Despite the fact that women have been playing billiards since it became a hobby for European royals in the 15th century, they still have to endure cheap shots from men who can’t resist critiquing their game. At Topic, Megan Greenwell profiles the women ranging in age from their teens to their 70s playing in the eighth stop on the West Coast Women’s Tour for nine-ball billiards in Northern California.
Eleanor Callado—who cofounded the West Coast Women’s Tour with her twin sister Emilyn in the early 2000s, and is now an internationally ranked pro on the WPBA circuit—was introduced to the game by her father, as an eight-year-old growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Eight hours in to the first day of play, I get a firsthand glimpse at the annoyances that come with being a woman in the often-macho pool world. Only half of the tables in the room are being used for the tournament at this point, but Mata and several other eliminated players aren’t tired yet, so they’re playing friendly matches on the rest. A handful of men are milling around, irritated that there’s still no space for them. I am watching Callado dominate a match when a middle-aged man sidles up next to me and begins critiquing her form. “That was a very amateurish mistake,” he scoffs when she misses a bank shot.
I’m not the one he’s criticizing, and I’ve known Callado for all of a day, but I find myself fuming. “She’s an internationally ranked pro!” I snap. He’s taken aback, stammering something about how she’s not that highly ranked this year. After she reports her 8–2 win, I run up to tell Callado about the conversation as she purchases a celebratory beer. But, surprisingly, she’s not half as annoyed as I am; she rolls her eyes, but she’s laughing, too. She’ll go on to win the tournament fairly easily, but her real focus is on a pro event in Michigan a couple of weeks later. This is just for fun, and one ignorant guy isn’t going to stop her from having a good time. “That’s sort of the point of all this,” she says, gesturing around the room at the event she founded more than a decade ago. “I mean, how cool is it that you get all these women in a male-dominated sport and just get to pretend the men don’t exist for a weekend?”