interesting shots.
After Hall triumphed over fellow legend Ray Martin in that match, the showmanship continued as several other high profile players joined Hall and Martin at the table for the All Pro 9 Ball Ring Game, a round-robin type of competition.
It was hard to miss the entrance of 3 of the female legends featured at this year’s expo, Billiards Hall of Fame member Ewa “The Striking Viking” Laurence, former U.S. Open Women’s Champion Joann “The Battling Beauty” Mason Parker, and LoreeJon “Queen of the Hill” Hasson. Hasson turned pro at the age of 11 and won the World 9-Ball Tournament at 15.
As the match began, emcee and event producer Charlie Williams of Dragon Promotions warned, “I have a feeling it’s not going to be a very quiet match.”
The obvious rapport between the legends continued throughout the afternoon, as did the impressive demonstration of tremendous skill and sportsmanship. The expo concluded Sunday evening with the Battle of the Sexes match and a photo and autograph session afterward.