“You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can't miss? 'Cause I dreamed about this game...I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.” ~ “Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) in “The Hustler”
La Salle--Dave Pearson, a world-renowned speed pool champion, gave lessons to Kristy Bloomquist and some of her pool aficionado friends Saturday in La Salle.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said. “We can't believe he came here; he's a total celebrity for us.”
Bloomquist, who met her husband, Terry, at a pool tournament--and got engaged at another pool tournament--tracked Pearson down via Facebook, and she discovered he was due in Minnesota this month. She then persuaded him to spend the afternoon with her and her pool-crazy group of friends.
She first ran across “The Ginger Wizard” when he gave a lesson in Marshall--where she was living at the time--a few years ago, and she came away amazed.
“He's a great guy with a great personality, and he's a talented entertainer,” she said. “All the 'pool couples' around here are a tight-knit group--like a fraternity--and we're all so excited for this.”
Pearson is originally from England, and he started in the billiards world as a young prodigy. He's largely pulled back from competitive pool, and he now spends most of his time traveling the world giving lessons, doing clinics, and performing in exhibitions.
He has broken over 20 world records with the Guinness Book of World Records, and he currently owns four of those world records, according to his official website. He has performed in 59 countries and has a line of cues that is currently sold in over 120 countries. He's also been on television with Good Morning America, The Today Show, and--when the show was hosted by Regis Philbin and Kathy Lee Gifford, not Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan--Regis and Kathy Lee.
“There are a lot of world record holders in different categories all over the world; however, we use Dave Pearson in a lot of our television shows because he brings the complete package,” said Michael Feldman, president of television's Guinness Book Of World Records. “This phenom has an unbelievable talent which brings out the best in everybody.”
At the table with a cue in hand, Pearson--like Les Paul with an electric guitar, Rembrandt with a paintbrush, or Herbert von Karajan with a baton--is capable of magic. And, with his amiable English accent and patient demeanor, he brings to mind a popular college professor--only in a pool hall rather than a lecture hall.
During his lesson, he spent more time on the mental aspect of the game than on any technical pursuits, saying, “This game is 30 percent ability and 70 percent your mind.”
Page 2 of 3 - “I could have done fundamentals for the entire six hours, and you guys would've been bored to death,” he said. “Look at every option (for a shot), and use the percentages; everything is pure, simple percentages, and it only takes 10-15 seconds of your time.”
He said professionals like him always evaluate which balls they absolutely can't shoot at, which then limits their options and makes decisions more manageable. He also emphasized the importance of physically getting down to eye level to read the table, like a golfer reading a putt on a green, in order to see where the balls will go.
“If you don't look at different things, you're screwed,” he said. “Less is more; the less you have to do, the easier (the game) is.”
Though Bloomquist appreciated all the technical tips, she said Pearson's mental coaching was the thing she most appreciated.
“The head game was the most important lesson,” she said. “To settle down and keep my wits was the most valuable thing I learned.”
Pearson said ego is often a destructive force at the pool table.
When Bloomquist tried a particularly difficult shot and failed, he told her, “As a pro, I'm maybe five out of 50 on that shot,” with the obvious lesson being she shouldn't have attempted it. In addition, he said ego makes players try to use english too much, when, in fact, “the cushions are your best friends.”
By using the rails, angles are easier to come by, and the game is simpler, he said. But, many players are obsessed with putting english, or “juice,” on the ball simply because it looks impressive.
“The cushions make the game so much easier, and I teach simplicity--less is more,” he said. “English is just showmanship; I never play pool with english unless I absolutely have to.”
Terry Bloomquist said that was the most important lesson he took from Pearson's visit.
“I learned not to juice it so much,” he said. “I juice it a lot.”
Pearson added that establishing a routine, and sticking with it on every shot, is of paramount importance.
“The one word is 'routine,'” Pearson said near the end of the lesson. “Don't quicken your pace when you think you have an easy shot, because that's when ego will get the better of you.”
He liberally ladled out instructions and tips as Bloomquist and her friends were playing, like: “don't move you head,” “don't be too heavy,” and “everything (should be) nice and relaxed.”
Pearson also corrected Bloomquist's footwork after another miss, noting her feet were pointed left of--rather than at--the target.
In the movie “Good Will Hunting,” Matt Damon's character, Will Hunting, is a math prodigy, and he likens his aplomb with numbers to Mozart's alacrity with a piano, saying, “(With math), I could always just play.” Likewise, Pearson was naturally gifted at pool, and he knew it from the moment he first picked up a cue.
Page 3 of 3 - Like many in the game, he started as a hustler in his native England. Of course, one can hustle for only so long before the word spreads, and the superb player can no longer get a game.
Pearson said he's been blessed to travel the world giving lessons and exhibitions--“This is fun, and I got fortunate getting into the corporate stuff”--but the decades of near constant travel have begun to wear on him, and he's planning to settle down soon. At the moment, he has his eye on Thailand, which he said has been his favorite land of all the countries he's visited.
But, before he retires to Thailand or some other faraway nation, he gave Kristy Bloomquist and her friends a night they'll never forget.
Now, rack 'em up, because--armed with their newfound knowledge--Bloomquist and her pals are taking on all comers.
Ryan Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org