By Doug Gorman
Almost everybody at one time or another has picked up a pool cue, chalked up the tip of the stick and attempted to shoot one of the balls into one of the side pockets on a green-covered felt table.
Whether it's a game played at the local bar and grill, or down in the privacy of a friend's basement, the sport of pool (billiards) has been around in some form for more than a century.
It's a game enjoyed by an eclectic group of men, women and children.
But the sport has not always conjured up positive images. Hollywood often sets a game of pool in some back-alley, smoke-filled room where a "pool shark" tries to hustle money out of his unsuspecting victims.
But that's really not what the game enjoyed by millions of men, women and children is all about.
Just ask the members of Bonnie's Boys, a local 8-ball team named for one of its players Bonnie Hull. The seven-person squad made up of Bonnie Hull, Dave Loring, Martin Seay, Tommy Dukes, Kyle Kesack, Kermit Hull and Jack Carrera plays in the American Poolplayers Association out of Uncle Sam's' restaurant in McDonough on Monday nights.
For this group of pool enthusiast, there is no illegal, under-the -table betting, or the kind of language being used that would make even a sailor blush.
When you join the APA, you play the game with passion, but also with integrity or you and your team don't stick around very long.
"It's all about sportsmanship and having fun," Kermit Hull said. "I compare it to a bowling league. You go and have fun. You do the best you can."
If you are one of the seven members of the Bonnie's Boys, you are also very good at your craft.
Bonnie's Boys qualified recently for the APA National Championships in Las Vegas. The squad will put its pool skills up against as many as 1,000 other teams, including squads from Japan and Canada.
"The image of playing pool is changing," Kermit Hull said. "I have been in some of those pool halls with the gambling and all sorts of other stuff. It used to be you would never take a lady to a place like that, but here we are very family oriented. They have really been good to us here at Uncle Sams. He has even said, if we continue to grow, he will put in more tables."
Part of the APA's code of conduct is sportsmanship. Simply put, you follow the rules, or you pay the price.
According to the APA official website, the reason the league, which has been around since the 1970s when it started in St. Louis, is so successful is the unique handicapping and scoring system that is used, allowing players with lesser ability to compete with the better player on an even level.
Bonnie's Boys certain fits that category.
"Some of us on the team have been playing a number of years," Bonnie Hull said. "We put four us on this team about five years ago, and we added three new players this last time.
According to the team's namesake and only woman in the group, the squad came together at the right time en route to the success.
"For a team to have three new players and to make it to Las Vegas is highly unusual," she said.
Bonnie has been playing the game since 1996 and there is one aspect about the sport she particularly likes.
"I really enjoy it because a woman has as much chance as a man because it doesn't require any strength," she said. "It only requires ability."
After winning its own league on Monday nights, Bonnie's Boys still had more work to do to get out to Las Vegas.
The road to the national championship included, winning their section, division and a tournament called the City Cup.
Now all roads lead to Las Vegas where they will play almost every day from Aug. 21-29.
"We feel very honored and privileged to go," she said. "The league is very good about helping us. They are paying for the flight."
She sees continued growth in the sport.
"There are whole families of pool players," she said. "They have kids and it gets passed down to their kids." They will get married and then maybe their husbands or wives will start to play too."
The team says they are always looking for new players to join the league or a team. For more information, interested players can contact Kermit Hull at 770-808-1474, and he says he will gladly answer any questions about the league.