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POOL TOUR RACKS 'EM UP

Tony "the Sniper" Crosby knows his business. That's billiards, by the way. The New Port Richey resident is one of the top-ranked pool players in the world, and knowing how difficult it can be to break into pocket billiards and how hard it can be to start off as an amateur, he also knew exactly what was needed.

He and his wife, Natalie Crosby, owners of Stroke It, a clothing line for billiards players, started KF Cue Tour, an amateur billiards tour that will travel in the bay area and Florida for about the next year, letting amateur players better themselves and make names for themselves in this international sport.

"Mainly, I really wanted it for a place for amateurs to play and to show off how good they are," Tony said. "That way they can raise their game and raise the play of amateurs in the area."

About once a month, KF Cue Tour will host a two-day event at a local pool hall. The first day is an open event, where anyone can play, and then the second day is an amateur event, where people trying to become pro can climb the ranks.

"There's nothing else around," said Tony, a native of England. "There's nothing for amateurs to play in, or even for the high-level players, myself included, but now we've created something for both. People in the area like to play, and they'll come out to the Saturday play. And there are the people who come out and just watch."

Tony and Natalie both said the tour is not just for amateurs to play on a monthly basis, but also for people looking for something to do on the weekend, just another way to spend their free time.

If they feel they can come in and shark the tournament, feeling they are Tom Cruise in The Color of Money, that's just fine with Tony and Natalie.

"All the players here are trying to improve their game," Natalie said. "Most people don't think of it as a sport, but it is a big sport and it's played all over the world, so why not have something that's local that amateurs - anyone, really - can play in?"

Local amateur Travis Croft was ecstatic when the tour began because he felt it opened doors to new play for him. Croft, a 22-year-old Spring Hill resident, is glad to have a way, locally, to get more matches that will eventually become even more competitive.

"Having more tours brings more players and more money in the events," Croft said. "I got sick of playing the same players every week. Here, you're going to get different players because I don't want to play the same people every day. I want different people so I get to be better."

Tony, Natalie and KF Cue hosted their first event Sept. 27-28 at TJ's Billiards in New Port Richey, bringing out 32 players and a crowd of about 30 to 40 onlookers. Tony was very pleased with the turnout, also feeling that the upcoming events can be "a day out for people" even though "some guys here are also trying to go pro, so they're here to hone their skills."

Natalie says that's okay because "a lot of the amateurs ... (now) have the opportunity to play players like them." And in the end, she and Tony both feel that there will be more and more players at each event.

"I think this will be the lowest turnout," Tony said of the September event. "But I think it's going to grow and nobody gets an (easy) game. People come here to play for real and the word will spread. Some people have full-time jobs and never get to play real amateurs. Here they can, and I just think that this is going to get even bigger."

Community sports editor Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamunas@sptimes.com or (352) 544-1771.

KF Cue Tour

Where: Various locations in Florida, including the bay area.

When: Season runs through June, with two-day events about one weekend a month.

Cost: $70. It's $20 for a tour card and most buy-ins to events are $50.

Up next: KF has a tournament this weekend at Strokers Billiards in Palm Harbor. For information, call Natalie Crosby at (727) 236-0356 or visit www.kfcuetour.com.

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