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Cindy Smith, Kris Benoy, Cheryl Schultz and M.J. Comstock, from left, display the plaques they got for winning the 2009 Wisconsin State Pool Tournament in the Women's Open Gold Team Division. The women have been shooting pool together for about 10 years as members of the Empty Hats team based at Bob Smith's Sports Club in downtown Hudson. Submitted photo

Hudson team claims state pool tournament championship

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Hudson team claims state pool tournament championship
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Things didn't look good for the Empty Hats after they dropped a match to a Kenosha team in the championship round of Wisconsin State Pool Tournament.


But the four women who do most of their pool shooting at Bob Smith's Sports Club in downtown Hudson came back to defeat the Kenosha team twice and win the Women's Open Gold Team Division state title.

"I knew we could do it. We just never have before," said Kris Benoy of the Empty Hats. "It takes four people to get together at the same level at the same time. Usually, there's one up, one down."

But teammate Cindy Smith said they all were a little stunned when M.J. Comstock knocked in the final eight ball to give them the title.

"We were all in such shock that we couldn't cheer or yell or holler or anything," Smith said. "We stood and looked at each other kind of dumbfounded."

Smith said it's the biggest championship she's been a part of in 22 years of organized billiards play.

The state tournament was held March 11-15 at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells. It's sponsored by Wisconsin Amusement & Music Operators Inc., the state's coin-operated amusement association.

The Open Gold Division the Hudson team competed in was the second-highest of four women's divisions at the state tournament. Forty teams competed in the division.

Smith (the manager of the Sports Club), Comstock, Benoy and Cheryl Schultz have been shooting pool together as members of the Empty Hats for about 10 years.

Smith said she got the team name from a book about imaginary places.

"I saw empty hats and that just seemed to fit," she said with a laugh.

The Empty Hats play every Tuesday night in the St. Croix Valley White Pool League. They're currently in first place in the six-team intramural league.

Smith said she and Comstock have been shooting pool together for 22 years. Benoy and Schultz also have years of competitive experience.

Smith, Benoy and Schultz are all Hudson-area residents.

Benoy is the assistant production manager at Eagle Packaging Inc., located in Hudson's St. Croix Business Park. Schultz works in materials control at 3M Co. in St. Paul.

Comstock lives across the river in Lakeland, Minn., and works as an auto detailer at Heppner's Auto Body in Woodbury, Minn.

The Empty Hats survived the opening round-robin competition at the state tournament to advance to the final 16-team, double-elimination contest.

Smith estimates that they played 100 games as a team over the three days of the team completion.

Their prize for winning the title was $1,100, which Benoy said almost covered their expenses for the weekend.

"It's not a profitable sport," she said with a laugh.

Smith said the Empty Hats participate in the Wisconsin and Minnesota state tournaments every year, as well as the regional tournament held at the Hudson Sports & Civic Center each spring. They've also traveled as far as Las Vegas and the Bahamas to play in tournaments.

"So far, this is our greatest accomplishment," Smith said.

Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
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