SMALL TOWNS: Grand Chute pool player on the world stage
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (WBAY) - He’s only 22 years old and already a world-class professional pool player, competing right now in a world championship event in London, England.
This week in Small Towns, we travel to Grand Chute to meet a young man who lives and breathes the game of pool.
Inside The Mad Apple Burger & Billiard Company, Mason Koch is in his element.
“It’s just what my world is centered around, it’s all of what I plan, I’m always thinking about my next moves in pool and how I can improve and take it to the next spot,” says Mason.
The game of pool fascinated Mason before he could even use a cue stick.
“My dad was a really good player and so we had a table in our basement. I’d ask, I’d be like, ‘Can you go play? I just want to watch the game.’ I just loved the game,” recalls Mason.
And that became clearly evident by the time Mason reached middle school.
“When I was 11 is when I actually started competing, I won a Junior State Championship and I just got hooked on the competition,” says Mason.
By the time Mason turned 13, his dad knew he had a pool prodigy on his hands.
“I can tell you the exact moment, because I don’t know if you know what a jump shot is, but a jump shot in pool, you’re going over the top of the ball -- and it’s not like people do in a bar where they scoop under it, you actually have to drive it and it’s a technique, it’s a really tough shot, and he was playing on a 9-foot table and he had to reach out over and he did a one-handed jump shot on the 8-ball, so just like this and he speared it and jumped over and shot it in the pocket and I kind of went, OK,” explains Kendal Koch, Mason’s dad.
Throughout high school, and especially since he graduated, Mason has spent most of his weekends competing in tournaments around the country.
“I’ll be in one state and drive all the way to a different state for the next event, so it’s a constant,” says Mason.
When he’s not on the tournament trail, he works at The Mad Apple, which his dad owns, as a pool table technician, installing pool tables in homes. In other words, it’s pool all the time.
And his favorite game, which is the one he plays competitively, is 9-Ball, in which the balls must be shot in order, 1 through 9, with the winner sinking the 9 ball.
“You have to be aggressive, you have to be defensive, you have to know when the right time is for you to pick a certain shot,” explains Mason.
Last summer, Mason really made a name for himself, winning both the Under-22 Junior National Championship and the CSI World 9-Ball Amateur Championship in Las Vegas.
As for any nerves or pressure, forget about it.
“I handle it well, it’s something that hasn’t changed, it’s evolved from what I knew the definition of nerves as,” says Mason.
Mason’s stellar 2021 earned him an invitation to the 9-Ball World Professional Championship this week in London, his first-ever pro invite, and first time traveling out of the country.
To get ready, you guessed it, a lot of practice, between 6 and 8 hours a day on the table.
And sometimes, playing against his favorite opponent.
“We can be competitive. It’s kind of, he’s no longer my dad at that point and it’s just fun that I’m able to do that with who is my dad,” says Mason.
Soon, though, the stakes will be much higher.
Kendal feels his son is ready for the moment.
“Very focused on what he’s doing and is very disciplined in what his expectations are for himself, and I think you have to, to compete at that level, have an expectation of yourself that’s more than what he was being humble about. I can promise you he’s going there to win,” says Kendal.
And to take that next step in a sport, Mason is hooked on for life.
“Never quitting, yeah. It’s a game that once you are a part of it, you realize why there’s so many people that are a part of it,” says Mason with a smile.
Soon after he returns from London, Mason will travel to Pennsylvania for a competition there, continuing his journey as one of the top up-and-coming pool players in the world.
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