The click-click of the cue ball hitting an object ball and thunking into a pocket on a billiard table has always been satisfying for Maryann McConnell, owner of Alberni Valley Billiards and holder of numerous Canadian snooker and billiard titles.
From the first time she spied a billiard table—in the games room at the University of Guelph in Ontario, when she was 24 years old—McConnell has been hooked.
She has an honours degree in fine art, but McConnell was always a whiz at physics and math. Eight-ball and its associated games come easy to her. Last week it showed, as she won three national titles at the Canadian Two-Sports Association Canadian Championships in Toronto.
McConnell won the women’s eight-ball event, placed second in the nine-ball event, third in Scotch Doubles eight-ball, and won two gold medals with her women’s eight- and nine-ball teams too.
In February, McConnell won her seventh BC eight-ball championship, the Scotch Doubles title and her ladies’ team won the women’s eight-ball team event, all in Penticton.
She heads to the western Canadian championships, which is the qualifier for 2014, in Calgary in two weeks.
Billiards is a skilled endeavour, she says. “It’s not easy to be really, really good. It takes a lot of practice. Skill to begin with is really helpful and having some eye-hand coordination.
“I really feel like it’s the perfect pairing of the physical and mental,” she adds. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but it’s like a chess game without any squares on the board. It’s not about making your ball before the other person makes their ball, it’s about playing the eight ball and the cue ball around the table.”
Although she plays on a pub team, billiards “has never been a bar game for me,” McConnell said. “I didn’t even play in a bar for 20 years.”
She started in that games room and drove every day to nearby Kitchener, where there was a good pool hall. She played snooker, practicing eight hours a day. She travelled to England to play and at one time was ranked second in the world.
McConnell admits she doesn’t travel too much to play eight-ball anymore: just to the provincials, nationals and western Canadians, as well as a trip to Las Vegas for a big tournament. And even that one is a big “if” for her this year.