In early 2005, Kim White turned off a busy Houston thoroughfare and into an L-shaped shopping center. A neighborhood poolroom occupied the far corner. Kim pulled into a parking place, then hesitated. She’d played in dozens of professional tournaments, and this would just be an independent event, but it would be her first competition since the savage dog attack.
She looked down at her left hand. An unsightly sponge wrap covered the splint that protected what remained of her little finger. The agonizing pain she’d suffered for the past three months had finally subsided, but two steel pins produced a dull throb that reminded her of her injury.
Kim climbed out of the car, then reached back and withdrew the hand-tooled leather case that contained her custom cue stick. As she closed the door, she glanced at her reflection in the side window. For this return to action, she’d selected a black Nike warm-up suit. Internally, she repeated her mantra: “Look good. Feel good. Play good.”
She slung her cue case over her shoulder, and strode toward the poolroom
|Meet Kim White President of the Women's Professional Billiards Association.|
Kim was born and raised in Houston’s far north side. She enjoyed an active childhood, with an involved mother who enrolled her in dance classes that included ballet, jazz, and tap. Other early activities included tennis, swimming, and scouting. In high school, she played on the basketball and volleyball teams.
At age 26, Kim competed against hundreds of women at the Billiard Congress of America’s annual ten-day event in Las Vegas. There, she won the coveted Women’s Open Singles Championship.
Kim then launched her professional career by competing on the Hunter Classics Women’s Amateur Tour, which is the oldest and largest of a dozen nationwide, regional tours. The top players on these regional tours go on to compete on the national tour, the Women’s Professional Billiard Association (WPBA).
In 2000, Kim was named Hunter Classics Champion for the year, and she qualified to play in selected WPBA Classic Tour events. Strong showings in these tournaments earned her the status of touring professional. In 2003, she rose as high as No. 10 on the tour, and she was named the most improved player of the year.
Kim also became the house professional at Bogies, directing tournaments, giving lessons, and practicing four to eight hours a day. Although she disliked air travel, she competed in all of the WPBA Classic Tour events each year and also played in a number of independent tournaments
Then came the unexpected. Kim and her husband, Mike, own a horse and three dogs: two young 100-pound Rottweilers (brother and sister) and a small Lhasa Apso. One morning in late 2004, Kim and the dogs were in the fenced backyard of her grandmother’s house, when the male Rottweiler abruptly attacked the Lhasa Apso. Kim instinctively dived into the melee, trying to protect the much smaller dog. She punched the Rottweiler, but couldn’t get him to back off. She grasped his snout in an attempt to pry open his mouth. As she and the two dogs rolled on the ground, she managed to free the Lhasa Apso, but the Rottweiler’s jaws closed again, this time on her left hand. The dog released her, and Kim pulled the Lhasa Apso beneath her, shielding it with her body. The Rottweiler began to circle, snarl, and feint attacks.
|Kim’s screams alerted a neighbor, who called 911. Kim continued to shield the smaller dog. It was covered with blood. Then Kim realized that it was her blood. She looked at her mangled hand and gasped, then raised it above her head, trying to reduce the bleeding. |
After several minutes, the police and emergency team finally arrived, but the menacing Rottweiler held them at bay outside the gate. Kim jumped to her feet with the Lhasa Apso in her arms, ran to the fence, and dropped it on the other side. The Rottweiler immediately quieted, then trotted over and laid down beside his sister in a far corner of the yard. As the emergency team assisted Kim to the ambulance, she looked back and begged the police to not hurt her dogs.
The authorities respected her pleas. Sometime later, after the dogs had been thoroughly evaluated, they were returned to Kim. The Lhasa Apso had suffered only minor injuries in the attack, and Kim gave him to an aunt. The Rottweilers now reside at Kim’s home in the country.
The physical and emotional damage that Kim suffered was extensive, and the recovery was slow and painful. In addition to the mangled hand, she’d received bites and abrasions all over her body. And despite all possible precautions, a serious infection entered the shattered bone of her little finger.
Twice a week for three months, Mike drove Kim to Baylor College of Medicine for treatment. “I was on the side lines all that time,” says Kim, “enviously watching others play; I was desperate to prove to myself that I could be better than ever, even with my deformity.”
Kim won that tournament. It wasn’t easy. Not only was the splint a handicap, but several muscles in her left hand had atrophied from having been immobilized for such a long period. After the last 9-ball fell, she stayed around long enough to accept the congratulations of the other finalists. Then as she left the poolroom, she thought, “That’s step one.”
Step two was winning the Texas State Open Championship held in Austin. A second surgery was performed on the finger during the year, and a third will be required. Nevertheless, Kim managed to play in all eight WPBA Classic tournaments during 2005, and she earned two Top-Ten finishes. What kept her going?
Carlos Ledson Miller is the author of Stroke—A Pool Novel, which captures the world of contemporary pool. www.carlosledsonmiller.com
“The Cueist” originally appeared in Change Magazine. www.changemagazine.net