Senior pool players head for Vegas

July 31, 2013

A Sussex County 8-ball team, the Outcasts, recently pocketed $2,000 in prize money and took second place in the Delaware franchise of the American Poolplayers Association. The Outcasts divide a $5,500 travel allotment and head to Las Vegas to compete in the APA’s National Team Championships Aug. 15-24. The APA is the world’s largest pool league, and this is its premier annual event. More than 750 teams, including some from Canada and Japan, will be aiming for bragging rights and a first-place prize of $25,000 in the 8-ball division.

Joe Mangini, co-captain of the Outcasts, and Diana Roche, captain, are also league operators of the Southern Delaware Senior Billiard League, where the minimum age is 50. Fred Ruff, John Ruff, Wayne Saulsbury, Larry Siple and Joe Thomas are other Outcasts who also play in the SDSBL. Eighty-one-year-old Del Morris is the only team member who does not also play in the senior league.

The minimum age to compete in the APA is 21, so the Outcasts have been regularly competing against younger players. However, the group was not organized as a senior dream team to compete in the APA. In fact, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision which brought the group together less than two years ago. At the time, some players had never played in either league, and a few had never even met each other. Also, while some Outcasts had played pool for half a century, others had only played a couple of years. Nevertheless, this patchwork team of seniors has been racking up honors from the beginning. In four out of the five full sessions they have played in the APA, the Outcasts have qualified in regional triannuals for the Delaware state team championships. In summer 2012, they suffered a heartbreaking defeat midway through the competition. This year their second double qualification netted a first-round bye in the June 7-9 event. The Outcasts capitalized upon this advantage in their sprint to the final round and only loss.

Members of the Outcasts are neither strangers to competition nor fully retired. In July, Wayne Saulsbury will be making his 12th trip to the World Horseshoe Tournament, where he has won first place in his class two times. He is also active on the board of the Delaware Senior Olympics. Joe “Wolfman” Thomas is a familiar face and record holder in the annals of World Championship Punkin Chunkin. A shoulder injury derailed Larry Siple’s pro golf career, so he turned his competitive nature to the classic greens of pool tables. Diana Roche occasionally plays in bridge tournaments and is an adjunct faculty member at Del Tech. Ex-marine Del Morris raises alpacas and works as a school bus monitor.

In many respects, the Outcasts are typical seniors. Most of them take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes. Last year there was one heart attack. In the past six months, there have been two hospitalizations. One team member suffered two small strokes less than a week before the Delaware state team championships in June. Despite these health issues, the Outcasts have one of the highest handicap averages in their APA division. With a combination of strong table skills and life experiences as assets, the Outcasts are heading to Las Vegas in mid-August to make their mark in the world’s largest amateur pool event.

For more information about the Delaware APA, contact Mark Gokey, league operator, at 302-276-0332. For more information about the SDSBL, call Joe Mangini, league operator, at 302-383-3263.

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