http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masako_Katsura# Masako Biography

“She was a mere slip of a thing,5 feet tall and 96 pounds,but what a phenomenal billiard player!She was petite,polite,precise,feminine,charming,modest,entrancing and a scoring machine unlike any other.Masako Katsura of Tokyo on the American scene in 1951 at the age of 37 and proved that size,strength and sex need have nothing to do with cue skill.She had proved the point in Japanpounding on the male players if they were so many temple gongs,and male-dominant Japan had a hard time accepting it.American men as well still have trouble accepting defeat at the hands of a woman.

When she showed up at the 924 Club at fifth and Market in San Francisco-a wonderfully ornate and atmospheric billiard parlor that Willie Hoppe had called the best room in the country when it opened in 1909-Katsura caused a sensation.Owner Welker Cochran many times world champion in balkline and three cushion,was stunned.He had heard about her from servicemen returning from Japan,but discounted the rumors of her skill until he could watch her play in person.When he did it he came out of retirement and played a series of three cushion matches with her in portland,Kansas City,Chicago Detroit,New York and San Francisco.A year later he staged a world tournament to see how she’d do against Hoppe,Irving Crane,Joe Chamaco and other world class proffessionals.

She constantly amazes me Cochran told a reporte in Kansas,by the shots she makes and by her little inventions shich compensate for her lack of size.I knew five minutes after seeing her play in my home,even though she hadn’t touched a cue in six months that she was one of the really great.She has the touch that makes what she does appear so simple and yet is so extremely difficult.He pointed out that she not only had a flawless stroke,but perfect rythm and surprising power.”Billiards” Miss Katsura said to the reporter in broken english “is fun”.

Cochran began a week’s matches with her in San Francisco by trying to give her 10 ponts in 40.She dropped that however when it became quite obvious that she needed no help.At the Half way mark Katsura trailed only 320-331.”She’s playing phenomenal billiards” Cochran said “I dont mean phenomenal for a woman but for anybody.”

The old pro eventually took the series,scoring 543 to Katsura’s 480 in 491 innings.That a woman a diminutive one at that and one who had never before concentrated on three cushion could average 0,978 against one of the greatest players in history,had aficionados humming.Sportwriter Jimmy Cannon wrote”small but intense,was awed by Miss Katsura’s talents.”The woman hurried around in a rapid walk.Once she had surveyed the table,crinkling her forehead in meditation,there was no hesitation.The stroke was quick but unhurried.People gaized at her through the faint nicotine haze with reverence.When Miss Katsura missed a shot her eyes pulled into a squint,her face frozen into a grimace of regret.When she score the people applauded.Then her smile exposed her gold-guarded teeth.”

“If you eliminate three cushion”,Cochran claimed,”I dont think you could find five people in the world who could beat her.Her best games are straight rail and balkline,but she’ll be three-cushion champion of the world in time.She has one of the best strokes i’ve ever seen,and she shoots as well lefthanded as right handed.”

Ican vouch for her ambidexterity.When i arrived in San Francisco in 1954 i watched her practice straight rail billiards by first running 75 points righthunded then 75 points lefthanded.Danny Mcgoorty phrase it with his characteristic color”she Flips the cue back and forth like chopstick”

She was born in 1914 and took up billiards at age of 14 when her oldest sister married a room owner.It wasn’t long before she was women’s champion inJapan in straigh rail.After age 19 she confined herself to the mens tournaments and twice was runner up in the national staight rail tournament.International star Kinrey Matsuyama taught her the diamond system in three cushion and watched with pleasure her rapid progress in that form of the game.Before coming to America she had a run of 19.It was in staight rail that she reached the loftiest heights,many times running 500 from the break.In the four ball version of the game that is popular in Japan,she once run 10000 points that took four and a half hours and 27 times around the table executing the rail nurse.

Two younger sisters,Noriko and Tadako also won the the national womens championship in staight rail.In 1978 she dropped in to the palace Billiards with her friend Ed Courtney,who later became president of the Billiard Federation of the USA.A three cushion tournament was under way a good crowd was on hand and i asked her if she would step to the table and give a brief demonsrtation.”I haven’t touched a cue in ten years”she apologized.”What would i do?”

I suggested the rail nurse in straight rail.She agreed to try.Somebody handed her a schrager cue and i had the pleasure of introducing her to the audience and telling them how lucky they are.I remember what she did that night.She put the balls close to the rail and on her third shot was so out of position she had to resort to a short masse.The landing wasn’t quite right and she had to gather the balls again by driving the red four rails,which she did with exquisite perfection.There were no more inaccuracies and the feel quickly returned to those delicate hands and fingers.When she reached 100 points without a miss she smiled and bowed to the applauding crowd,stepped away from the spotlight and disappeard forever from the American billiard stage.Recently her niece arranged for her to return to Japan where she plans to spend the rest of her years with her sister Noriko,who is two years younger than Masako.

Thank you Masako for the pleasure you gave to everyone who crossed your path.Here’s to your health”

Απόσπασμα από το βιβλίο του Robert Byrne “Advanced technique in Pool and Billiards” για τη Masako Katsura.