By William DeYonker
When Andy Segal announced on July 1st, 2016 that the World Trick Shot Championships Qualifiers was going to be a dual qualifier, which includes a ESPN Qualifier tournament, I thought at first that I would never be able to make it due to having no access to a pool table for practice — all other pool tables in the area were either too small, required a pay of $10 an hour, only coins for coin slot tables, or driving 45 minutes to Aspen Billiards in Aspen that have a couple 9 ft. tables.
I was interning in Carbondale, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains for my bachelor’s degree in Broadcast and Cinema Arts at Madonna University. It was a video media company called True Media Foundation, and I was required to intern at a company like True Media to graduate from Madonna. I only have my pool case containing a few cues and two Delta-13 Elite racks in case I was going to do trick shot shows with my True Media Director/Supervisor Chris Tribble, his family and their friends within the area.
If I hadn’t brought my cues and racks, I never would’ve been able to fly all the way to Southington, Connecticut just to compete for the spot. So during this time period, I practiced whenever I could in between interning at True Media and online schooling.
For two weeks, I practiced at the home of a retired artist and sculpture named Jack Brendlinger, who owned the pool table in his rec room. He would let me come in and practice for as many hours as I needed until I was done for the day. I didn’t even realize the 9ft Olhausen table would be right across the highway from me on the day of the announcement by Andy!
During the ESPN Qualifier competition day at Shooter’s Billiards, I had very little to no sleep at the Motel 6 and I still played lights out the whole entire day. I’d beaten nearly every competitor including, Jamey Gray and surprisingly, Nick Nikolaidis, up until the finals where I earned the spot as fourth player for ESPN Trick Shot Magic this year. The only surprising part was Matthew “The Stinger” Webber beating me in one match before the playoffs! This is his first year competing at 15 years old. :O
Afterwards, I had to pick 25 shots to submit for ESPN and were mostly high percentage shots that I could make within two attempts. After Andy, Jamey, Gabi and I submitted our 25 shots each, we had to practice all 100 trick shots for a month! I practiced about 10 to 20 hours a week throughout all 100 shots. If I see a shot that looks like it’s impossible to me, then I just skip those and concentrate on others.
On the day of the competition at the Taj Mahal, I was a little nervous about competing against Andy Segal. I came close to beating him before, but never competing against him in front of cameras. Not to say, I wasn’t use to being in front of cameras. (After all, I was learning videography and television for Broadcast and Cinema Arts at Madonna University.)
Each shot I picked I knew would have to be high percentage shots because the goal is to ultimately make 80% of your shots on television. I ended up missing only one shot. In my book, that’s more than 80% .
During our match, I played all of my six shots and most of them were made on the second attempt. I came close to missing them and really felt the nerves start to overtake me. So then on each one, I just let my mind and body do the shot naturally, and somehow it worked. Andy and I had tied throughout the first-half and then had a very close match where he was one point ahead of me during the second half.
Even though I lost against Andy, Gregg Hovey, ESPN coordinators and associates told me that I played great! They also said I brought excitement and enthusiasm to the arena.
What I got out of the match is that, I’m the youngest player to get a spot on ESPN Trick Shot Magic. Not only that, I’m the first autistic trick shot artist to get on ESPN. That’s a huge accomplishment in my perspective because not many kids with autism can achieve what I’ve accomplished so far, and the only people that have helped me get to where I am today with my disability are my parents and my step-dad.
I look forward to more future ESPN competitions and after the day of the tournament, I knew I would be competing on ESPN for many years to come!
*William DeYonker is sponsored by Healthline Chiropractic, Susan Blaskay.