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Ladies of the Cloth

In a sport with few financial rewards, professional pool players play for the love of the game.
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005

(continued from page 2)



Ewa Laurance began playing pool at the age of 14 after following her brother into a pool room in her native Sweden. She eventually started winning tournaments all over Europe. First prize in many of them was a toaster.

"I think it's somewhere between three and six toasters that I won, that my mother had at home," Laurance remembers, laughing. "There was no money whatsoever in pool in Sweden at that time, nowhere in Europe."

Laurance, then Ewa Svensson, came to the United States when she was 17. She married 31-year old Jimmy "Pretty Boy Floyd" Mataya, a poster-boy for the old stereotype of the male professional pool player. (Laurance is now married to actor and ESPN pool commentator Mitchell Laurance.) At 18, Laurance was invited to New York to be a model, but didn't like the lifestyle.

"I hated it," Laurance says. "There was a lot of pressure, a lot of drugs. This was '82, '83. Somebody would tell you, 'Come by my office, I think you're perfect for this or that show,' and you get up there and there's coke on a tray. So, it was really uncomfortable and a very judgmental business. I just wanted to play pool."

In1988, Laurance was approached by Brunswick Billiards and signed to a sponsorhip agreement. They are still together.

"My whole life changed right there," Laurance remembers. "That changed things because now I could actually look at this as a business."

Allison Fisher's story mirrors Laurance's. Fisher is one of the few women players who can make something of a living just from playing tournaments. A native of Peacehaven, England, the 37-year-old Fisher has been playing on green tables since she was seven years old. Her first game was snooker.

"My father was watching it on television and I liked the look of it and asked for a small table," Fisher explains on the way to a radio interview. "Then when I was 12, I was in bed in tears and my mum asked, 'What's wrong?' and I said, 'I wanna go on that full-size table' at the local pub we used to go to." The owner of the pub gave the OK. Fisher played so well that that the better male players at the pub would teach her the finer points of the game.

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