GREENFIELD -- Milwaukee has a very established and active billiards community, and Romine's High Pockets in Greenfield is one of the premier billiard rooms in the country. This weekend, the best young billiards players in the country faced off at Romine's.
129 kids from 28 states filed into Romine's in Greenfield for the 24th annual BEF Junior National Championships -- the most prestigious billiards tournament in the United States, according to Laura Smith, the executive director of the Billiard Education Foundation.
It was double-elimination action with matches lasting several hours. There are four divisions: 8-14 boys and girls, and 15-18 boys and girls.
17-year-old Tyler Styer of Brookfield was one of them. Syter's billiards career began at the age of five! Styer is ranked #1 in Wisconsin, and is one of the top players in the field.
"It's one of the hardest games out there. You break, and there's never the same layout. There's always something new to the game," Styer said.
The Junior National Tournament is a nine-ball championship played on nine-foot tables. The object of the game is to hit the balls in rotation, and pocket the nine. Six athletes will advance to the world championships -- four boys and two girls.
"You get to meet so many different people, and you become friends with them and get on Facebook and stay in contact with them," 16-year-old Tessa Brown, the only girl from Texas at the Greenfield tournament, said.
"They really look forward to things like that. They win scholarship funds and prizes and we get the billiard community involved," Smith said.
"I see most of these kids five times a year and right away it's like glue. We're all together, hanging around, talking, playing," Styer said.
Billiards involves LOTS of practice, and that takes discipline, which can be tough to find in 8-18 year olds.
"I practice like, five to six hours a day before a big tournament like this. Maybe more. Make sure you're sleeping regimen is in tact and you have to be eating the right food," Styer said.
There are countless skills to master, but perhaps the most important:
"A good positive attitude, because this game is 90-95% mental, so you can't be slamming your cue around if you miss a ball or something. You just gotta stay calm and wait for your next shot," Styer said.
In fact, aggression can hinder success.
"If you get frustrated, you're going to throw your whole game off," Brown said.
There has been an emphasis on keeping the national tournaments in the Midwest, for travel convenience. Of the 64 players in his division, Styer finished fifth. Brown finished seventh.