Stop me if you've heard this one before: Woman sitting at home one Sunday afternoon when her neighbor convinces her to go to a local pool hall. She ends up playing all afternoon and gets hooked on the game.
Soon after, she joins a local league and eventually starts getting good. She's convinced to play in a local tournament and wins it. Then comes a regional tournament … wins that, too. She qualifies for a national tournament in Las Vegas and … comes in second.
Okay, it's not a storybook ending. But consider it was a field of 96 players from across the country. And consider 37-year-old Spring Gilliss never picked up a pool cue before five years ago.
"I started out going up to Side Pocket (Billiards in Seminole) just for something to do,'' Gilliss said. "It's one of the cheaper recreational activities you can do. It took me a while to join a team. And then I met some friends who are better than me, and they started helping me out.''
Gilliss, who works for a hearing aid company by day, started competitive pool by playing in leagues on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays at Side Pocket. When league members convinced her to try a local tournament against other area players, she signed up.
Then came a regional win against players from the Tampa and Sarasota areas and her trip to Las Vegas on April 29-May 1. Not bad for basically a beginner.
"When I started out, I'd hit the ball and hope it would find a pocket,'' Gilliss said. "It took me a long time to pick up things. I have to kind of see it to make sense.''
The national tournament didn't start out well. She wound up in the losers' bracket before winning nine games to advance to the final match. She won $9,000 in cash and prizes for her effort. While she lost, it was an experience she won't soon forget.
"It was very exciting, but I have to go back because I didn't get a chance to see everything,'' Gilliss said. "I stayed right there at the Riviera (hotel) because I didn't know when I was going to play.''
While the near miss was exciting, Gilliss said she's not going to quit her day job. She plays pool for the socializing, and if she happens to wind up back in Las Vegas some day, so be it.
"I'm not going to make a career out of this,'' Gilliss said. "I want to get better, but I want it to stay fun.''
The Tiger Tim's Royal Rookie Classic was held May 8-9 at the Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater. The boys 16 winner in the round robin tournament was Drew Williams. The 10 winner was Michael Sheyner. The girls 16 winner was Sybil Sha, and the girls 12 winner was Jamyia McGriff.
• The Clearwater Junior Jam Local Classic was held May 15-17. The boys 18 winner was Kamil Khalil. The 16 winner was Saxon Buehning. The 14 winner was Gregory Perenich. The 12 winner was Sean Burnette, and the 10 winner was Andre Schoeman. The girls 18 winner was Luisa Pintado. The 16 winner was Lisa Carvajal. The 14 winner was Nataliya Pogribnyak. The 12 winner was Julia Gabay, and the 10 winner was Sanyukta Gawande.
• The Largo Tennis Center participated in the USTA Florida Junior Team Sectional Championships in Altamonte Springs. Largo came in first in its flight and third overall in the state due to the amount of games won overall. Team members include: Capt. Paul Shimkonis, Praksh Pudkutode, Jake Szeszko, Mlind Mishra, Sasha Desilva, Haley Shimkonis, Lauren Adams and Taylor Cook.
LaFleur's Gymnastics Club of Largo competed at the Level 9 Eastern National Championships in Charleston, W.Va. on May 1-2. Top 10 finishers were: Meghan Brannon (first all-around, third bars, fifth beam, third floor), Morgan Marks (first bars, sixth beam, eighth all-around) and Riley Thompson (sixth bars). Level 10 competed at the JO National Championship in Dallas on May 8-9 Top finishes were Kaitlin Green (third bars) and Amanda Bertorello (11th bars).
• Sarah Zoldos, a senior at Countryside High School, has signed a letter of intent with LSU. Zoldos is a member of LaFleur's Gymnastics in Tampa and was first in the all-around at the Florida State meet.
The Tides Women's Golf Association held a tournament May 18. The low net A Flight winner was Kathy Davis, who shot 71. The B Flight winner was Bettye Rae Crane, who shot 66. The league is accepting new members. For information, call Judy McNamee at 392-3576 or the Tides Golf Club at 393-8483.
The 12-and-under St. Pete Fury won the gold division championship at the ISA Summer Slam Tournament on May 15-16 in Bartow. The Fury is 28-6 overall and has won four of its eight tournaments. The team is: Marissa Bornhauser (outfielder/infielder), Angelina Carney (outfielder), Nikki Cobb (infielder), Natalie Danner (outfielder), Ashley McNally (catcher/infielder), Corynn Miner (pitcher/infielder), Savana Rumore (infielder/outfielder), Laura Smith (infielder/outfielder), Sarah Snell (catcher/infielder) and Tessa van Haaren (pitcher).