Ultimate 10-Ball, the Backstory

The Ultimate 10-Ball Championships, won by Mika Immonen and Ga-Young Kim, were a year in the making. Badi Nazhat and his team began searching for a venue last summer and signed on with Chad Scharlow of Diamond Billiard Products and his Tunica location for the Southern Classic several months later. But the work had just begin then. The tournament itself was only a part of the vision of the UTBC Team. A major concern to everyone is the health of the game itself. According to the National Sporting Goods Association yearly poll participation in pool has dropped from a high of 37.3 million US people in 2003 down to 21.8 million in 2012. This is a precipitous drop and signals to anyone paying attention that efforts must be made to focus more attention on the game.


Pro pool has been in recession for the last twenty years. Purses have been stagnant, the fan base eroding, and the industry as a whole has been in a long slide that pre-dates the recent economic woes of the country. Professional players are no longer able to realistically look at tournament pool as an avenue for sufficient income. Blame for all of this can be cast around aplenty. But placing blame does not do anything to solve the problem. As sponsors and industry leaders spoke in the weeks leading up to the event many decided to attend to try and find common ground on which to get the game growing again.


American promoters and industry obviously have interest in growing the American game. But so do those from overseas. Overseas promoters, who toss $200,000 and more into prize funds, want American players for the cachet that they bring to the game. No matter their international rankings, players like Johnny Archer, Earl Strickland, and Shane Van Boening head a list of names that are wanted on tournament charts worldwide. The international interest in this subject was made obvious by the appearance in Tunica of four WPA Board members. Anamaria Matesic of Croatia, Victor Maduro of South America, and American WPA rep Skip Nemecek all took of their time to travel to Tunica to discuss the future growth of the pro game. WPA President Ian Anderson made the trip even though his daughter is in hospital awaiting the birth of triplets. When she told him that it could be another three weeks before the births Mr. Anderson grabbed a flight and was welcomed in Tunica a little over 50 hours later.


The next four days contained a lot of brainstorming. Weaknesses that were identified for action items include the ability of America to fund player travels to overseas events, the monetization of the BCA points fund so that it has financial value as well as the honor that it represents and there was discussion of plans for a Untied States National Championship. Discussions were had on how to form a proper "farm" system where the amateurs feed into the ranks of the pros. Future venues and tournament structures were analyzed. In short, a lot of information changed hands and everyone left with more information than they had before the week began.


The game must be brought into the public spotlight to grow. The expertise of the folks in Tunica is focused on growing both pro and amateur participation in pool. The amateurs are the steak that feeds the industry, but it is the pros who put the sizzle on that steak and make it more appetizing and exciting. Pro play is a catalyst for amateur participation. Wheels are turning and for once they are all on the same track. The next year should find us making progress.