Emma Ball has put together and competed in pool tournaments at Twin Cities Senior Center for about 20 years. She’s been playing pool for much longer than that.
She recalls taking her father-in-law to the center and playing while he reminisced with his friends, and even remembered a time in which the former host of the tournaments took all four of the center’s tables home during a flood in 2001 in an effort to preserve them.
Still, Ball’s favorite memory from her days playing pool in Chehalis is when she was first asked to play.
“It’s very hard for somebody who’s never, ever played sports and you have a husband who used to play all the time in Germany,” Ball said. “You feel kind of, ‘Umm, I can’t do this,’ but in the last, I want to say, 15 years, I’ve learned a lot from the guys.
“The most enjoyable part is the camaraderie and you feel like you’re a part of something. It’s a very welcoming group.”
Ball, her husband, and some of her friends host two pool tournaments each week, on Tuesday and Thursday, at 1 p.m, at the senior center. They suggest a one dollar donation as an entrance fee — the proceeds help pay for the senior center and help with the costs of the tables — and ask that participants are 18-years or older.
The winner of each tournament is added to a sheet of paper, displayed on a bulletin board in the makeshift pool hall, which boasts the champions of each previous tournament. It’s a means of tracking bragging rights for Ball and the other competitors.
That’s as much of a prize as the participants need to keep coming back.
“It’s just for the enjoyment of getting our name on the board up there,” Ball said.
Dennis E. Lampert, or “Dennis the Menace” as the name tag on his shirt reads, admits he doesn’t win very often. He’s been playing pool at the center for as long as one of the walls has donned a faded tapestry depicting some animals playing pool. Lampert clarified it’s been there for 10-to-15-years and was also quick to point out he’s finished in last place more often than he’s finished in first.
He still remembers winning once, though.
“They say there goes the Dennis Balls, because I get kind of these weird shots that go in,” Lampert said.
Like Ball, he cites the many friends he’s made as the reason he keeps coming back to play and pursue an elusive second win.
“We have a very nice group,” Ball said. “We tolerate a lot, because we’re old.”
One of the group’s new-comers is John Faber, who’s been participating in the tournaments for the last two months. He’s been playing pool for much longer, but only got acquainted with the Twin Cities group when he recently moved into the area.
Still, in that short amount of time, Faber’s enjoyed his time around the longer-tenured members of the group and appreciates that he gets to keep his pool abilities sharp.
“It’s getting out of the house, kind of honing your skill a little bit,” Faber said between a laugh. “It’s, you know, getting away from things.”
While the group continues to expand, Ball’s also working on a once-monthly tournament, where participants from different senior centers can come and compete for more tangible prizes.
“As soon as I can figure out how to do it,” Ball said. “That’s something that we need to do and it’s not easy. We wouldn’t mind having other groups come play with us, on a weekend or whatever, maybe have some round robins.”
Ball adds that’s a process that needs to be run by the Twin Cities’ advisory board, on which she serves, to determine the logistics of a prospective tournament.
Many people have come and gone in the time that some members of the group have been playing. Just before she went back to take her cue back from her husband and continue her first-round match, Ball thought about a few people, particularly the other women that she used to play with.
She was the only woman participating in Tuesday’s contest. Ball hopes that isn’t the case for long.
“Now, I’m trying to get more women to come in and say, ‘Hey, come on, play with us,’” Ball said. “We used to have a women’s league in the morning, but we haven’t gotten the interest from the women to come in and play.”
She hopes anyone will consider joining the Twin Cities Senior Center twice-weekly tournaments.
“It’s the same group, it’s just that we keep growing,” Ball said. “We’re always out there saying, ‘Oh, come on, play, it’s a lot of fun.’ We recruit more and more and more, and we’re always open to players.”