LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - Mary Kenniston of Long Beach may be retired from competitive billiards, but she still has a rack smashing shot, and she still has the stare.
It’s that intensity that took her all over the world, striking fear and earning big wins on the circuit.
“Two world titles, one national title and a bunch of tour titles,” she said.
Add to that, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by the Women’s Professional Billiards Association, and this summer, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s kind of like the cherry on top,” she said.
She said one of the biggest moments was in a tournament she didn’t win.
“My first major accomplishment in the sport was when I beat Jean Balukas,” Kenniston said. “Jean Balukas was and is considered one of the best players of all time.”
Pretty good for someone who was on her way as a college basketball star before knee injuries ended that hope.
Pool was her saving grace.
“It gave me an outlet for my competitive energy,” she said.
She picked it up at a local billiards hall in New Jersey. What started as a way to meet people ended up defining her life.
“So, I walked in, got a rack of balls, went to a table and I fell in love with pool,” she said. “And the rest is history.”
Kenniston retired in 1999 because, she said, she had lost her competitive spark.
“I kept bottoming out in fifth place, and that was another factor in my decision to quit because I figure if I can’t win, what am I doing here?”
She had a brief return in 2014, in which she defeated a Russian player with some of her famous style.
Now, she loves to play for therapy and look back with pride.
Her walls have always been packed with pictures of her career, and her house has always held the table as its centerpiece.
She said it’s a career that will always be with her.
“I still miss ... I miss it all.”