Post-Gazette reporter takes on world's No. 1 women's billiards player
April 20, 2017 11:38 PM
Haley Nelson / Post-Gazette
Line Kjorsvik, the world's No. 1-ranked women's billiards player, lines up a shot Wednesday at Rivers Casino, site of the second annual WPBA Rivers Casino Open from April 20-23.
By Will Greer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Of the “big four” table games, I’m undoubtedly worst at billiards.
I’d like to think I’m better than average at table tennis. In fact, I won my last competitive table tennis event back in middle school.
I’ve played enough foosball and air hockey through the years to feel decently competent at those games – at least competent enough to prolong a matchup by focusing all my attention on guarding the goal.
But billiards is different. Billiards has always been a struggle. Billiards is my table game kryptonite.
So when I learned of the opportunity to play the world’s No. 1 women’s billiards player, Line Kjorsvik of Norway, my initial excitement turned to legitimate fear within a matter of moments. Kjorsvik and 47 of her Women’s Professional Billiards Association tour mates are in town this weekend for the WPBA Rivers Casino Open, slated Thursday through Sunday.
Questions racing through my head included: What can I do to artificially make myself seem better at billiards than I am? Is there any way for me to learn enough in the next 24 hours to be semi-competitive? Do I have to go through with this?
Answers to those questions subsequently racing through my head included: Not a lot. Not really. Absolutely.
Fast forward through a poor night of sleep and hours of anticipation, and it was finally game time.
I made the 10-minute walk of doom from the Post-Gazette office to the Rivers Casino around 3:35 p.m. Wednesday with videographer Haley Nelson.
We had planned to meet Kjorsvik at 4 p.m., and I secretly hoped showing up a few minutes early would throw her off, even if just a little bit.
The atmosphere inside the makeshift pool hall was daunting. Several professional-grade tables were lined up in a row, each brightly lit with florescent lights. The rest of the room was dark, making each table appear to be in the spotlight.
Haley and I made our way over to Kjorsvik, who was finishing up an individual practice round. I quickly realized just how skilled she is and just how ugly this exhibition was going to be.
I’m usually a trash talk enthusiast but figured there was no reason to bother trying to intimidate the world’s No. 1 women’s billiards player. So instead, I simply told Kjorsvik to go easy on me, assuring her again and again I lacked billiards ability.
As any good competitor would, she asked, “You’re not hustling me, are you?” I told her she’d find out quite soon I wasn’t.
I decided to prolong “quite soon” a few extra moments, telling her with a laugh she could break after she asked if I wanted to get the festivities started.
So with a special cue, used only for breaking (who knew?), Kjorsvik bent her knees, focused her eyes on the cue ball like an eagle scouting its prey, and made a cracking sound reminiscent of a marathon-beginning gunshot. Our race had begun.
I’m still not entirely sure which variation of billiards we were playing and didn’t ask, trying to maintain an appearance of belonging on this stage. Kjorsvik, to the surprise of absolutely no one, got out to an early lead. But my spirits remained high, and with significant help from my opponent, plus some potentially divine intervention, I got on the board, making one more ball than I expected to make all match.
With the stakes as high as they were, I’m surprised Kjorsvik was as friendly as she was during our showdown. Maybe it was a tactic though — part of her strategy all along — because shortly after my brief moment in the sun, the world’s best female billiards player sank ball after ball.
It quickly became clear that the party was over. It was time to go home.
After Kjorsvik made the final ball on the table, we shook hands, and I said the first thing that came to mind: “I made one ball.”
“It was a match well-fought,” she graciously responded.
After wishing her luck this weekend, I walked away from the casino reflective and optimistic.
As far as I’m concerned, Kjorsvik and I were both winners Wednesday — not only because we respectively met and exceeded our expectations but because we had a whole lot of fun doing it.
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