"If she doesn't want to play pool," says her father earnestly, "she doesn't have to play. I don't believe in that."
He further explained that the great Willie Mosconi told him never to push his daughter. "Mosconi had a daughter who played pool and he said he pushed her a little bit and now she won't pick up a stick."
Miss Balukas' chances for the world championship were threatened on the second day when she fell far behind Miss Byrd. When Miss Byrd ran into some bad luck, however, the 13-year-old rallied and won. "She's got the guts to shoot any shot," commented Donna Ries.
Watching women pool players, even good ones, is a tedious business. They often play safety shots because of poor position. "Like I don't know how to play position," admitted Jean Balukas. "It seems like men can think a couple of balls ahead." Consequently, the men are able to run more than 100 balls on occasion, while the best women are happy to run 20 (men play 150-out games, women only 75). Mrs. Wise once ran 82 balls in a match game but she admits that it has been over a year since she ran even 50 in practice.
"Men have been in the poolroom for 100 years," points out Madelyn Whitlow. "Women are still new to it. It's a little early for them to play as well as men. but I think they could. You don't need strength. You have to have a good mind. You have to have a lot of concentration and you have to have coordination. There's a future for women in pool, and right now we're at the point where it's just beginning."
Mrs. Whitlow's future, dim after that first-day upset, kept getting brighter as the tournament progressed. Not so for Mrs. Wise, who alternated taking off and putting on her glasses as she looked for a solution to her ragged play. Against Mrs. Titcomb, Mrs. Wise was helpless, losing 75-32. "My game isn't as strong as it used to be," she said. "I knew that before I came." She looked fatigued from the effects of several personal appearances she made during the week.
Mrs. Wise told how she had undergone acupuncture treatment by a Chinese physician in San Francisco twice in recent weeks to relieve an attack of bursitis in her shoulder. "Some people-back home didn't even want me to come here because they didn't want me to get beat. But I don't feel that way. If you get beat, you come back and try again next year."
The next day, against the tenacious Mrs. Whitlow, Mrs. Wise put on another shallow imitation of her true game and was eliminated. "You don't know how much I'm going to play next year," she vowed. "I guess I'm going to have to move to the East Coast so I can play more tournaments."
Meanwhile, Jean Balukas was slicing through the competition like a pigeon's cue stick through a felt tabletop. She beat Donna Ries, running 12 balls and out at the end of the match, and topped Mrs. Titcomb on Friday, breaking out to a 40-8 lead and coasting. At one point, she ran 20 balls. "Now they have to beat me two games," she said.
Nobody beat her even one. The finals in the loser's bracket matched Mrs. Whitlow and Mrs. Titcomb for the somewhat dubious honor of facing Miss Balukas for first place. Mrs. Whitlow moved ahead, rallying after Mrs. Titcomb had built an early lead, and won 75-69.