Originally, the World Championship Artistic Pool Tournament was planned for Puerto Rico, but a twist of fate, and a local player’s ties to the community, are bringing as many as 21 world-class trick-shot players to Bay City.
Jason Lynch, aka “The Michigan Kid,” says the community has met the tournament with great enthusiasm.
“We had sponsors that came out of the woodwork,” including Statewide Billiards
, which is based in Pinconning.
Lynch says organizers hope to fill the Boys and Girls Club of the Great Lakes Bay Region, on 300 W. Lafayette Ave., to capacity each of the three days of the tournament, Feb. 7-10.
Spectators can expect to see something akin to an Olympic sport.
Since 2000, the World Pool Association has recognized artistic pool as a legitimate cue sport, Lynch says. While artistic pool involves the same balls and cue sticks found in 8-ball or 9-ball tournaments, there is a different set of skills needed for each shot.
“Artistic pool is broken up into eight disciplines,” Lynch says, explaining it is much like gymnastics which has eight disciplines in the Olympics. “We have eight different types of shots we shoot in our tournaments.”
In artistic pool, players shoot trick and fancy shots, special arts shots, draw shots, follow shots, bank and kick shots, stroke shots, jump shots, and masse or curve shots.
Lynch, who is a champion at draw shots, says when he hits the cue ball, part of the shot is to get the cue ball drawing back against the natural roll. With that, he can set three different balls rolling into three different pockets, while the cue ball lands in the perfect spot to set up the next shot.
He says it’s all about precision.
Mike Hewitt, one of the players who will also be part of the tournament, explains, “You have the game of pool, but the game of artistic pool really narrows down the shot. You have a pool shot, but then you’re setting up another shot to make three balls (at once).”
A former direct care worker, Lynch got started shooting in artistic pool tournaments back in 2000, when he did a 24-hour world record attempt for the Guinness Book of World Records.
“I didn’t make the record, but raised $1,100 to $1,200 for the American Cancer Society.”
Lynch said he found the website of a man named Tom Rossman
and wrote to Rossman about the fundraiser. Rossman, known as “Dr. Cue,” is considered the founding father of artistic pool. Lynch explained what he could do to Rossman.
The next thing Lynch knew, he was invited to a tournament in Connecticut.
After his first two tournaments, Lynch says he was invited to the World Championship at the Bicycle Club Casino in California.
Since then, “pool has taken me around the world,” Lynch says.
As part of the Artistic Pool Tournament Circuit, Lynch ranks as the number 2 player in the world. That’s okay with him. “I’m blessed enough to be number two in the world – that’s the Lord’s ranking, not mine.”
Along with shooting artistic oool tournaments, Lynch and Hewitt are also members of a gospel trick shot team known as the RACK Team.
“The RACK Team stands for Recreational Ambassadors to Christ’s Kingdom,” says Hewitt, who is also Senior Pastor of Rising Hope Church in Muncie, Ind. “We go many places that many church missionaries aren’t invited to, or simply can’t go,” he says.
Most recently, the trick shot team, which includes many of the trick shot champions, went to Tangier, Morocco.
“It was the first time the U.S. sent a team in the World Black Ball Championships. They knew what our message is – that they’re going to hear about Jesus, and hear and see trick shots that have a Biblical principle to them,” Hewitt says.
Lynch says the premise behind gospel trick shots is fairly simple. They set up the shot using a verse from the Bible. For example, the parting of the Red Sea or the Psalm 46:10 verse, “Be still and know that I am God.”
While they aren’t able to bring a Bible into some places, these tricks let them bring its words.
“I’m going to explain what’s happening with the shot, so it’s really the only vocal aspect of cue sports.”
Through their cue sticks, they are able to talk about their faith, even in areas where Christianity is not welcome. For example, they once took RACK and its message to a men’s prison.
“It’s an opportunity, with pool to go into places where someone with a Bible wouldn’t be able to get into,” says Lynch. “If you came into a pool room with a Bible, they’d roll you out of there on a rail.”
Even when the game isn’t about the Bible, it’s still not just about shooting balls into pockets..
“You have to have a good foundation, a stroke, and knowledge of the game, so it’s a game of the table,” Hewitt says. “And it’s a game of the mind. Then there’s a heart aspect. When we are teaching the game, we’ll spend time looking at those three aspects. Because if your heart's not in it, eventually you’re going to be done. If mentally, if you’re mind isn’t there, that’s going to be disastrous.”
Rossman has said he hasn’t missed a ball in 30 years, but Hewitt says Rossman isn’t talking about what’s on the table.
“Of course, he’s missed a ball on the table, but because he has that mental game of winning in his mind and in his heart, it doesn’t matter,” Hewitt says.
“People will say you just missed that shot, but what we say is ‘No, I just created a new shot.’ We understand that to play this game well, as Christ’s ambassador, we’re going to play it with our heart, we’re going to play it with our mind, and, of course, we’re going to play it with skill.”
Backed up by the team’s mantra, “Play skillfully with a shout of joy,” from Psalm 33:3, Lynch says winning or losing doesn’t matter.
“Even if you lose on the table, you don’t lose, because you never lose in your heart.”
Lynch is excited to bring the Artistic Pool World Championships to his hometown while benefitting the Boys & Girls Clubs. The $5 daily admission fee benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs.
For details on the tournament and schedules, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wpaapd
or visit the website https://www.wpa-apd.org/