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Young pool shark gets his big break

November 30, 1999|By Andrew Schotz

MONT ALTO, PA.

Pool champion Richard Barney has a big break ? and it's taking him to Germany.

By winning a U.S. nine-ball championship in his age category, Richard earned a berth in a world event in November.

This month, he'll play in the U.S. Open nine-ball pool championship in Virginia.

He has won other tournaments locally ? sometimes against adults, sometimes as the youngest player to win, according to his growing résumé.

At 15 years old, Richard is fairly sure he wants a life of cue sticks, felt and corner pockets.

His coach, Walton Rosenquist of Leesburg, Va., said it might happen, whether Richard plays in tournaments, runs a pool hall or both.

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Already, Richard has enough skill and potential that his mother, Christy Sharer, has reorganized her work life to accommodate his pool playing.

There's flexibility built into their lives because Sharer home schools Richard at their Mont Alto home.

Sharer gave up a job as a restaurant manager to become a server at Red Lobster, allowing her to go with Richard to faraway tournaments.

Germany will be the farthest. Richard has never flown on an airplane.

Hagerstown Billiards & Cafe, Richard's regular pool hangout, where he's called "The Kid," is holding raffles for pool equipment and a Las Vegas trip to raise money for Sharer to go with him.

She's sure she'll go, but with the cost estimated at more than $3,000, she's grateful for the help.

"It's really nice that there are other people around that support what he's doing," she said.

While his mother speaks proudly about his success, Richard, a boy of sparse words, seems to prefer a break shot to breaking the ice.

'He's like a machine'

Using his rigid break-shot cue stick, Richard lunges his arm and torso forward, his rear leg kicking up.

hhwwWWHACK!

Richard's break is a blur like a blazing tennis serve or a whistling fastball. The cue ball crashing into the pack creates a thunderous crackle.

With a quick clack-clack, the balls careen into each other, spin and scatter.

As he lines up shots the rest of the game, Richard needs little time to stop, set himself and aim. It seems to come naturally.

Rosenquist said Richard sank five balls in a row the first time he saw him, at Hagerstown Billiards & Cafe, even though Richard was obviously new to the game.

Rosenquist, who's about five times Richard's age, saw promise and decided to teach him more.

He told Richard about shooting with "inside English," a type of spin that makes a ball curve. Richard got the knack of the difficult maneuver within a few hours.

"That just blew me away," Rosenquist said.

Richard can't quite explain how he became good at pool or why it appeals to him.

His mother remembers him getting bored with car-racing games on his video-game system. She found a virtual pool game on sale for him.

Richard liked it right away, and after a few weeks, at age 12, wanted to play the live game.

"He's got this blessed, God-given hand-eye coordination," said Chris Fiore, who works with Sharer and plays pool with Richard.

Fiore said Richard plays every day, several hours a day.

"He's like a machine," he said.

In July, Richard lost a match in the 2007 junior national nine-ball championship at Minnesota State University, for players 19 and younger. But he came back to win the bracket for players who lost one match, giving him a spot in the championship match, which he won.

His prize was a $1,000 scholarship and a trip to the junior world championships in November in Germany, another 19-and-younger event. Richard will be one of four boys and three girls representing the U.S.

"Any given day, I personally believe he can beat anybody in the world," Rosenquist said, "but that's not every day."

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