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Pool tournament teams 022224

Clay racks up 21 entries for USA Pool League National Championships

Players from The Corner Pocket, Park Avenue Billiards headed to Las Vegas

Posted 2/22/24

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Misty Powless has never been to Las Vegas, so she doesn’t know what to expect at the USA Pool League National Championships. The millions of neon lights along the Las Vegas …

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Pool tournament teams 022224

Clay racks up 21 entries for USA Pool League National Championships

Players from The Corner Pocket, Park Avenue Billiards headed to Las Vegas


Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Misty Powless has never been to Las Vegas, so she doesn’t know what to expect at the USA Pool League National Championships.

The millions of neon lights along the Las Vegas Strip starkly contrast the ambiance of her hometown. She will never be around so many opportunities for self-indulgence. The sounds of slot machines and the occasional cheer from happy dice players can be maddening for a newbie, but she hopes she’s around long enough to become immune to the distractions.

Powless is one of 21 local players who qualified for the national championships from Feb. 26 to March 3. The tournament will feature more than 1,500 players from around the world.

“I think the atmosphere is going to be nerve-racking,” she said. “I’ve never played on that level. I’ve played in local competitions, and I’ve played in state competitions. But I’ve never won to go to something that big on a national level. So that’s pretty exciting for my team and for my individual play.”

Powless is part of the Hustlin’ Sharks team, which includes Jake Sanders, Landon Fox, Dale Austin, Victor Burke, Billy Schulte and Ed Williams. But I Got Shape will also represent Corner Pocket, including Richie Van Kirk, Billy Carter, Zach Carter, Jason Clark, Chris Wingate, Richard David Brown, Adam Poole and John Guiliano.

Both teams will play in the 144-team 8-Ball Team Competition, while Powless will do double duty against 115 other players in 8-Ball Singles.

Other categories include 9- and 10-ball teams and individuals.

Van Kirk finished 12th last year in 8-Ball Singles. While he knows what to expect, he said it’s never easy to adjust from the cozy atmosphere at the Corner Pocket to a 300-table main event.

“It’s absolutely nerve-racking, especially when you got all the cameras from ESPN and all the different international countries with cameras on it and with our live stream TV,” Van Zirk said. “You got people as far as New Zealand watching us and in Russia.”

Other Corner Pocket players have counted on Van Kirk to give insight into the sights, sounds and emotions they will face.

“Some of these players, this is their first time going out there, so they’re excited,” he said. “They’re hearing what others, like myself, who have been there and told them what to do – just have fun.

“Don’t get too emotional. You know, somebody’s going to win; somebody’s got to lose. You have to have good sportsmanship all the time. And just enjoy it. It might be your only time ever going out there. Enhance the moment while you have it,” Van Kirk said.

Other state winners who will compete include Orange Park’s Joseph Hazelwood in 9-Ball Singles; Fleming Island’s Bryan Yumul in 8-Ball Singles; Jon Harmel and Justin Herringdine, both of Middleburg, and Shelby Hogan of Orange Park with Easily Distracted, and Orange Park’s Courtney Frye with Rookies, both in 9-Ball Teams.

Powless said she hopes to keep her focus on billiards, but she knows it will be difficult.

“I’ve never been to a casino. I’ve never been to Vegas. I’ve never been that far west,” she said. “I’m generally a focused person. So, hopefully, I’ll have my emotions in check and just focus on one game at a time. That’s my goal. That’s kind of what I did in singles play (at the state qualifying tournament) to win one game at a time. Before I knew it, I was a finalist.”

Now comes the challenge of a lifetime – keeping her focus in a city like Las Vegas.