Local pool player Joan Cancino sets up and takes aim during a Monday night league game at Scott & Ar's in Ashland.

Pool is often overlooked in the headlines of the sports landscape, but varieties of the game remain popular across the globe, as well as right here in our neck of the woods.

The past several years especially have given rise to a number of pool tournaments in the area, and perhaps none is bigger than the Barrel Inn Fall Open, which is running for the fifth straight year this weekend.

“I used to run it at Christmastime, and I just moved it closer to my birthday because my birthday is in October,” tournament organizer Richie Carbon said. “And I actually changed the date this year because … Whistlestop was the weekend before, and the rooms are double in town, and we have folks from out of town.”

This year’s Fall Open began Friday evening with a 9-ball competition, while the 8-ball tournament runs today starting at 11 a.m. Both events are double-elimination format, and though limited to 32 participants, Carbon has once again worked hard to bring in some of the best players from across the region to make the tournament as competitive as possible.

“Two years ago we had the national champion for the ACS (American CueSports Alliance), Darrell Fredrickson. We have a five-time state champ. I have another guy coming who took third in the BCA (Billiard Congress of America), Chad Folken. I know he took third at nationals five years ago, and there’s 5800 players there. It’s a small little field, but there are four or five of the top players in the top half of the state, anywhere north of Highway 8, I would say. And I grab a lot of the Twin Ports players, so it’s pretty good.”

Of course, pool in the community doesn’t stop with the Fall Open, and numerous pool leagues in Ashland and the surrounding area are up and running for much of the year.

“Ashland offers a Monday night mixed league, which is WAMO (Wisconsin Amusement and Music Operators), with four -person teams and anybody can play,” Carbon said. “It’s handicapped and becomes fair after a few weeks. There’s a Tuesday night all-women league in our town, and a Wednesday rural league, and they travel to all the bars in southern Ashland County and Bayfield County a little bit.

“On Thursday nights I offer a 10-week in-house league between Scott & Ar’s, Office Bar and the Barrel Inn, and we’re a WSPA (Wisconsin State Poolplayers Association), MPA (Midwest Poolplayers Association) and ACS-sanctioned league. Two years ago our women went out and won nationals at ACS. Most leagues start in the fall, and they run until early spring.”

It comes as no surprise that cue sports remain incredibly popular in this northern climate, or that this area produces some of the best players in the country.

“It’s cold,” Carbon said. “What else are you going to do in the winter? It’s amazing the farther north you get, the more they play pool and the better they are, stuck indoors at night. We have really good pool players, and we’re lucky.”

And while there are other pool tournaments in the Chequamegon Bay, for Carbon, it’s just a blast trying to recruit the best of the best to come play in our little corner of the state once a year.

“You try to draw people, and we try to offer a few more through the year,” Carbon said. “There are mixed couples through the years. Scott & Ar’s has a good one. Zar’s throws a good mixed couples (tournament), but it’s mostly all local. This one I get some top-notch players. Half the field is local and guys from Twin Ports. The bar adds $200 thanks to Tammy at the Barrel Inn, and she usually puts out a spread of food for us, so we always have a good time. There’s a little purse to win, but it’s 100 percent paid back. All entry fees are paid back, and you get a chance to win some more. I have a few studs coming, but the Ashland boys can hang with them. It will be a good time.”

The Fall Open 9-ball tourney begins today at 11 a.m. at the Barrel Inn, which is located at 50840 Highway 112 in Ashland.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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