The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|FCHS student, 16, wins another national pool tourney|
Playing on state-of-the-art professional pool tables in Las Vegas was a treat for Zach Hampton, pictured above practicing at the national tournament.
Friday, August 23, 2013
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Fresh off winning the 18-and-under boys Junior National 9-Ball Championships in Las Vegas, Rocky Mount's Zachary Hampton is now eyeing the U.S. Open pool tournament in October.
Hampton won the 14-and-under national championship last year in Wisconsin, but turning 15 put him up a notch into a more competitive category in the Vegas Billiard Education Foundation tourney, held July 25-28.
Student-athletes representing 29 states descended on the Convention Center of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, the site of the tourney. Hampton was up against 37 other players in his division.
"I figured this would be my toughest year," he said. "I had to go up against older players."
In the end, age was not a factor, but he did have a scare or two in the tourney, where the first player to win seven games is tops. Winning a game occurs any time a player hits the lowest numbered ball first and pockets the 9-ball without committing a foul.The balls must be broken and shot in order.
"I lost my second round game," he said. "That put me in the losers bracket."
And he lost to last year's top finisher, 18-year-old Chad Behnke.
As Hampton kept winning, though, he eventually played Behnke again.
"Whoever lost that game would take fifth place in the tournament and the winner would move on," he said.
Hampton won, then went on to win the rest of his games as well, including besting two other top contenders, both 18.
With the championship came a $1,000 scholarship, an engraved rack, a trophy and other prizes.
But the sophomore at Franklin County High School, who turned 16 on Aug. 16, said just being in Las Vegas and playing in a pro arena was special.
Hampton said the 9-foot pro tables are the "best you can get," and they are a little different than what he normally plays on.
"The pockets are tighter," he said, "and the blue felt is a little faster. It took some time to get used to it."
But Hampton has always been known as a quick learner.
His father, Tim Hampton, describes him as a "sponge," who watches others' techniques then practices until he can do the same thing.
Playing since he was 11, Hampton said his son was known at the Rocky Mount Bowling Center as "the kid with the white pool stick," and Zach quickly showed he had a natural talent for the game.
Besides the pool playing and competition, Zach Hampton said there was "not a lot for kids to do" in Vegas, but he enjoyed Circus Circus and the New York New York roller coaster.
"We got to see all kinds of things," he said.
The "we" included his father, his two sisters, Tiffani and Ashley Hampton, and family friend Jonathan Ailstock of Glade Hill.
Since returning from Vegas, Zach participated in a pool benefit in Bristol for a lady with cancer. She used to be a touring pro, he said.
And, of course, he practices every day at home and on weekends at Guys and Dolls on Williamson Road in Roanoke.
He also travels to regional tourneys where he can win some money, but few people want to play him now that his talents are well known.
Winning the tournament made him an automatic qualifier for the world tourney, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in December.
"Only six players (in boys and girls brackets) from this country qualified for the world tournament," he said.
Hampton said he would love to go, but it is expensive. And he does not have adequate sponsorship.
He does plan to participate in the U.S. Open for juniors, set for October in Chesapeake.
That tournament is a lot closer, he said, but has a $600 entry fee.
J. Pechauer, a pool cue company, has been a sponsor and gave Hampton about $2,000 in customized pool sticks and a case, as well as shirts and hats last year.
But Hampton said he would love to have some local sponsors to help send him to the U.S. Open and World tournaments.
Anyone wanting to be a sponsor can contact him at 540-483-1069.
In the meantime, it's practice, practice, practice, he said, even if it's by himself.
"I can't get anyone to play me," he said.
His father agreed.
"I play him, but I never get to shoot," Tim Hampton said, referring to Zach's ability to break and pocket all of the balls without missing a shot.
Maybe that's because to Zach Hampton, missing a shot is simply not an acceptable option.