“I don’t have enough time to train because I work in architecture, but I will try harder with a challenging mindset”
The men’s division of the Eswai PBA Championship, a professional billiards PBA tour that concluded on the 11th, ended with ‘Spanish 3-cushion powerhouse’ David Martinez (Crown Hae Taek) winning his fourth career title.
But there was another player who stole the show. It was an unknown billiards player, Park Ki-ho (48). Park defied the odds to make it to the final four of the tournament. He defeated top players from Korea and abroad, including Kang Dong-gung (SK Rent-a-Car), Chan Chapak (Blue One Resort), and Lee Sang-dae (Welcome Savings Bank).
In his quarterfinal match against Yusuke MORI (JPN), Park came close to victory. He was leading 3-1 in the fourth set. He only needed to win one more set to reach the final. In the fifth set, he led 10-6. However, he allowed Mori to catch up and lost the set 14-15, and then lost the sixth and seventh sets to complete the upset.
“I wasn’t greedy until then, but the moment I realized that I was going to the final, I became greedy,” Park Ki-ho told E-Daily, “I felt defensive and my game started to go wrong.” “Honestly, I didn’t even think that I could beat someone like Kang Dong-gung,” he said humbly, adding, “I think I got lucky a lot.”
As he said, it was a miracle for Park to reach the final four. Park Ki-ho was a little-known player in the world of billiards. He stumbled upon the game in high school and has been playing for 30 years. He won several championships in club pool. He was content to play recreationally without much ambition.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recreational tournaments were canceled all at once. Park Ki-ho, who is a true billiards player, was worried. However, the professional billiards organization PBA continued to hold tournaments even during the pandemic. He wanted to keep playing, so he tried out for the 2021 tryouts and made his debut in the third division, the Challenge Tour. He quickly won his first four tournaments. He went on to finish second in the final standings and moved directly to the First Division.
The bar was set high. Before this tournament, his best result was a round of 16. Last season, the team finished 95th and faced relegation. However, they dramatically retained their place in the first division by finishing 14th at Cusco. This time around, he reached the quarterfinals, paving the way for him to continue playing in the first division.
In fact, Park Ki-ho has a second job. He works as a sweatshop technician at a construction site. His duties include plastering and waterproofing. His home is in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do, but he travels to construction sites all over the country. For this tournament, I put aside my construction work to participate in the tournament and went straight down to the site after the tournament.
In reality, it’s not easy to combine a construction job with a professional billiards career. “Compared to other professional players, the amount of training is absolutely insufficient. “I’m not even a professional billiards player,” he says, “I think I have nothing to lose, so I try to play relaxed, and sometimes it works out better.
Even when he’s exhausted after a hard day’s work, Park doesn’t put down his cue. When he’s out of town for work, he finds a local pool hall and practices for an hour or two. However, his job requires him to use his arms and shoulders a lot, so it’s not always easy to maintain control of his strength. “When a tournament is coming up, I try to maximize my senses by practicing for about four to five days in a row,” he said.
Reaching the quarterfinals changed his life in billiards. He had never taken formal lessons before, just played a lot in pool halls and developed his skills and senses on his own. However, he realized that he needed help to get to the next level, so he started taking lessons for the first time at a later age.
“Because I was playing alone, it was hard to explain theoretically even if I could hit the ball,” he says, “and I realized that I needed to prepare more systematically to survive in the professional stage.”안전놀이터
Park Ki-ho, who was born in 1975 and is approaching 50, is as excited as someone learning to play billiards for the first time. “Once in my life, I wanted to challenge myself properly, and now seems to be the time,” he said. “I’m going to keep climbing to see how far I can go. I want to prepare a little more systematically and try to win the championship,” he said with a chuckle.