Ladies of the Cloth
In a sport with few financial rewards, professional pool players play for the love of the game.
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005
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"When I was at school," Fisher recalled, "I wanted to be a physical education teacher, but at 14 my [guidance counselor] asked, 'What do you want to be when you leave school?' And I said, 'I want to be a professional snooker player.' And he asked, 'No, what do you really want to be?' And I said, 'That's what I really want to be.'"
Fisher's tale evokes the line from Rod Stewart's "Maggie May:" "I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school. Or steal my daddy's cue and make a living out of playing pool." Fisher had won "well over a hundred snooker tournaments," including 11 world titles. But back then, she couldn't scratch out a living.
"I'd heard about the American pool scene and I didn't see snooker for women going anywhere," Fisher says. "I mean, I would win a national event and get like $700 or something ridiculous." So, she flew to America. "It's paid off coming over here. I got a one-way ticket over. Played my first tournament, fell in love with it and stayed."
That was in 1995. She placed ninth at that first American event in Charlotte, North Carolina, near where she now lives. Fisher won two of the next three tourneys. Some American players jokingly complain about international competitors like Fisher, Corr, Kelly, Taiwan's Ga Young Kim (the 2004 World Champion) and others. Fisher began and ended 2004 ranked number one. From 2001 through 2003, either Fisher or Corr won every WPBA tournament but one. Fisher has won at least 47 WPBA classic tour events (as well as three consecutive 9-ball World Championships, 1996-1998), but 2004 was more challenging. Fisher won three of the seven tour tournaments and $74,500 in prize money.
She is, to her chagrin, nicknamed The Duchess of Doom.
"The queen and princess were taken, unfortunately, so I got demoted to duchess," Fisher says, jokingly. "I'd rather be known as Allison Fisher than the 'Duchess of Doom.'" Fisher supplements her tournament loot by running weekend instructional clinics in Charlotte with her friend and fellow pro Gerda "G-Force" Hofstatter of Austria, the 1995 world champion. Fisher is also sponsored by the American Poolplayers Association and by Cuetec Cues. When she's at home, Fisher likes to garden. (Duchess of Bloom?)
But her dominance on the tour isn't always a laughing matter to her competitors. "I've already told the people from Europe, 'We're gonna send ya'll back home. You need to go back home,'" says San Antonio's Vivian Villarreal, a legendary, hall-of-famer known as the "Texas Tornado" who was ranked ninth at the beginning of 2005. Villarreal takes the blame for Fisher's transfer to the United States.
"We had a Mosconi Cup [a competition between teams from the US and Europe] in [England] and Allison showed up and we were playing against her and she was complaining there was no money out there anymore for the women, just for the men," Villarreal says, with a slight Texan drawl. "I was the one who invited her to come over here and she hasn't gone back. So, I told her I would give her a one-way ticket back home. She laughs about it. She said, 'No, I'm doing just fine.' I said, 'I know you are.'"
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