TERRE HAUTE —
The sharp click of pool balls and cues colliding across green-topped tables dominated Plaza Billiards on Saturday as 25 players competed in the Sixth Annual Dave Edwards Memorial 8-Ball Tournament.
“This is really the largest pool tournament in Terre Haute,” said Jeff Dierks, co-owner of the recently opened pool room on Fort Harrison Road in Plaza North. “It draws great players, and it’s in a new venue.”
Dave Edwards was a well-known pool player in the Wabash Valley and his native Illinois. He began shooting pool in childhood, continued to play pool and enter tournaments in high school and college, and in 1998 he won the BCA 8-Ball Championship in Las Vegas, which elevated him to master level.
Edwards died in 2006 of brain cancer, after being diagnosed with a tumor in 2005. In 2007, his family and friends started the memorial 8-ball tournament, and the proceeds raised will be donated to the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. The event has averaged a $2,000 donation each year.
“He was a really, really good pool player,” said Dave’s wife, Nancy, during Saturday’s tournament. She met Dave while they were both students at Eastern Illinois University, where they also met Dave’s good friend, professional player Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman, who was directing Saturday’s tournament.
“We met over a snooker game,” Rossman said. “We were both wearing plaid polyester double knit pants, so we knew we were destined to play together.”
Jim Davis, another pool aficionado at Saturday’s tournament, was with Dave and Nancy on the evening that Dave first noticed the physical signs of his brain tumor. Jim helped Nancy get Dave out of his seat at a movie theater, because Dave’s left side had gone numb.
“We thought he was having a stroke,” Nancy explained. It wasn’t until two weeks later that the brain tumor was discovered. Despite treatment, Dave’s condition deteriorated until his death.
“Dave was just such a great guy,” Davis said Saturday. “He had such a terrific sense of humor. I had a lot of fun with him, and I’ve missed him a lot since he’s been gone.”
Several people at Saturday’s tournament had also known Dave, and were playing in the tournament in his honor. The only female player — Courtney Green, of Rosedale, — said she has been playing pool about 15 years, and has played in each memorial 8-ball tournament.
“We knew Dave a long time, and Jim Davis a long time,” she said of her pool mentors.
Two-time tournament winner Danny Sappington, and one-time winner Tony Cordoba, also said that Dave had a big impact on their lives through playing pool.
“He was a very, very nice man,” Sappington said. “Dave taught us a lot over the years.”
“Dave was a true winner,” Cordoba agreed.
“He was a true mentor, that’s for sure,” Sappington added.
Nancy said her husband was interested in teaching youths to play. He operated pool rooms in Sullivan and other communities, and he enjoyed teaching children trick shots. That may have stemmed from his first career as a math and science teacher. Pool has elements of math and science, and he could relate that to students of the game in angles and force, friction and momentum.
He also worked 15 years at Crane Naval Base where he was a technician in the Stinger Missile Program.
Dave’s only surviving siblings — sister Emma Lou Spencer of Branson, Mo., and Bill Edwards of Lafayette — shared stories about their brother and their father Harvey, who introduced Dave to pool.
“My dad was a great fisherman,” Emma Lou said. “And Bill, too. But Dave wasn’t a fisherman. So dad bought a pool table and put it in the basement and they played there.”
“Dave played pool from then on,” Bill said, adding that when the world championships of pool were played in southern Illinois, Dave made sure he went to see it.
His wife Nancy said her husband would play pool for hours at a time, with friends or by himself. He promoted tournaments and youth leagues as well.
“The kids who didn’t play football or basketball or baseball, they had pool to play with Dave,” Nancy said, “and he’d teach them trick shots.”
At their last home together, Dave converted the garage into his pool room.
“Whenever we were gonna move someplace, it had to have room for a pool table, or we didn’t buy the house,” Nancy said.
Going to Las Vegas and winning that 1998 open tournament, sanctioned by the Billiards Congress of America, meant that Dave had to defeat more than 1,300 other players. Nancy said her husband went to Las Vegas for the tournament and took their son Nathan with him, thinking that he would only be playing for a couple of days. However, he kept winning and it took a week of playing pool for him to win the BCA title.
Nathan, now 30, also enjoys playing pool, and is manager of Plaza Billiards. He and Dierks had worked together in the past, and they were both interested in opening a pool hall, so they teamed up to covert the vacant Plaza North building that was once a Dean’s Party Mania, and originally a movie theater, into Plaza Billiards.
“Dad had run them in the past, so we decided to take a chance,” Nathan said of the new pool hall.
The new business opened in December, just prior to Christmas, but it’s new sign didn’t arrive until a week ago.
It is a family-friendly business, Dierks said, with children accompanied by adults encouraged to play pool. He hopes to get a youth league started. Some adult leagues are already in full swing.
The business has a restaurant, and is licensed to serve beer. It is also non-smoking.
Hours of operation are 2 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 2 p.m. to midnight Saturdays and Sundays. The kitchen opens at 11 a.m. for lunch.
Nancy said that Plaza Billiards is the type of business her husband would have enjoyed, and he would have spent hours there, playing in tournaments such as Saturday’s benefit in his honor.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.