FORT WAYNE – Grand Wayne Center’s formal ballroom has transformed into a pool hall this weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, dozens of competitors bearing cues hunched over 80 green-topped tables lined up in rows for the 10K Challenge Midwest Invitational tournament.
The event brought about 700 amateur players to downtown Fort Wayne, according to organizer Troy Jones of Muncie.
Jones said players, all members of the American Poolplayers Association, came from throughout Indiana as well as from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Beginning Thursday night, players could compete as individuals in eight- and nine-ball events, Scotch doubles and team tourneys.
The five-person team tournament carries a $10,000 prize funded by entry fees, Jones said. It will be awarded today, he said.
That’s a huge prize, said Jones, who has run pool tournaments in Fort Wayne at Break & Run, 1555 Goshen Road.
But he said he’d never organized anything as large as this weekend’s invitational, which he said was a testament to the popularity of pool.
At this amateur level, it is growing, he said.
Dean Johnson of Niles, Mich., an APA local-level league operator in Michigan’s St. Joseph County, said competing pool organizations’ national tournaments – not regional ones – offered as much in prizes.
This was a draw, he said of the prize pot, adding that no one among the competitors is a professional. Participants are the kind of players you might find at a neighborhood bar, he said.
Kim Doty said she came to the event from the South Bend area to compete as an individual in eight-ball.
She said she’s been playing since 2001 and trying to be competitive.
It’s a work in progress, like anything else in life, she said.
Jerry Reel, 44, a construction worker from Muncie, said he’s just getting started.
Reel said he’d been playing in an APA league at Byrd Landing Bar & Grill in Muncie for about a year. But this was his first big tournament.
This is to get more experience and play more and different people, he said.
It gives us amateurs an outlet. We’re not pros. But someday we might be.