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Updated 10:00 AM June 21, 2004



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Spotlight: On cue

Green felt stands out against dark wood paneling. The clack of the cue ball hitting the numbered billiard balls is followed by a soft thud as one falls into the pocket. U-M football teams, dating back to 1898, stare down from their frames on the wall.
(Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

This is the Michigan Union Billiards Room, where Betsy Sundholm runs the tables and everything else in the place.

"My main job is putting all the programs and tournaments in place for students," says Sundholm, manager of the room. "We try to stay with the times and do what's popular."

For example, she will start organizing poker tournaments this fall, in addition to the already popular euchre games. Sundholm also advises eight recreational clubs for activities such as bowling, billiards, table tennis and chess.

"There are 80-100 customers a day in the room on average," she says. "We get school kids, U-M students, faculty and community members. There is an eclectic mix of clientele."

The room—which holds 17 pool tables, a billiard table, a snooker table, two foosball tables and countless board games—has remained virtually untouched since the building was constructed in 1919, Sundholm says.

"The pool tables date back to the 1940s, and there is still a desk attendant that players pay to play by the hour," she says. "Coin-operated tables would take away from the historic feel of the room."

The size and atmosphere of the room make it a common spot for competitive tournaments. Running these contests is the most exciting part of her job, Sundholm says.

"We have one of the largest collegiate billiard rooms in the country, so we host a lot of regional tournaments," she says. The Union was host to the Billiard Congress of America Junior National Championship in 2003, when 145 of the best 18 and under pool players from the United States and Canada competed for the title. Sundholm expects the Union will host the Junior Nationals and the Collegiate Nationals next June.

Competitive billiards is more than just a job for Sundholm. She is on the Michigan Woman's 9-Ball Tour and placed 11th in the state for the year. Sundholm enjoys the individual challenge pool presents.

"Even though you have an opponent, it's really you against the table," she says. "They [opponents] can't do anything to stop you from running the table."

Bringing this love of the game to students is what Sundholm relishes about her job.

"I enjoy fostering competitive pool among U-M students," she says. "You don't have to be good at it to enjoy it."

When she is not working, Sundholm is busy gardening and working on scrapbooks. While she doesn't think she could live in a big city, she likes to visit places like San Francisco, Atlanta, New York City and Toronto.

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