They might speak softly, but they carry really big sticks... which they then use to make really big cash. The ladies of the Women's Professional Billiards Association will be shooting for $110,000 in prize money during the Cuetec Cues Florida Classicthis weekend. The showdown is one of eight events on the women's pro billiards tour that will be televised on ESPN. How is this different from the pool you're used to playing over at Jester's? Well, besides the fact that Lynyrd Skynyrd is conspicuously absent from the jukebox and there are no Budweiser stains on the tables, the ladies shoot nine-ball -- which means they play with nine balls and have to pocket them in number order.
Sixty-four sharpshooters will compete during the Catwoman-meets-the Hustler action at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Ladies still standing during the final rounds will probably include number-one-ranked Allison "Duchess of Doom" Fisher -- a blond, blue-eyed, British-born transplant who has won 90 percent of the 450-plus matches she's played in her pro career. This year alone, she's pocketed $25,500 from knocking balls into pockets. During her downtime, she runs a pool school in her adopted hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her archnemesis is Karen "The Irish Invader" Coor, who temporarily knocked Fisher from her five-year run with the world championship title. Although Coor is now just second in the rankings, she's number one with the bank account: So far this year, she's collected $26,500 -- not counting sponsorship deals.
But the third-ranked lady circling the tabletop is perhaps the most recognizable. Jeanette Lee is also called "The Black Widow" -- she dresses in black from head to toe, flips her long, black, Korean hair around, and kills almost all of her competition. Lee did for women's billiards what Anna Kournikova did for women's tennis -- got people to watch it -- and she came in third on ESPN's list of "World's Sexiest Athletes." Outside of the pool hall, Lee is a God-fearing, watermelon-eating, petite li'l thing from Indianapolis. She loves makeup, shoes, kittens, her pro pool-playing husband, George Breedlove, and their newly adopted baby, Cheyenne. But in a competitive setting, she's been known to throw some verbal darts, like this dis she tossed at Fisher during an ESPN interview: "Some people say she's like a surgeon. I call it methodical, but that's not very flattering. Let's just say, extremely consistent. But my top game is better than her top game because I have more natural talent and a bit more knowledge than her."
You, however, might want to root for the hometown honeys. There's the fifth-ranked "Texas Tornado," a.k.a. Vivian Villarreal (who is sponsored by our own Seminole Tribe of Florida) and Ming "The Empress" Ng, who's way down there in the rankings but hails from Miami. -- Deirdra Funcheon