For Craig resident Jolene Walls, billiards is more than just a game.
Walls said she instantly connected with billiards starting at 8 years old while playing with her father, Ray Perez.
“My dad got me started playing on weekends and evenings,” she said. “When I was about 12, I started playing for the Elks junior league.
“Pool is just what my dad and I did.”
When Walls turned 21, she started playing in adult pool leagues, mainly with the Yampa Valley American Poolplayers Association.
Now, at 34, Walls is running her own adult pool league Sunday and Monday nights at the Popular Bar in Craig.
When the Yampa Valley APA pool league moved to Mathers Bar in 2009, Walls started the Craig Billiards Congress of America pool league, which continued to play at the Pop.
“When the other league moved, a lot of people wanted to stay where they had been playing for years.” Walls said. “People were accustomed to the (Popular Bar) and so I wanted to have a league for us.”
In September 2009, the Craig BCA pool league started its first session with 114 players.
“We had 11 teams on Sunday and seven teams on Monday,” Walls said. “Probably about 95 percent of the players were former APA players.”
Both nights, teams comprised of five players per night play a round-robin 8-ball game with an opposing team.
The games are one-on-one, with one player shooting the one through seven solid balls and the other shooting the nine through 15 striped balls.
Walls said the main difference between the Yampa Valley APA pool league and the Craig BCA pool league is her players have to call every shot.
“I think the players advance their skills because they have to call every shot,” she said. “The players are very talented and are really good shooters.”
On Saturday, the Craig BCA pool league will be playing its City Championships for the second time.
The top two teams from each night during the regular session and two teams that won a wildcard playoff will compete for the chance to advance to the 34th Annual BCA National Tournament on May 18 in Las Vegas.
Motley Cue and Poke-N-Hope won the Sunday night league while Good Guys and Up Against the Walls won the Monday night league. Jean’s Angels and Over 60’s won the wildcard playoffs.
While any team that has played at least eight weeks of regular session play can compete in Las Vegas, the winner of the City Championships will receive prize money and help toward their travel expenses.
Kim Griffin, 38, said she started playing pool at the age of 19 in the Elks youth pool league.
“It took me many years to get the concept of pool,” she said. “It is an interesting game and nothing ever comes easy.”
Griffin said playing in the Craig BCA pool league is her time to relax.
“I have a family, a husband and three kids, so when I come play pool, it is to play for me,” she said. “Jolene and her husband (Steve) run the league great and it is a lot of fun.”
Brian Garcia, a bartender at the Popular Bar, said he started playing pool three years ago in a benefit tournament.
“I think pool really hooked with me because of the people,” he said. “I didn’t live here most of my life, so to meet all the people that knew my family and hear the great things they say about them is great.”
Garcia said the level of competition in the Craig BCA pool league is excellent.
“The competition is probably my favorite part about competing in a league,” he said. “Pool is more of a competition with yourself, but there are some good pool players that come in here.”
Walls said without the support of the players and the Popular Bar, the league would not be successful.
“We try to hold tournaments every weekend,” she said. “The Popular Bar is supportive and they work with us if we have to change things.”
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