By: Kaylea Groover
A self-confessed champion, the Canadian pool legend Gerry “the Ghost” Watson showed off his skills to Algonquin students at the always popular pool tables in the Observatory Sept. 27.
When a trapeze injury left him unable to play hockey, 12-year-old Watson played one game of pool at a friend’s house and was hooked from the very first shot. He has been travelling, playing pool and winning since he was 15.
“I was always a champion,” said Watson. “In everything I did I was a champion, so to think of myself as a champion – I really don’t, it’s just natural.”
Watson, the Canadian 8 and 9-ball champion, took his successful show on the road after TSN helped him rise to fame when it aired his infomercial for his home videos. He now tours post-secondary schools putting on a show for the students and providing tips for their own game.
Watson says the expected crowd at each tour stop always depends on where he is and what the student’s schedules are like, but pool is still a popular sport with young adults today.
“You play pool and chances are that they are not thinking about their studies,” he said. “So it’s a break, it’s a mental recess.”
As Watson began the show by getting a feel for the table with a few trick shots, the crowd grew from about 20 to well over 50 as he sent the billiard balls jumping over one another and flying into the pockets.
He told the crowd that he would play nine of them for a chance to win prizes including professional pool cues. Many of the chosen students took the game seriously but Watson was just playing with them.
He let them sink a few points and then took over, sinking every shot he made and beating each of the nine players. Shaking their heads and whispering words of praise, students lined up to play one more game for a chance to win a professional pool cue. Giving everyone a ball, Watson sunk them all until the last one standing got the prize.
Francis Laplante, a health and fitness promotion student who was there to watch Watson and played against him, said he believes pool is still popular today because it is a strategic game that you don’t have to be physically fit to play.
Watson agrees and says it teaches you how to plan for the future and that it trains a person to think in equations, from small to the big picture. For his last trick Watson asked Youssef Wehbe, an electro-mechanical engineering student, to lie on the table and put the blue square of cue chalk in his mouth.
He then balanced the black 8 ball on the chalk, took the white cue ball to the side of the table and struck it so it jumped up, hit the 8 ball out of Wehbe’s mouth and rolled it into the corner pocket. With this last trick Watson thanked the crowd as they applauded, impressed and eager to ask him questions.
An enthusiastic character, Watson shows no signs of slowing down.