Junior International Championship Player of the Month – Aryana Lynch

Aryana Lynch

There are rumors circulating that come August, women in the Texas pool community will be heaving a huge sigh of relief as 18-year-old Aryana Lynch heads off to Purdue University in Lafayette, IN to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. The former Billiards Education Foundation’s National Champion in 2018 (16 & Under Girls), former member of a BCA Masters all-adult mixed league and two-time BCA World Champion in both 8-ball (at 15) and 9-ball (16), member of the 2019 USA Atlantic Cup Challenge team, veteran of the Texas-based Jerry Olivier Ladies Tour, the Gulf Coast Regional Women’s Tour and most recently, the winner of the first two stops on the current DFW Ladies 9-Ball Tour, has been cashing in professional tournaments since she was 14. Little wonder that with grace, genuine admiration and professional courtesy, the ladies of Texas pool bid her a fond farewell as they heaved that rumored-only big sigh of relief.

“The first thing I noticed about her was her playing mode,” said Jeremy Jones, who, after seeing Aryana play in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and in conversations with her mother, began coaching her in 2018. “She’s a super sweet, super smart girl, always real respectful and very cordial, but when she got to the table you could tell she was there to win.”

“And then,” he added for emphasis, “just seeing her move the cue, you could tell she had natural ability. But more than anything, she has this for-real game face.”

When Aryana’s parents, Jyoti and Brian Lynch, were attending college in Rolla, Missouri, there was not, reportedly, a lot to do and the couple picked up pool for fun. When they moved to Allen, TX with their two daughters, Aryana and Saya, who is two years younger, they found themselves with a game room and a pool table. They also bought the daughters little pool sticks, so they could play, too.

“Lots of families do that,” Jyoti told Deborah Dove in an interview for Allen Image, an online city magazine, “but with this girl (Aryana), something happened.”

“We’d hear the balls clicking upstairs and it was Aryana playing,” Brian told Dove.

Her Dad shifted into training mode, early on, and playing, he’d give her four shots to his one, which, in relative short order, became three and then, only two and finally, to ‘you need to play other people.’ This launched a search for area opportunities to compete and/or train that were compatible with Aryana’s age.

One of the main problems inherent in supporting Aryana’s natural talent at, and desire to play pool were the number of limited venues available that weren’t the smoke-filled rooms that most people seem to assume are part of the ‘pool package.’ 

“There was a lot of smoke around,” Jyoti noticed, to her chagrin. “It was a big reason that we invested in a table (a 9ft. Diamond Pro, which would only fit in their master bedroom and which, as a result, they vacated). But then, more and more of (the rooms) went non-smoking and fortunately more tournaments became more non-smoking, too. And that did make a difference.

Aryana Lynch

“The scene itself,” she added of the general bar atmosphere where a lot of Texas pool happens, “wasn’t a concern because we were always with her.”

They discovered that the American Poolplayers Association (APA) ran a juniors’ league in the area; 25 juniors, ranging in age from nine to 18. She joined, and at age 11, played in her first national tournament, when she and her Dad competed as partners in an APA National Scotch Doubles tournament, and finished as the runners-up.

“She carried me,” Brian Lynch told Allen Image, with a laugh.

At the APA Scotch Doubles event, Aryana and her Dad had learned, for the first time, about the Billiards Education Foundation (BEF) and its annual National Junior Championships. Two years later (2016), she finished third in the event that would prove to be the last of five straight junior national championship titles for April Larson, with whom Aryana became fast friends and eventual teammates on the Atlantic Cup Challenge’s USA Team in 2019. Two years after that (2018), she became the first ’16 and Under Girls’ (new category) champion at the BEF Junior Nationals.

As all of this was happening, with Aryana’s teen years flying by like utility poles on a train ride, she was maintaining a 4.0 grade point average at the largest high school in the state of Texas; Allen High School with nearly 6,000 students in three grades this past school year. She’s preparing to follow in the footsteps of her parents. It’s been speculated that there is very little labor cost associated with any kind of home repairs at the Lynch household, because with Dad as a mechanical engineer and Mom as an electrical engineer and soon, Aryana with a Mechanical Engineering degree of her own, that base is now and will be for some time, covered.

“What I loved about her,” said DFW 9-Ball Tour representative Monica Anderson, in an address at Aryana’s last appearance on the tour before heading off to college (Saturday, May 16),  “was that when she wanted to play at the BCA World Championships in Vegas and needed to qualify, she found a pool hall (The Hideaway, that would accept juniors under 21), played on Doc Reyes’ Dallas 8-Ball league on a team called Boom Shaka Laka, and on league nights, when she wasn’t at a table shooting, would find a quiet area of the pool hall to do her homework until she was called on to play. She’d leave, often late at night and go to school the next morning.”

The academic met the athletic when Aryana, at around the time she was participating in her first BEF national tournament, wrote a Quest for Excellence award and sponsorship-qualifying essay for Kamui in which she responded to three questions – How would you improve the billiard industry and why? How would you improve the image of the sport and why should you be chosen to receive the Quest for Excellence Award? Without recreating her complete answer, she answered the first by noting that “the sport . . .  helps with building self-control, and improving with math and physics,” adding that “providing more scholarship opportunities and partnering with high schools and universities will also give more exposure to the sport.” She noted, answering the second question, that the “image of the sport” is “very adult focused. . . located in a bar area with smoking and drinking, which gives a bad image for kids. Leagues should partner with schools or TV networks to showcase junior athletes and their abilities to play and compete.”

“I am a self-driven person,” she wrote in answer to the third question, “and am always focused on improving myself in everything I do.”

Aryana Lynch

She won the award and Kamui became her first sponsor, later to be joined by J. Pechauer Custom Cues and the Fort Worth Billiard Superstore. As she prepares for the major adventure of attending college away from home, she is predictably excited, although, not surprisingly, given her simultaneous dedication to pool and academics, grounded in what she’s already accomplished and looking ahead to the challenges of her future. She is keenly aware of her own strengths and weaknesses, and considers patience and self-control to be among a list of peripheral skills she brings to the table.

“When I was younger,” she said, “I didn’t possess that. I had to train myself at it; to know that if things are not going my way, to compose myself, control it and not let it affect my game.”

“I would say ‘kicks’ are one of my strengths,” she said of her table skills. “I can always see the angles and I know how to take a simple ‘kick’ and adjust it to the table. It’s that problem-solving thing that I like.”

“Breaks can always get better,” she added of a known weakness. “I’ve grown a lot with that since I started.”

She’s also grown in another area that’s related to de-mythologizing the pool pros. It’s a lesson she learned when she was afforded the opportunity to play in a Scotch Doubles tournament with Shane Van Boening. 

“I got to play with him at the BCA Nationals,” she said, adding that it wasn’t originally intended to be. “It was the first time that I was really able to interact with a male professional.”

Playing with Van Boening as a partner was a raffle prize that she didn’t even win. It was won by a friend, Carlos Sanchez, who passed the winning ticket on to her. The lesson that emerged for her was not as much about pool as it was about human nature.

“I think what I saw was that even pros make mistakes,” she said. “No one is always going to play their best game, every time.”

Over the next five years, her first plan is a Master’s Degree, in what, precisely, she is, at the moment, unaware. In pool, she’s hoping that she’ll be able to just compete in tournaments, whenever she has the time. Seeing pool as a career, however, is not, at present, on the agenda.

“For me and my personality,” she said, “I don’t like to do just one thing. I like to be diverse; art, music (note self-portrait, elsewhere on this page). I think if I just had pool, I don’t think I’d like the game any more.”

It should be noted that she’s attending the university at which Nick Varner won two straight ACUI Pool championships in 1969 and 1970, and best-laid-plans aside, she might find her career travelling an unexpected path. In any case, she’s got a bit of a ‘leg up’ on whatever she hopes to accomplish.

“She’s got some priorities that others (her age) just don’t have yet,” noted coach Jeremy Jones. “She’s a level or two above most of them.”

“Aryana,” said Monica Anderson at the youngster’s last appearance on the DFW Ladies 9-Ball Tour, “we wish you more success in all you do, and know that we love you and will keep tabs on your continuing life successes, today and always.” 

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of the Billiards Buzz Online Publication.