The Post-Journal

Sherman Man Hopes To Make His Name In Pool

A well-known figure in the billiard circles is a man named Minnesota Fats. But if things go his way, Sherman's Jim Hurst may become a world famous pool player too.

Hurst will be one of a select group of 64 pool players from around the world that will compete in the World Championship Billiards Championships at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, August 14-21.

"I'm working my way from the top down," stated Hurst about the upcoming tournament. "It's the biggest tournament in the world so I'll be at the top to begin with, so the only place I can go is down. But I do hope to gain experience from this."

The World Championship will be played in the Grand Ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel. The tournament is a very prestigious one in that all players are required to wear a tuxedo.

The Sherman resident qualified for the World Championship by playing in a 22-week tournament at the Bob-B-Cue Pool Hall in Buffalo. The top two finishers in the tournament qualified, but Hurst finished sixth. The winner said he would be able to go, but the next four finishers couldn't, thus Hurst was asked, and accepted the spot in the World Championships.

Tournaments are old hat for Hurst. He played in the Pennsylvania State Championships, where he failed to finish, but placed sixth out of 32 in a tournament at York, PA.

Hurst has 40 years of billiard experience as he started at the ripe age of 12 when he used to set pins at the old Sherman Lanes. He said of his younger years, "When I wasn't setting pins, I was playing pool. It wasn't considered the best place in the world for a 12-year-old to be back then," he added with a chuckle.

In those early years, Hurst taught himself how to play the game, but he is now a registered billiard instructor after completing a course sponsored by the Billiard Congress of America in Marion, Indiana. He had a pretty good instructor at the class, as Jimmy Carris, former World Champion, was the teacher.

Practice makes perfect and Hurst is getting plenty of practice for the upcoming tournament. He stated, "I'm practicing seven days a week now. I'll play for two hours a day during the week and get in five hours of playing time on the weekends and will continue to do so until the tournament arrives."

Talking about playing a billiards game in a tournament, the length of a match is either 150 or 200 balls. Hurst said, "There is never any breathing room in a straight pool match. I saw a guy who was behind by 153 balls in a game to 200 and win. You can't ever relax." Hurst said his longest run is 56 balls, which he has accomplished several times.

Hurst also said the key to a game is positioning. He stated," You are always trying to pocket a ball and trying to break up a cluster of balls or get a ball off the rail with the cue. That is the secret to the game." He continued on to say, "On television, you'll hear the announcer say when a player makes a ball that it was a good shot, but they'll never say that the player is unhappy because he made the shot but missed the position."

Besides owing his own table, Hurst has five cues but only uses one. His main stick is made by Joss, is two years old, 20 ounces in weight, 58 inches long and has 14-millimeter shafts. He stated his cue is worth $300.

Another important aspect of the game of billiards or pool is chalking. Hurst said, "Chalking cuts down on the chance of miscuing. A good player will chalk after every shot. It's there to do a job." A miscue could end a player's streak and cost him the game.

The experience and equipment may be important factors of pool playing but the veteran pool player said, "Concentration is the most important part of billiards. You can't leave it to chance. You have to think clearly and have a plan in mind of what you're going to do. It comes with practice as does your stroke and confidence. Without concentration, you will never be a good pool player."

A stereotype of pool players is a hustler in a smoke-filled parlor. Hurst said of billiard players, "The people I play with are good, clean, respectable people. I've been to pool tournaments all over and I'm never worried about anyone there."

Besides Hurst's prowess in straight pool, he is also a master of trick shots. His repertoire includes over 50 trick shots. He first performed his trick shots on Second Street in Jamestown back in 1967. He has also performed on Channel 29, at the Veteran's Hospital in Buffalo and at the Elks Clubs in Warren and Corry.

Hurst is hoping, after August 21, that a new nickname will be known in the pool world. If Hurst happens to survive the 64-man World Championship, he may have to change his name to "Hurst the Hustler."

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