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Pool shark Nevel visits hometown

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Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 4:00 pm

Beloiter coming off victory in pro tour tournament

Larry Nevel wasn’t like most kids growing up.

Instead of spending time on the playgrounds and parks, he could be found in the pool halls.

Nevel started playing pool when he was 6 years old, frequenting such establishments as JJ’s Still on the Hill in South Beloit and the Carom Room in Beloit.

“Most of the time my dad was there, even when I played in the pool league when I was 9,” Nevel said. “I got the MVP award that year and people were pretty mad about it. Nobody wanted to get beat by a kid.”

The kid has grown up. Recently, the 37-year-old Beloit native captured first place in the Seminole Pro Tour Tournament in Spring Hill, Fla.

Nevel captured his first every victory in the tournament, taking home $10,000.

“That was the Masters of this tour,” Nevel said. “I always knew I was as good as some of these guys, but I wasn’t sure because I had never won before.”

Prior to Nevel’s first career win, he finished second, third and seventh in three other tournaments.

“It made me feel confident about my game,” Nevel said. “Pool’s a lot of luck and skill. It was a different format, so I had to adjust to that, but it worked out pretty well.”

Nevel moved to Oregon when he was 13, winning two junior championships there. He returned to Beloit when he was 14 and graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in 1992.

Nevel was already becoming a consummate pool player when he was in high school. He started competing in the Billiard Congress of Wisconsin tournaments.

It didn’t take long for Nevel to make his mark, scoring triumphs in the Masters Division and Junior Division.

He won the Junior Division championship in 1992 and was the youngest player to ever win a Masters Division title in 1993. He also won the Masters Division title again in 1994 and 1995, becoming the only player in tournament history to win in three consecutive years.

He would go on to capture five more titles from 1997-2001, including a state championship in Milwaukee.

“That’s all I was doing was just going out and playing and traveling around, trying to get better,” Nevel said. “I started going out on tours like the Viking Tour and the Derby City Classic. I was doing pretty well in those, too, so I had to move on.”

Nevel moved from Beloit to Greenville, S.C., in 2004.

“The Seminole Tour has a lot of tournaments in the south,” said Nevel, “so it just seemed to make sense to move closer.”

Nevel was already considered a professional by 2004, winning state championships in North Carolina and South Carolina.

He knew he needed an even bigger challenge so he joined the Seminole Pro Tour.

While Nevel’s first win was memorable, he’ll have a chance to add something bigger to his resume, competing in the Steve Mizerak Championship on Sept. 15-18 in Tampa, Fla.

“It’s a chance to make about $20,000,” Nevel said. “It would be a pretty big accomplishment to win something like that.”

Before Nevel heads back to Florida, he’ll be back at the Carom Room this weekend for a 32-player invitational tournament Saturday and Sunday.

“It pretty much has all the better pool players from St. Louis to Chicago to Rockford to Madison and some from Minnesota,” Nevel said.

It’s also a good opportunity for Nevel to come back home.

“This is where it all began,” Nevel said. “I was always known as a good pool player because I was always hanging out in all the pool halls. The older crowd basically became family. Instead of going outside and skateboarding, we were playing pool. My life revolved around hanging out at the pool hall.”

It still does.

“This is what I love to do,” Nevel said.

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