In my view, billiards is one sport where age does not matter in order for one to excel.
As a matter of fact, several former winners of the prestigious World 9-Ball Pool Championship, like Americans Earl Strickland and Johnny Archer, Chinese Taipei’s Chao Fong-pan, Germany’s Ralf Souquet and local idols Efren “Bata” Reyes, Alex Pagulayan and Ronnie Alcano, may be considered old for an athlete, yet they are good for some more years.
While it is true that there are other sports such as chess and marathon where age does not also matter, it is on record that a Filipino is yet to become a world champion in these sports. In billiards, the Philippines has already produced three world champions.
Hall of Famer Reyes was already 45 when he captured the world crown in Cardiff, Wales, in 1999. He is now 54.
Supported by brothers former Assemblyman Jose “Popit” Puyat and Aristeo “Putch” Puyat, the toothless “Magician” is an original member of the powerhouse Puyat Sports stable that includes the 58-year-old Jose “Amang” Parica, Francisco “Django” Bustamante, 44; and 50-year-old Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat, who topped the recent Sen. Manny Villar Cup in Bacolod City.
Pagulayan, the 2004 world champion and 2005 US Open winner, is the latest addition to the team.
“His (Reyes) style is so drastically different,” once said the legendary Nick Varner, a two-time Billiards Digest Player of the Year. “He attracts a lot of attention. And he has a big impact on the way we Americans play the game.”
On the other hand, double world champion Alcano, who bagged the 2006 world 9-ball crown and the 2007 world 8-ball title, is now 35. Pagulayan, who won the 2004 world 9-ball and 2005 US Open crowns, is pushing 29.
Veteran internationalist Strickland is now 47, but still going strong. He won the world 9-ball title three times, in 1990, 1991 and 2002. Archer, 40, captured the championships twice, in 1992 and 1997.
On the other hand, two-time champion Chao, a contemporary of Reyes, took the crown in 1993 and 2000, while Souquet won it in 1996. Both are nearing 60, yet they are still capable of punishing young talents with their arsenals of flawless breaks, silk-smooth runs and merciless safeties.