The Color of Money it Ain't
Pool player strives to change the game's image
Monday, January 22, 1996
By Joey Butler/ staff
When most people think of professional pool players,
an image somewhat akin to Paul Newman's character in "The
Color of Money" is conjured up.
While it is very common for most billiard players
to make a career out of smoke-filled rooms and hustled money, Scott
Lee prefers to do it on college campuses.
Lee, a renowned billiards player and trick shot
artist, had his fill of the gambling life long ago and is spending
all his time promoting the sport he loves.
" I prefer to play the game for the sport
it is, and not just for gambling," Lee said.
A nationally certified instructor, Lee spends
nine months of the year on the road, bringing his "Traveling
College of Billiard Knowledge" to college campuses, local
pool halls, and just about anywhere he can scrape up a few yards
of green felt. He will be displaying his billiards expertise at
the KUC Game Room today from 11 am to 1 pm.
" My love for the game comes out in my presentation,
Lee's presentation, other than shot-making basics
and some fancy cue work for oooh's and aaah's, includes a billiards
" There is evidence indicating billiards
was played as far back as 1500 BC," Lee said. "evidence
of some type of billiards was even found in the pyramids."
A love for the game led Lee to leave the pro
circuit 15 years ago to pursue an exhibition career, citing lack
of financial stability and lack of competitive spirit among billiard
pros as his reason for bowing out.
Lee claims that most pool tournaments lack big corporate sponsorship because
of the hustling image associated with the game, therefore, it is difficult
to maintain a living simply playing in tournaments.
Lee said that many tournaments don't have a large
enough purse for anyone other than the first place winner to cover
their registration fees, which could be as much as $500, and their
traveling expenses. That, Lee said, is the reason professional
billiard players wind up gambling to get by.
Lee acknowledges that money is a way of putting
pressure on players to perform at their peak level, but he thinks
there are too many people who think of money as the only reason
to play at all.
Big money or no, Lee believes hustling and gambling has ruined the competitive
spirit of billiards.
" Playing pocket billiards is not about
gambling. It's about competitive spirit, a desire for excellence,
and having fun, Lee said. "Many players develop egocentric
attitudes and won't play unless money is involved. I play because
I love the game."
He quickly pointed out that women are assuming
a dominant role in the world of professional billiards. In 1995,
7 of the top 10 money winners were women.
" Women don't seem to get held back by the
bad attitude that dominates the profession," Lee said. "They've
really come a long way and are being taken more seriously."
Lee's passion for billiards began during his
freshman year of college, when famous trick shot artist Jack White
performed an exhibition on Lee's Campus.
Lee said he was awestruck by White's performance.
He hit White up for some pointers and White even some books for
improving his technique. That began a profession and personal relationship
that has lasted for 25 years. White not only became Lee's mentor,
but the godfather of his son as well.
White, who made a living on the professional
exhibition circuit, has passed the torch on to Lee.
" I am lucky to have the opportunity to step into Jack White's shoes, Lee
Thanks to his connection with White, Lee has
been able to book himself into 80-100 colleges for exhibitions
and is currently on a 38 state tour. He eventually plans to travel
So what does Lee do when he is not on the road?
He happens to be an avid skier, which is the only activity that
rivals his passion for billiards. outside of skiing, he is a private
billiards instructor. He even buys and sells pool tables and cues!
" I want to see more people play the game
that I love, well! Lee said. "I aspire to be one of the preeminent
teachers in the world."
Lee's students are a source of pride to him.
In fact, one of his students just place first in an amateur national
Of course the obvious question is whether or
not Lee goes to pool halls anonymously and takes everybody's money,
but he swears that he doesn't.
" I play for fun. If someone I just inform
them that I am a professional, and would be happy to play them,
but I won't gamble," Lee said. "But every once in a while
I run into someone who insists that they can beat me. If they are
that adamant I'll go ahead and take their money. That's their own
fault. Of course, when you take someone's money they tend to not
like you very much."
Lee is doing his best to dispel the image of
the hustling pool shark, and promoting instead a love for the game.
" Movies like "The Color of Money" and "The hustler" reinforce
interest in billiards, but that image just doesn't exist anymore."