The Post-Journal

Accident Won't Stop Hurst From Competing In Billiard Championships

A summer accident hasn't deterred long-time pool ace Jim Hurst from taking his best shot in the World Pocket Billiard Championships next week at the International Convention Center in Niagara Falls, NY.

Hurst, a Sherman resident, will be making his second appearance in the world championships, although he is just rounding into shape after almost losing a thumb in a garden tractor accident.

"I'm gaining use of it," Hurst said of his thumb, which was broken and had lacerations of the tendons and nerves. "I'm wearing a golf glove. I could go without it, but it's smoother with it on."

Despite the injury that prevented him from playing for two months, Hurst has been invited by Tournament Chairman Bob Clark to participate in the field of 64, which includes world champion Steve Mizerak.

"I'm playing better every day," Hurst said. "I got sick the last time I went (the 1983 World Championships in New York City). I was sixty-fourth out of sixty-four. I want to do better this time."

The double-elimination tournament gets underway Monday with a player-sponsor banquet. Play begins Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and will continue until next Saturday with the championship finals.

"They pay good prize money, $20,000 for the winner, and they pay 16 places," Hurst said. "A lot depends on the luck of the draw."

In 1983 Hurst lost his first two matches and was eliminated. This time around, he doesn't have grand expectations.

"I don't expect to score well," he said. "If I can stay cool enough I can shoot, but it's a very hard thing to do. But I can play under strain."

"I take great pride in being invited even if I don't shoot well."

Hurst practices in his garage, which he has converted into a pool room and travels two or three times a week to various competitions in Buffalo, Erie and Corry.

"I probably drive close to 1,500 a month to play pool," he said.

Other trips have taken him to Syracuse and such Pennsylvania towns as Greensburg, Hazelton and York. His 1984 Cadillac has about 40,000 miles on it and "a lot of that is for pool."

And while he estimates he's spent "a fortune" on his avocation, Hurst, an employee of Niagara Mohawk, will have his entry fee of $500 for next week's tournament paid by three sponsors - the Portage Inn of Westfield, Tonar Industries of Corry and his brother, Ken.

The caliber of play will be formidable, but Hurst said that the players are just "regular guys."

"I mostly listen," he said. "They're all regular guys. They'll sit down and talk to you. They talk about different games and different shots that have happened. They remember every shot."

Hurst said the duration of the matches will be 150 balls and, "I expect the high run to be above 140."

The Sherman resident said his best is a 60-ball run, but he hasn't been able to reach that level recently.

Hurst said that Jimmy Carris, a four-time world champion, told him at billiard instruction school that, "If you're a threat to run 30 balls, you can play with anybody."

Hurst noted that he doesn't have any superstitions or rituals during a match.

"Usually I'm just quiet," he said. "I don't have much to say. I try to make a good appearance, not only in the way I play, but in the way I conduct myself."

His appearance will certainly be impressive in next week's tournament, as all entrants are required to wear a tuxedo.

"We're allowed to take off our coats after the break provided we wear a full-backed vest and they're difficult to find," Hurst said.

A tuxedo wasn't exactly the appropriate attire when he got his start in billiards as a 12-year-old. While working at the old Sherman Lanes as a pinsetter, Hurst would sneak away to "hustle pool."

Forty-four years later, Hurst is preparing to compete against the top players in the world.

"It's an experience that doesn't come every day," he said.

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