On the left coast later this week, an Overlea woman will try to bring home the the most prestigious title the Women's Professional Billiards Association has to offer.
Just 48 competitors from around the world have earned the right to participate in the WPBA Tour Championships in Lincoln City, OR.
Among them are some of best known names in the world of women's pro billiards, some whose names you might know even if you only follow the sport casually: "Black Widow" Jeanette Lee; Xiaoting Pan; reigning world 9-Ball champion "Kwikfire" Kelly Fisher; reigning world 10-Ball champion "Little Devil Girl"Ga Young Kim; BCA Hall of Famer and reigning U.S. Open champion Allison Fisher; and newly inducted BCA Hall of Famer, the "Irish Invader" Karen Corr.
Among them will be one name you've likely never heard before: Eugenia Gyftopoulos.
Gyftopoulos, a lifelong Overlean, earned the right to compete for the title based on her standing in the J. Pechauer Custom Cues Northeast Women's Tour. Patch caught up with her at the Top Hat Cue Club on Satyr Hill Road where she spends some time practicing each week.
How did you get started playing pool?
Eugenia: I started playing back in 1992—a friend of mine needed a member for a league team. The Red Rooster on Frankford Avenue [in the Gardenville area] ... that's my roots; Then as I became more competitive I started seeking out help.
Do you have a mentor, or did you train with anyone in particular?
E: I'm fortunate in that the greatest pool player in the world lives in Maryland; Mike Sigel. I took two years of lessons with him out at Champion Billiards in Frederick. He's the one who fixed all the problems with my stroke, taught me how to execute english correctly.
(Note: Sigel, who lives in Frederick, MD, was the first person inducted into the Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame, and was a dominant pool player in the 1980's. —Ed.)
My current mentor is Robb Saez—he's a current touring pro, and the one who taught me the important of practice.
How often do you have to practice to maintain your level of play?
E: I will practice at least ten hours a week, I try to do two hours a day. I play on the weekends a lot — it might average out to be a little more. I enjoy playing, sometimes I’ll catch myself on the weekends just playing by myself for hours. There’s never one game that’s exactly the same. Every time I break it’s something different.
What are some of the things that you see amateur players doing wrong and how can they improve their game?
E: The first thing is that people are always getting up from their shot, not staying down to see it through the end—they don’t have the proper stroke or they don’t follow through. They might accidentally poke the ball, instead of getting a clean hit.
People only think about pocketing that one ball they’re at and are not making a plan ... amateurs don’t even think defensively. If you can’t run out (sink a number of balls consecutively —Ed.) you might as well play a defensive shot.
So now that you've been invited to play with some of the best women in the sport, what are your goals for the game?
E: I want to be the best that I can be. I want to be as good as Allison Fisher. I don’t really want to tour like her—I like my job.
I want to be the best female pool player in the world with a day job.
What do you do in your day job?
E: I'm an accountant for the Jemicy School [in Owings Mills]. It's an independent school for children with language based learning differences. They’re very supportive of my pool playing.
I noticed that a lot of women who play pool professionally have nicknames—what's yours?
E: I don't have one yet—people try them out on me all the time; someone suggested the 'Grecian Warrior' but that's a lot to go with my already long name.
Gyftopoulos leaves for Oregon on Wednesday. The tournament runs through Nov. 11 and, if she's successful you might catch her on ESPN which will televise the semifinal and final matches.