It’s 4:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep. Last night I witnessed something that really shocked me. I almost never name names in my blog, because the purpose of my blog is not to be a news source for the pool industry, nor is it to call out any player’s performance (either good or bad) that I happen to see while attending tournaments or otherwise. However, there are those rare occasions when rules must be broken, or maybe bent just a little bit. This is one of those occasions.
Yesterday I attended the first stop of the Tiger West Coast Women’s Tour at California Billiards. I showed up at the start of the first day to be supportive of the tour and to cheer for several of my friends who are competing in the tournament. Because I’m such a pool nut, and a big proponent of excellence and self-improvement, I often watch tournament matches and take notes on player performances. My goal with the note taking is three-fold: (1) it allows me to practice analyzing another person’s game to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, (2) it forces me to think about and analyze my own game to identify things that I need to work on, and (3) in the event that I am able to strike up a conversation with the player after the match, it gives me the opportunity to provide the player with constructive criticism to help them improve their overall performance.
Yesterday I watched a few matches and took notes just like always. For each player I diligently recorded areas of strengths and areas that needed work. Then, late Saturday afternoon, I sat down to watch a particular match, and my note taking stopped. Completely. Whereas for most players I immediately identify items that need work (stance, stroke mechanics, shot pattern selection, safety play, etc.), in this case, I sat watching for over 30 minutes…and I saw nothing that needed to be improved. Nothing. I was mesmerized. After 30 minutes of watching the match, I turned my head to a friend sitting next to me who prides himself in his ability to clock other peoples’ games. With a look of shock on his face, he just returned my stare. He saw it too. No words were exchanged. No words were needed. We both knew we were witnessing something extraordinary… EXCELLENCE. Excellence personified. Excellence personified in the body of a young woman from Iowa named Rachel Byrket. Her stroke mechanics were nearly flawless. The smoothest I’ve ever seen. Her safety play was superior to any man I’ve seen recently, and she almost never missed a shot. And she’s only 21. The feeling that I got watching Rachel play was reminiscent of the feeling I got the first time I saw Jesse Engel play..pure joy and amazement. What impressed me the most was her mental prowess. She seemed completely oblivious to the pressure of the match. I had the opportunity to speak with her after one of her matches, and it turns out that she is quite an extraordinary young woman…very down to earth, very approachable, very intelligent, and very driven. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of her, but you will soon. I am going on the record now with my prediction that in a few short years Rachel will be the new face of women’s pool. She has the talent, she has full support from her family, and she has the desire to compete and win. So, step aside Black Widow and step aside Duchess of Doom. There’s a new young gun rising up behind you, and one day soon, Rachel is going to be THE very best.