Inside America’s Pool Rooms

Shade Tree Lounge Tupelo Mississippi

By: Tracy Lerma

As Hurricane Delta hits Louisiana, my mission on this rainy weekend is the infamous Shade Tree Lounge at 883 S Green St in Tupelo, MS for what rumors to be a vast field of players. The sign that hangs on the corner screams vintage with this building hosting eight Valley tables and one Diamond table surrounded with arena type seating for what seems to insinuate action at its finest, complete with a 1990s style CD jukebox to fit with the decor. Looks like this place has me captivated with nostalgia, too bad I left my bangs and big curly hair in my Twenties! A mural covers a wall with the famous Budweiser Clydesdales pulling the fire brigade wagon. Glancing towards the back of the room, my eyes capture a beautiful Harley-Davidson Motorcycle to complete the unique decor. Curiosity stirs as the search begins for the owner of this throwback pool room, Terry Richey. Richey updated this old school pool room to accommodate the struggle most rooms have been seeing for many years, by adding a limited bar with a modest menu plus an enclosed back club to his business, complete with dance floor and stage for live music! Unusual for a pool room but necessary for today’s times, smart businessman if you ask my humble opinion.  Welcomed with open arms and given all the hospitality a southern girl could ask for by the employees and the players, it’s time to check out this seventy plus bracket of potential winners.

Shade Tree Lounge         Photo by : Tracy Lerma

Joe Montoya        Photo by : Tracy Lerma

Scanning the list of this split bracket handicapped 9-Ball field, some names look familiar, this list is dotted with some big players. Remember Kenny Loftis from the double’s tournament in Southaven? He is seen practicing on a table, not missing a ball as professional player Johnathan Hennessee walks by finding his own open table to warm up on. Did you know Hennessee won the 9 Ball event at Super Billiards Expo in 2019? He has been rumored to be one of the best challenge match players out of Tennessee, but that is just a rumor, or is it? Some young guns have been spotted practicing, Chaney White and Emily Edmundson are getting some tips from the more seasoned players, you remember Chaney from a previous article out of Meridian MS. Emily is a seventeen-year-old hoping to win this big event, walks in this lion’s den with no fear; who says sugar and spice cannot get a bit of chalk under her nails? Did I mention there is a ten-year-old attempting to run racks? Caleb Flowler did not play in this event, but he had some tips on pocketing balls for this crazy blonde with her endless questions, asking “Who is your favorite player?” This sweet faced ten-year-old smiles and answers, “Ms., that would have to be Skyler Woodward and I even have a cue signed by him!” Caleb is going to be a great contender one day. Fantastic to see these kids showing the heart and dedication to jump in! Something interesting captures my attention in the arena, scotch doubles challenge match is going on with a vast crowd! Looks like Shade Tree with its legendary background of such players like Minnesota Fats is living up to its reputation of an action-packed weekend.

This tournament has many unexpected outcomes as the bracket narrows on day two. The top players are out before the bracket combines some tough action with your professionals having to race to thirteen and your lower-level players to as little as two games. This will bring us down to our four players from both brackets: Matt Hamm, Joe Montoya, Emily Edmundson, and Thomas White.

Thomas White, who has been off the pool scene for many years, is defeated by Emily Edmundson to claim his fourth place slot. Thomas was humble and congratulations all around for this seventeen-year-old! Great sportsmanship! Matt Hamm awaiting his opponent sitting in the hot seat as Emily faces off against Joe Montoya, to take third place. Fantastic finish for this young girl whose family was there to support her throughout this strong field of players! That was one proud father! It comes down to Joe and Matt to battle it out! Montoya double dips Hamm for his well-earned win as you hear that final 9 ball fall into the pocket! Handshakes and applause all around for all players in this monster field of over seventy! What a great tournament! 

Packing up my camera, notebook and thanking everyone for the pleasure of witnessing some amazing play by some of Mississippi and Tennessee’s finest, memories from the two days flood my mind.  Competition, friendship, atmosphere and nostalgia is a combination that keeps this place at the top of my “You must see” list of pool rooms. Will these players be at another fantastic venue that I will attend? Who will win this tournament next? What is in the works for the junior players? Where will she be next? Will she be in my city or town soon?  Many questions and answers to come, if you follow me on this amazing journey of Inside America’s Pool Rooms!

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Photos in starting order:  Matt Hamm, Johnathan Hennessee, Emily Edmundson, Caleb Fowler, Joe Emily Thomas and Matt.  Photos by : Tracy Lerma