Having played billiards in Las Vegas before, Val Tuthill said the experience was worth another trip.
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” Tuthill said. “You walk into a tournament room with 100 pool tables and with teams from all over the United States and Canada. It is truly unbelievable.”
Tuthill’s team, Rock Out With Your Chalk Out, competed in the Yampa Valley American Poolplayers Association championships May 21 and 22 at Mathers Bar.
After winning the eight-team competition, Tuthill will be returning to Vegas to play in the APA National Team championships from Aug. 18 to 27 in Las Vegas.
“Our team played awesome over the weekend,” she said Wednesday. “The final match was the toughest and everyone made the right choices.”
Tuthill is captain of the team, which also includes Savino Corral, Paul Zywicki, Chris Katers, Tammy Shupp and Chris Roberts.
The team plays in the Steamboat Springs weekly league, but Tuthill said the team competes at Mathers Bar often.
“We have all been good friends for years and we welcomed Chris (Katers) this year,” she said. “We have all been playing together for awhile and decided to get a team going. Now, we are going to Vegas.”
Michelle Reed, the league operator, said everyone brings their best game to the championships.
“During league play, everyone has fun and has a good time,” she said. “At the championships, it starts fun, but the further the players get in, the more serious they get. If they win, we give them travel assistance to get to Vegas and it is a huge accomplishment.”
Three teams from the Craig weekly league competed in the tournament — High on the Horse, Ball Droppers and Drinking Time. Ball Droppers led the Craig teams by finishing third.
During weekly league play, Reed said teams of up to eight people compete in 8-ball or 9-ball formats. The league play can last between 10 and 16 weeks with a two-week playoff at the end.
Most importantly, Reed said, anyone can come and play.
“Our motto is everyone can play and anyone can win,” she said. “We have people that are from skill level 2 all the way up to skill level 7, which is the highest. But, our league is designed for anyone to play and win because no one wants to come back if they never win.”
The league, Reed said, has about 100 players from Craig, Steamboat Springs and Rifle.
Teams play in three different sessions — summer, fall and spring. The summer session started Tuesday and Reed said the league is still accepting teams.
Tuthill said she got involved with the Yampa Valley APA about 20 years ago.
“I was bowling and my boyfriend at the time was playing pool,” she said. “We decided to try each other’s activity and I just got hooked. The camaraderie with pool is amazing and I met a lot of close friends.”
Since she started, Tuthill said she kept practicing and working hard to make it to Vegas.
“I had to keep shooting and ask for advice while never giving up,” she said. “You have to watch people and adapt to your own style and always practice.”
After seeing the skill level put on display at the championships, Reed said billiards has come a long way.
“When people think of pool, they think of older men smoking cigars in a dark pool hall,” she said. “It isn’t like that anymore. We have people of all ages and genders who come and just enjoy the game.”
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