Fairfield sets new attendance record for WPBA event

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Andy Hallman, FAIRFIELD – People came from far and wide to watch the best billiard players in the world show off their skills during the Fairfield Women’s Invitational this past weekend.

It was the third time Fairfield has hosted an event sanctioned by the Women’s Professional Billiard Association. It spanned four days from March 16-19 at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, and included a pro-am event where amateurs could test their skills against the pros.

The tournament was won by Kelly Fisher of England, who defeated a fellow Brit and fellow Fisher, Allison Fisher, 10 games to 7 in nine-ball. Kelly Fisher also won this tournament the last time it was held in Fairfield in 2021.

The entire tournament was livestreamed on the WPBA’s YouTube channel. Daryn Hamilton, WPBA Vice President and the Fairfield resident responsible for bringing the tournament to town, said that as many as 1,000 people were watching Sunday’s final match online, in addition to the 60 people attending in person.

Hamilton said he doesn’t have attendance figures for all four days, but he does know that the tournament set a Fairfield attendance record on Saturday when 200 people came through the doors.

“We more than quadrupled our attendance from our first tournament in 2019,” Hamilton said. “The gals [pool players] were shocked on Saturday to see and hear so many people reacting to their shots.”

Fairfield is not the first city to host a WPBA, since that honor belongs to Sioux City, which hosted one back in the 1990s. However, Hamilton said it’s fair to say that, by hosting three tournaments in the last five years, Fairfield has become the premiere city in Iowa for women’s professional pool.

Hamilton said Thursday’s pro-am event went swimmingly, and he was happy to fill all 36 slots that were reserved for amateurs. Three amateurs played on a team with one professional. Local billiard players got to play with the best in the game, such as Kelly Fisher, Allison Fisher, Margaret Fefilova Styer, Janet Atwell, Kristina Tkach and Canada’s No. 1 player, Brittany Bryant.

“Everybody loves Brittany, and she loves coming back here,” Hamilton said. “She has a special relationship with the fans because she’s so nice and accommodating to all of the amateurs. She goes out of her way to be bubbly and superb.”

During her stay in Fairfield, Bryant stayed at the home of Tarah Connor, a Fairfield resident who was making her WPBA debut in this tournament.

Hamilton said he appreciates Fairfield Mayor Connie Boyer being willing to host some of the billiard players at Seven Roses Inn. Boyer hosted the two Fishers, plus Wei Tzu-Chien, who was runner-up for the 2019 tournament but could not compete in the 2021 tournament because of travel restrictions in her native Taiwan.

Thursday’s pro-am event was a fundraiser for Fairfield Kiwanis. Each competitor donated $65 to play, and after subtracting expenses, Hamilton wrote a check for $2,000 to the Kiwanis Club.

“The pro-am event is one of the highlights of this tourney,” Hamilton said. “Not many tournaments have a pro-am meet and greet because they don’t have time or nobody wants to run them. We had people come from Iowa City, Centerville, Oskaloosa, and of course, a lot of people from Fairfield.”

Hamilton said he met a couple who traveled from as far as Indiana to attend the tournament games on Saturday and Sunday. One man named Bob Steinmann came from Dubuque, and attended three days of the tournament. He said he attended Fairfield’s tournament in 2021, and that he’s been to five or six WPBA events. In fact, Steinmann has kept a book of signatures of WPBA athletes that he started collecting in 1997.

Steinmann said the player he is most impressed with is the 13-year-old prodigy Savannah Easton. Easton is the youngest member of the WPBA, and she had an impressive run in this year’s tournament but was eliminated late Saturday night.

Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at [email protected]

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