INNISFAIL – After two games on the first full day of 8-ball championship play, Leah Carroll was already experiencing the emotional highs and lows of elite competition.
Pool is serious business at this level, and Carroll just lost her first game after opening the tourney with a win.
The 50-year-old pool player from Victoria, B.C. was the lone female entry in the 40-player, 10-team Dominion 8-Ball Pool Championships that was held for the first time at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 from May 26 to 28.
“I’ve played in several B.C. tournaments, went to Las Vegas and participated in a world championship there,” said Carroll, who competed with husband Shawn. “But this is my biggest for Canada.”
The Innisfail tourney was the first one since 2019 the local Royal Canadian Legion branch has held.
Innisfail was supposed to host the tournament in 2020 but it was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This feels good. I was supposed to come out to Innisfail to represent Dominion command at that time, and finally we made it,” said Keith Andrews, past-president of Saskatchewan command who was representing the Dominion command sports committee. “The players are all having a great time. The (Innisfail) committee worked really hard, and did an excellent job. I'm really pleased with the way things have gone.”
This year’s Dominion 8-ball tourney featured a total of 40 players on 10 four-player teams.
Nine of the teams represented each Canadian province, except Quebec.
The 10th team was host Innisfail Branch #104. The four-player Innisfail squad was represented by Norm Lundgren, Terry Davis, Gary Davidson and Jeff Turner.
Lundgren said having a national tournament in town will give the local legion an exposure boost, which will then help the ongoing effort to increase membership.
“It’s a good game. There are so many different variations; 9-ball, snooker, 8-ball. There is a broad range,” said Lundgren. “A lot of these players just got back from Las Vegas, and different things like that, along with their regular leagues back in their province.”
That high-level competitive skill was noted by everyone involved, notably Owen Harder, Branch 104’s 2nd vice-president and chair of the host committee.
“It’s high, very high. I don't see some of these guys (as) professional, but some of them have been making money at it. I wouldn’t try playing against them,” said Harder, noting the tourney’s importance for the Innisfail legion.
“Financially, we're not going to get much. It may cost us a little bit. But we get the recognition. We get all these people here. It's bragging rights,” he said. “We've been applying just about every year for a lot of years. This is the first one (Dominion) we've had since we got cribbage in 2012.”
As for the 40 players, there was no big money but they were all guaranteed 27 games for the chance to claim a national singles, doubles and team championship.
When it was over Ontario’s Brian Belobradic was crowned singles champion. The Nova Scotia pair of Lawrence Borden and John Dugas claimed the doubles title and the Ontario squad of Belobradic, Patrick N. Yarush Sr., Harry Langkraer and Patrick D. Yarush Jr. won the team title.
As for Leah Carroll she was ecstatic to claim her first big dose of local hospitality before Innisfail becomes her new home this summer.
“We've been welcomed with open arms. In fact, I've already got my nail tech, my hairdresser. I got asked to run as an executive on the legion committee and my husband got his first house painting job,” Carroll said with a big smile. “It’s a good start.”