Confident Van Boening Looks to World Pool Masters

Shane Van Boening

With the 2009 World Pool Masters just around the corner, American hopes for the $66,000 tournament will be focused on veteran Johnny Archer and a young man who has taken the American pool scene by storm over the past two years.
25 year-old Shane Van Boening, the clean-cut ‘South Dakota Kid', heads to the Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas next week, as one of the betting favourites for this prestigious title. In fact, Van Boening will be aiming to be the first American to lift the Masters crown since Earl Strickland was victorious at Lakeside, England in the summer of 1997.
Since he burst onto the scene in 2007 with wins at the Predator World Tenball and then the super-tough US Open, the soft spoken Van Boening has been the man to beat.
He followed that up in 2008 with victory at the Super Billiards Expo and then in September with a win for the United States, in partnership with Rodney Morris, at the World Cup of Pool.
As the Masters approaches, Van Boening is confident that he is fully prepared; “I am playing well at the moment,” he said.
“I spent a lot of time at home in South Dakota over the past month and haven't played any big tournaments since the Super Billiards Expo in Valley Forge.
“It's rare that I have an entire month without tournaments so I took advantage of all this time off and have really focused on having a consistent practice schedule. On an average day I wake up, go to the gym, grab some lunch then head to the pool hall around mid-afternoon and stay there 10-12 hours until they close.”
Van Boening, who fell at the first hurdle in this event last year at the hands of Imran Majid, faces young Korean girl Yu Ram Cha in his opening first round match.
Despite the fact that women rarely get the better of men at the highest level, he will not be taking her lightly.
“I understand she's a top player in her country but I haven't had the opportunity to really watch her play except a few times when she played against my girlfriend (Cristina De La Garza) in a few of the women's pro events.
“I hear she's a very strong player though and is doing well on the WPBA. I did watch a few games when she played in the 10-ball event in Valley Forge. She seemed to struggle with the break there so I think that will be a big factor in our match and will give me a great advantage.
“I don't really think there is any more pressure playing against a woman than there is with any other opponent.  In tournaments, you really can't focus on who you are playing, just get out there and play your best,” he added.  
One banana skin on Van Boening's successful career path has been his two Mosconi Cup defeats in his two appearances in pool's premier team event.
“It was definitely disappointing since the US had dominated that event for so many years. With the really short races and the different rules on the break, it makes the format really tough.
“We struggled with our breaks and the Europeans seemed to have it down so that played a huge part in last year's win. I think we will have a much better showing this year when it takes place in the US again.”
The '09 Mosconi Cup takes place from 10-13 December at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and barring disasters, Van Boening looks like a lock for the team as Team America look to reclaim a title they last won outright in 2005.
Despite his great successes at a young age, Van Boening still burns with ambition to achieve all there is to achieve in the world of pool. “For 2009, I of course would like to continue to stay at the top of the points ranking.
“Rodney and I will be back for the World Cup of Pool and I'm hoping we can retain our title there and can bring the Mosconi Cup back to the US. As for the future, although I have won some major events, I would really like to win a World Championship.”
To achieve all this Van Boening is under no illusions as to what is required. Practice, practice and more practice.
“I think I HAVE to improve in order to stay competitive. There are still tournaments that I want to win and haven't yet. No matter how good you are, there's always something you can improve on.
“I practice as much as I can. Usually 10-12 hours per day when I am not on the road.  One thing that I think makes me different from many other players is that I don't get bored playing for long periods of time by myself.
“I can spend hours and hours just practicing or working on my stroke. I don't always have to be playing against anyone when I practice,” he added.
With Van Boening starting his World Pool Masters campaign on the evening of Friday 8th May at the Riviera, it will be a brave man who bets against him.