English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : May, 1912

The Billiard Monthly : May, 1912

Things That Matter in Billiards

XIX THE AMATEUR AND HIS OPPORTUNITIES

So long back as December, 1910, The Billiard Monthly
published an article under the feature “Things that Matter
in Billiards,” entitled, “The Disabilities under which Amateurs
Labour.” The article in question concluded as
follows:—”So long as amateurs who play in public, even
for a charity, where money is taken at the doors, are classed
by billiard rules as professionals, there is little likelihood of
their obtaining that practice and experience in real, strenuous
contests which are essential if they, in considerable
numbers, as well as in individual instances here and there,
are to become comparable with professionals.”

We are glad to note that this point has now been taken
up and dealt with exhaustively by “Hazard” in The
Sporting Life, whose excellent notes, with which we cordially
agree, we venture here to reproduce —
“Why do amateurs fail even to approach within measurable
distance the performances of our leading professional
experts?” I have known amateurs who practised for
four, five, and six hours almost daily, yet have rarely
attained to a “10” average. They had an abundance
of ability, but in most cases it was overshadowed eventually
by other business than knocking billiard balls about. In
this connection I remember the case of one particularly fine
amateur player. He commenced to play when but a mere
slip of a boy, and in the course of years developed perfect
stroke-playing capabilities. Constant practice with one or
two professionals made him quite a first-rate cueist. He
possessed all the elements from which really first-class players
are bred, but commercial pursuits claimed his attention, and
though he continued to play his 250 and 500 up, he improved
no further. That is one typical reason why even a first-class
amateur falls a long way short of professional ability in
billiards.

Again, amateurs lack continuity of effort. While a certain
amount of natural ability is necessary, the amateur,
even though he possess the natural aptitude to a material
degree, fails to attain professional class owing mainly to
the lack of incentive for better work. He lacks the singleness
of purpose engendered by, if I may say so, the “bread-and-butter” problem to which professional proficiency is,
in the main, subservient.

Another reason for the wide gulf between amateur and
professional billiard players may be found in the wide difference
in practice methods I have remarked there are many
amateurs who practise many hours weekly, but, when you
come to think of it, the time so spent is not practice at all,
paradoxical though it may seem. As a professional once
told me, “real practice means drudgery.” “Particular
strokes I have practised for months,” remarked the same
professional, “and the time I have spent over getting
cannons is beyond computation.”

The majority of amateurs are not systematic with their
actual play in games. They do not seem to place any value
on the importance of memorizing the correct method of
making each shot on the table.

The foregoing are a few of the reasons which, to my mind,
account for the vast disparity in the play of good amateurs
and even second and third-grade professionals, and which
may carry conviction to the mind of my correspondent, and
to others to whom the question may have suggested itself.

Possibly if amateurs and professionals were afforded the
opportunity of playing together more frequently than is the
case nowadays it would materially assist in” bridging “the
difference in the quality of their play. But under the existing
rules.—drafted, so far as this particular phase of billiards
playing is concerned, with the view of protecting the professionals’
” preserves “—” mixed “exhibition games or
matches are practically ruled out of court. In cricket and
in golf amateurs and professionals play together, to their
own mutual advantage, and to the advantage of the sport
or pastime they represent. There is very little in it
between a first-class golfing amateur and a first-class
golfing professional—likewise in cricket—and much of
this equality in ability can be attributed to the fact
that amateurs and professionals may play together without
hindrance and without loss of prestige. The day when
amateur and professional billiard players can enjoy the same
unfettered privileges as their companions on the golf
course and in the cricket field will mark an important
epoch in the bridging of the gulf that indisputably exists
between the ability of the amateur and professional billiard
player.

Another point occurs to my mind at the moment:
and that is with reference to the” coaching “of billiard
players. Most of our professional tutors do, I believe, set
up the losing hazard as the first stroke for a beginner. That
it is the best initial lesson stroke I beg leave to doubt. It
was John Roberts, I think, who once expressed the opinion
that winning hazard striking provided the best possible practice
for the neophyte at billiards. And I am inclined to
agree with the opinion. It teaches accuracy of cue and delicacy
and steadiness in aiming. To hole an object ball is quite
another thing to going in off it. You have to be so accurate
in making contact upon it that the margin for error, which
is so comparatively wide in cannons and losers, is, in the
winning hazard reduced to very small dimensions. After
the beginner has been shown how to stand and how to hold
the cue—or given a good idea of what is required for these
details of his position at the table—he ought to be put to
the winning hazard for his first plain ball-to-ball strokes.

He might begin by just a slow, straightaway, close-range
hazard, then make the range gradually longer. The direction
of the object ball would check him every time; it would
show him his faults, and tell him, if he took interest in what
he was doing, how to remedy them. Next, he could play at
medium pace, and, having had some manner of success
here take to the highest flight of all—the forcing run-on
or” stab “shots. In these strokes, any novice, if he has
aptitude for billiards at all, would get the first essential—
true cue delivery—into his head and into his cue arm. It
would instinctively make him grasp the usefulness of a
good, true aim and steady pose.


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