Category: Archive

Antrim’s Corr atop world women’s pool rankings

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The Irish Invader — otherwise known as Karen Corr — was facing an old rival in the Women’s Professional Billiard Association final, held recently at the Amsterdam Billiard Club on New York’s Upper East Side: the UK’s Allison Fisher, otherwise known as the Duchess of Doom.
Fisher cleaned up: Corr barely got a chance to wield her cue in the seven-game spat, which Fisher won six games to one.
“I didn’t get many opportunities at the table,” Corr said with a slightly weary smile afterward.
Still, when she did step up to the table, Corr got a chance to show two things: the game’s complete unpredictability and the fierce talent that makes her the No. 1-ranked female pool player in the world.
Her shots, on this occasion many of them cruel safety plays that left Fisher momentarily stumped, were selected and played with a steely deliberation.
Corr, originally from Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, has been playing the U.S. professional circuit since 1998, and has been playing snooker and pool since she was a teenager. Her family moved to England when she was 8 years old.
She is not alone on the U.S. circuit. He good friend and fellow player, the No. 10-ranked Julie Kelly is also playing the U.S. — at the Amsterdam, Kelly, from County Wexford, was also felled by Fisher earlier in the tournament.
“I used to play in the professional circuit in England,” Kelly explained.
Corr did as well. Kelly won the 2000 World Title, and in 2001, Corr played such a great game that she won every classic tour on the U.S. professional circuit.
It is hard to get Corr to speak about the game, or her technique. She maintained a focused silence, especially in the run-up to a final.
“You get to work really hard at the game,” she said, during a break in the tournament. “When you break, you have to map out the table and let the break lead you. You choose to play a ball or play for safety.”
Fisher’s game as well as Corr’s illustrated this. When Fisher broke the nine-ball diamond, in almost every game she pocketed two balls with the break. Lively and relaxed, Fisher was a sharp contrast to Corr, whose style is more careful, deliberate and — when she’s not up against the Duchess of Doom having a good day — devastating.
Cleaning up two balls with the break gives a considerable advantage to the player, Kelly said.
“The worst Karen can do here is come second,” she said with a smile just before the final at the Amsterdam. “It’s just whoever gets the advantage.”
Advantage, and the game, went to Fisher.
“People don’t realize what missing a ball means,” Kelly said. “It can destroy your confidence.”
Corr nodded in agreement. The two friends compared notes on what the move to the U.S. in 1998 meant for them.
“I didn’t realize how big America was until I had to travel a lot of it to qualify,” Corr said. “Sometimes the travel catches up with you. You miss family and friends from home. But I’m doing quite good at the moment.”
Kelly herself had a particularly tough move to the U.S. To finance it, she sold her flock of sheep, each of which she knew by name. (Still, she gets a kick out of telling people that she’s the first sheep farmer to be a world champion pool player.)
Although she left Ireland when she was only 8, Corr retains a strong interest in her Irishness. On her web site, karencorr.net, she has quoted a famous Irish proverb:
“May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
Besides, her nickname of choice, the Irish Invader, leaves fans and foes in no doubt of where her sympathies lie.
Both players said that they practice intensively, as much as five or six hours a day.
“You won’t break an ankle at pool,” Kelly said. “But you could break a finger, and that could end your career. And the back — people can suffer a lot from all the bending over the table.”

Running the table
As Corr stared intently at the table during the final, Fisher went to work and cleaned up the balls, her demeanor casual making the game look utterly easy. The friendly crowd cheered both players equally and sipped bottles of Bud and glasses of scotch.
Then, long silences broken only by the clack of cue and ball.
“A lot of people here are pool players themselves,” Kelly said during a break. “So they know a lot more about what’s going on in each game.”
Fisher’s cue ball swung effortlessly behind her next target after each shot.
Corr sat cross-legged, focused, determined. It was a lesson in what makes pool such a frustrating yet fascinating game: each break left Fisher with a set of choices equally determined by her skill as a player and the sheer chance aligning of the balls.
“The score is now 3-nil in favor of Miss Fisher,” the event’s announcer said.
Corr still had a chance, but it was not to be: each time she got to the table, she had to play a safety shot, and Fisher slipped back into the game, winning six to one: not an auspicious final for the Irish Invader, but Corr was still able to hang on to her slot as top-ranked player in the world.
Before the game started, the announcer praised Corr and Kelly as two of the world’s players, and reminded the crowd: “whatever the outcome of the game, you know that these two ladies will go and have a beer afterward.”
After the Amsterdam tournament, the two Irish players were Pennsylvania-bound, to their U.S. base, where Corr said they would relax — and practice — until the next tournament, December in Miami.

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