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Struggles of Female Billiard Champions Wise, Balukas, and Laurance

A brief story of three of the best female pool players from the 20th century and how they challenged the "boy's club" stereotypes of cue sport's past. This article was originally published in December 1996 under the title "Champions That You May Not Know". Lots has changed in the past 20 years for women in cue sports, but it is still interesting to read about the history.


Struggles of Female Billiard Champions Wise, Balukas, and Laurance

Struggles of Female Billiard Champions Wise, Balukas, and Laurance

The sport of billiards is full of familiar names. Greenleaf, Hoppe, Mizerak, Mosconi, Sigel... they roll off the tongue in a familiar mantra. Three monikers that might escape you are Wise, Balukas, and Laurance. What follows is their stories.

Wise was born in Spokane, Washington in 1914. The game of pool came easy to this player, who discovered at an early age a talent that was so good that competition became difficult to come by. Tiring of whipping every local yokel in sight, Wise began looking to get into tournament competition. This, however, proved to be difficult. You see, this player found the world of billiards prejudiced. As a matter of fact, tournament competition was out of the question. Wise really wasn't surprised at this.

You see, there were similar cases in pool history. Take Karluus, a turn-of-the-century trick shot artist beyond compare. Karluus was among the top pool shooters of the day, yet the same prejudice prevented this player from achieving the fame that was deserved. Another in a similar boat was a player by the name of McGinnis, who toured the country with Willie Mosconi in the 1930's and beat the majority of opponents who would dare challenge this prodigy. You've never heard of McGinnis? Of course not.

So, tiring of this scenario, Wise decided to make a declaration to the world: “I am the Champion.” This was not an act of arrogance, simply a true statement. There were plainly no other players in Wise's class.

There was still a specter of doubt, however. Even though nobody around questioned Wise's prowess, it was still necessary for some form of competition to confirm it. Finally, in 1967, the Billiards Congress of America sanctioned a tournament which would welcome Wise, and any other players who would dare challenge this self-proclaimed champion.

You know where this is going. Wise whipped the pants off of the competition. In fact, Wise owned this tournament for five years. Then, along came Balukas.

Balukas didn't enter that 1967 tournament. It would have been silly to let a seven year old kid play in a nationally sanctioned billiards match. However, in 1969, they did let the nine year old player enter it. The child finished seventh. In 1972, twelve-year-old Balukas won the darn thing. The trophy belonged to this champ for six more years, an astonishing seven consecutive year run.

When Balukas won that last championship in 1978, a fourteen-year-old in Sweden decided to take up the game of pool. We'll call this player Laurance, although the name at the time was Svensson. Laurance had talent, so much that in 1981, the seventeen-year-old won the European Championship in Bern, Switzerland. Laurance was asked to represent Europe at the world championship later that same year. So impressed was the young player with the United States that it became the home of this champion.

As of 1995, Laurance had won fourteen pool championships, both here and abroad. With fame in the 90's comes television appearances, and Laurance's include Letterman and Regis and Kathie Lee. Then, there is also that **No Nonsense Pantyhose commercial. **

The players mentioned in this article are May Karluus, Ruth McGinnis, Dorothy Wise, Jean Balukas, and Ewa Mataya Laurance.

Women pool players have always had a hard time of it. When pool originated in the fifteenth century, women were in the midst of a long lasting era where they were seen as subservient creatures. No self respecting man would be caught dead playing billiards with a woman. This prejudice stayed in place through the ages. Despite the fact that their presence was discouraged, societal ladies have been playing pool for two hundred years.

Why the discrimination? Well, you know the story. Men are reluctant to compete with women. What if the woman wins, ferpetesake? Also, there's that old “I go to the pool room to get away from the wife (or girlfriend). I don't want to see women there!” thing.

It wasn't until 1967 that the BCA finally relented and gave women their own championship tournament. Since then the crown has been held by a variety of talented players who, I would wager, could whip the butts off of most any man around.

The female players are to be commended for hanging in there through the years of mindless partisanship that kept them from being publicly known as great pool shooters. And, fellas? The next time the table is challenged by a woman, show some guts! Give her a chance. Play your best game. If you lose, just calmly put your fifty cents own, and study your opponent as she waxes whoever's in line ahead of you. It doesn't take testosterone to be a great pool player, just talent and hard work.

  • Title: Struggles of Female Billiard Champions Wise, Balukas, and Laurance
  • Author:
  • Published: 12/1/1996
  • Last Updated: 3/28/2017 10:19:33 PM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum (Billiards Forum)

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