Life’s Doors – an interview with Leslie Anne Rogers

Kim White and Leslie Anne Rogers

Shortly before ten o'clock, on a crisp, sun-drenched October morning, Leslie Anne Rogers steps through the front door of Bogies Billiards and Games in North Houston. She pauses to get her bearings. This is the first time that a Hunter Classics Women's Tour event has been held at Bogies. While it's an older poolroom, it's well maintained and offers a comfortable atmosphere. Five 9-foot pool tables are aligned near the front door, and a 12-foot snooker table stands in the far corner.

Although it's Saturday morning, five men hunch over a nearby poker table, two slouch at the long, mirrored bar, and two more occupy one of the pool tables. A sign in front of the building indicates that the venerable poolroom is open seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.

To Leslie Anne's right lies an expanse of eighteen 8-foot tables that have been reserved for the weekend tournament. She spots the Classics Tour directors setting up the scorer's table. Nearby, players stand in small clusters, catching up on events that have taken place in their lives since the tournament in Albuquerque, six weeks earlier. Other players are taking the opportunity to slip in last-minute practice.

Leslie Anne makes her way toward the scorer's table, pausing frequently to greet and hug other players. She's a veteran of Hunter play, and the pre-tournament rituals are familiar.

She arrives at the scorer's table, signs in, and then chats with a director. Fifty-one women will compete in this final 2006 stop on the Hunter Classics Tour. Most come from Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and surrounding communities. Several have flown in from out of state, and two have traveled all the way from Canada.

Leslie Anne struggles to suppress her conflicted emotions. She wants to approach this event as “just another tournament,” but she can't. She knows her time on the Hunter Classics Tour is running out.

Leslie Anne discovered pool at age 9 while participating in a youth program sponsored by a Dallas church. The game immediately hooked her. “By the time I entered my teens,” she says, “I was playing in any poolroom that would let me in.”

At age 17, she enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where her father is a professor of theology. She graduated four years later with a degree in anthropology, and during that period, she also found a pool partner for life.

Leslie Anne ran the campus game room and organized pool tournaments. At a pro-am event she met a handsome young pool instructor, who just happened to share the same first name: Leslie. They immediately began dating, and now they share both first and last names: Leslie Rogers. Leslie Anne appends her middle name, and her husband often shortens his to “Les,” to make it easier for their friends to keep track of who's who in conversations.

Les grew up in Japan and came to the United States at the time he began college. His background is in math and physics, and he works as an information technology specialist. Les also has devoted much of his life to pool. He's a Billiard Congress of America Master Instructor, and he's also co-founder of Cue-Tech in Dallas, which offers sophisticated training programs for pool players and instructors.

While at SMU, Leslie Anne continued to improve her game through working with Les and by competing in various regional and national tournaments conducted by the Association of College Unions International.

Then in the mid 1990s, she began playing regularly on the Hunter Classics Women's Tour, which is the largest, longest-running regional tour. The top women on these regional tours go on to compete on the national tour, the Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA). The Hunter Classics Tour covers the Southwest region, holding events in cities such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Denver, and Las Vegas.

Leslie Anne rose to the top of the Hunter standings, and between 2001 and 2006 she won an unprecedented 11 tournaments. In 2001 she was named Hunter Classics Women's Tour Champion, a title she would retain for a record five consecutive years.

In 2002, Leslie Anne's performance on the Hunter Classics Tour qualified her to also play on the WPBA Classic Tour. In WPBA tournaments, the touring professionals are joined by top regional players, such as Leslie Anne. At the onset, she felt intimidated competing against the top women in the world, such as Allison Fisher, but she quickly adapted. Her most satisfying recollection is playing a near-perfect match and defeating a Top Sixteen player by the score of 9 to 0.

For the next four years, Leslie Anne and her husband's lives fell into a fairly regular routine. She competed in Hunter and WPBA tournaments, and Les programmed computers and taught pool.

Then recently, Les mentioned that he missed Japan and wished that they could one day live there. “The universe listened,” Leslie Anne says. Shortly thereafter, a company in Tokyo offered Les an excellent opportunity, if he were willing to relocate to Japan.

“I was scared, happy, excited, thrilled, terrified all at once,” Leslie Anne says. She wanted Les to have this opportunity, and she also was ready for an adventure outside of Dallas. But such a move would mean a radical change to their lives. Finally, she said, “Let's go for it.”

In the ensuing months, Leslie Anne's enthusiasm flagged from time to time, as they began dealing with the logistics of relocation. Moving from the four-bedroom house they owned in Dallas to a one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo will require serious culling of possessions. They'll also have to prepare their two cats, Miscue and Bocote, for overseas travel. And while Les is fluent in Japanese, Leslie Anne had to begin learning the language through tapes and books. “'Eigo ga wakarimasu ka?' is the most important phrase I've learned so far,” she says with a laugh. “It means, ‘Do you understand English?'”

On the encouraging side, pool is popular in Asian countries, so she'll have ample opportunity to play in both amateur and professional events. Additionally, she looks forward to expanding her game by learning Three-Cushion Billiards, which is played throughout Asia. Leslie Anne is sponsored by Cue-Tech, and she's also a player representative for Jerico Cues and the new OB-1 Cue Shaft. She plans to continue endorsing these companies in Japan.

Leslie Anne's main regret is that she'll soon be leaving her numerous friends. Despite her no-nonsense approach to pool, and her having dominated the Hunter Classics Tour for so many years, she's liked, as well as respected. When asked to describe their impressions of Leslie Anne, the Hunter board of directors — Julie Stephenson, Lucille Donahue, Melinda Hinojosa, Monica Anderson, and Helen Hayes — used descriptors such as persevering, disciplined, focused, consistent, reliable . . .

“Before and after a game,” Leslie Anne says, “I'm just one of the girls. But during a match . . .” She smiles, sensing there's no need to voice the finish to her thought. Competing hard during a match, but not carrying this competitiveness off the table, is a common ethic among Hunter players.

The house professional at Bogies Billiards, Kim White, is a former Hunter player. Kim won the Hunter championship the year before Leslie Anne began her amazing string of five in a row. Kim then rose through the rankings of the WPBA, and last year the tour members elected her to serve as their president. She speaks for the women on both the Hunter and WPBA tours when she says, “Leslie Anne is a professional, inside and outside the pro pool arena. I'll miss my friend, but I know she's moving on to even better days.”

It's late Sunday afternoon. Leslie Anne joins the applause for Heather Lloyd, who has just won a hard-fought, championship match over Tara McCracken. During the past few years, these two young women have each polished their skills and risen through the rankings, and many believe that one of them will become heir apparent to the title that Leslie Anne is vacating.

Leslie Anne, ever the competitor, is disappointed that she couldn't win this final event of the year, but she's pleased for Heather. “She's come so far,” Leslie Anne says. “The whole tour has grown. The talent pool is much deeper, broader . . .” There's a wistfulness as her voice trails off. Soon, she'll be leaving these Hunter women behind.

After a last round of emotional goodbyes, Leslie Anne gives a final wave to the directors who are packing up the tournament paraphernalia. Within a couple of hours, neighborhood regulars will occupy the expanse of green-felt tables, and this Hunter Classics tournament will exist only in the memories of the women who competed here.

A moment later, the door to Bogies closes behind Leslie Anne. Somewhere in Japan awaits a door that will open for her.