|Messenger photos by Scott Greytak|
|Zach Davis, 16, takes a break from his practice session (top) at Bankshot Billiards in Hilliard. Davis practices six nights every week to help him improve his game.|
Two years of cross-country traveling. Long days of home schooling. Thousands of dollars made, including a win on June 24 that banked him a cool $1,200 in cash. No matter how you look at it, Zach Davis is a rising star.
He has a Sony Playstation, an Xbox, and an accident-prone dirt bike. He also has local and national sponsors sending him out for Vegas vacations, and a 2nd place trophy from an international billiards tournament he entered a couple years back.
As a 16-year-old sophomore at Grove City High School, he is not your typical student. Davis has spent the past three years polishing his shot alongside billiards professionals, mapping the country in search of bigger pots of gold, and following in the footsteps of a living legend.
“I play anywhere from four to eight hours a day,” Davis says, “except Wednesdays. That’s when I hang out with my friends.”
Like golf has Tiger Woods, Ernie Ells, and Phil Mickelson, billiards has Efren Reyes, Jeanette Lee, and Corey Deuel. Davis has already beaten Deuel, and now has his sights set on Reyes, the number four player in the country who brought in nearly $40,000 in prize money last year. Deuel was number eight on the list.
Davis names Corey Deuel as his number one influence for the game. “He’s the one who got me started,” he says with a key of sincerity in his voice. “He plays completely different than everybody else. He’d play shots that he wouldn’t even have to, and he’d still end up winning.”
Born and raised on the Westside, Zach has spent the past two years being home schooled by his parents while touring through the Midwest, out west and even on into Canada.
His goal? To qualify for the Billiard Congress of America’s (BCA) national tournament. Winning the U.S. nationals means a trip to Australia for a shot at the World Championship.
The first time Davis chalked up a stick was only a mere three years ago, at Sportsman’s Billiards on Sullivant Avenue. He squeezed his way to a win, not knowing that his hero Deuel was onsite for his debut.
“I didn’t even know it, but Corey was playing on a table right beside me,” he recalls. “I was just shooting and this pro came up to me and said that I had a natural shot.” What followed, it seems, is history.
“I started playing in tournaments almost every night of the week,” he says.
To date, Davis’s most successful venture was a non-stop billiards binge where he and a friend made $2,800 in a week’s time. Prizes in the hundreds of dollars now come weekly. His latest tournament win, however, happened close to home at his favorite pool hall, Bankshot Billiards in Hilliard.
“We want Zach to be our first pro out of Bankshot,” owner Don Reed says with a smile. Reed owns and operates the local pool hall, which offers leagues and tournaments while also serving as Davis’s home base when working on his game.
“It’s a really clean and safe place,” says Davis, who loves both the people and the food. “The wings of fire are really something,” he adds.
Zach’s dad, John Davis, is always nearby for his son’s achievements, and supports Zach’s dream of going pro.
“Zach is one of the best already, and with Bankshot treating him so well he’s only going to get better and better.”
Zach’s mom has learned to balance her appreciation for Zach’s passion with her own hopes of seeing her son receive a college education.
“I’m looking at both OSU and Purdue as of now,” Davis explains when asked whether college has entered his busy mind.
“Purdue used to have a billiards team, and there are some scholarships available to me.”
Davis’s anticipated career path is one that takes him through architecture school, a field whose roots in mathematics may be a not-so-surprising coincidence for one familiar with the geometry-infused game of pool.
Zach offers some words of wisdom for those looking to step up their games and improve their skills.
“One thing I can say is to stay down on the ball, no matter what. And don’t get mad when you miss,” he adds. “I still have a little bit of an anger problem when I miss.”
Following his mentor Corey Deuel’s footsteps means earning a spot in the BCA. As Davis is only sixteen, his involvement in national tournaments was limited to his age bracket, but a recent ruling by a BCA official has paved the way for Davis to play in Vegas later this season. He isn’t jumping to any conclusions, however.
“I need to get better,” he says. “Now that all of this is open for me I need to prove myself.”
Davis’s next challenge?
“Driver’s Ed classes – they start next week.”
“Pool is a lot harder than what people think,” he says as he rolls out a fresh set of balls for his nightly practice session. “It’s a game of both physical and mental endurance.”