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INTERVIEW: Sam Henderson

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

For any sport to continue there needs to be youth interested. That is evident when looking at the Mosconi Cup with such names as Billy Thorpe, Skylar Woodward, and Tyler Styer. Aside from youth interested in a sport, there needs to be organization. The BEF (Billiards Education Foundation) has been a great organization for the billiard industry. If you look at any of the national BEF events, you see some amazingly talented young players. We would like to highlight one such player in “The Ryno” Sam Ryne Henderson. He already has many top 5 Junior tournament finishes with many junior tournament wins as well. This is a player to keep your eye on.

What got you into pool?

I am the youngest of 4 children - 3 girls and I am the only boy. All of my sisters played in the local APA Juniors league ran by my dad Nate. I would have to tag along but I wasn't tall enough to play. Everyone kept telling me, wait until you are 7 or 8 and then it will be your turn. So I played soccer but didn't like it. I played football and kind of liked it but I didn't love it. I played baseball and again, I liked it but I didn't love it plus I broke my wrist so that ended my baseball career. When I turned 8 it was finally my turn to play pool. I still had to stand on my toes to see over the table and I had to use the bridge a lot but I loved it. I loved the personal challenge. Our community (The Quad Cities - Iowa and Illinois) rallied around me and helped me to improve my game. There are so many people that showed me this or that and I listened to everything they had to offer. I wish I could list everyone that has helped me along the way but there are way too many to list. I have been playing ever since.

On average, how many hours a day do you practice?

I practice 2 - 3 hours each day. Some days I take a break but I always come back refreshed the next day after a break. I also take virtual lessons with master instructor Anthony Beeler.

Do many of your friends play pool?

Not my friends from school - but I have made friends at the pool hall. Most of my friends are older than me. I am on a team called You Got Action made up of 5 of us from the Quad Cities. I am the youngest on the team. The other guys on the team (Timmy Bly, AJ Howell, Kamron Fuller, and Justin Nichols) are more than just my friends, I consider them my brothers. My friend Benny Conway Jr. also keeps me motivated but if you ask him, he will say I motivate him to play pool again. Even though he is my mom's age, I consider him one of my best friends and mentors.

You have a list of achievements and tournament wins already. Are there a couple that really stand out that you are most proud of?

My Team You Got Action played in the ACS Iowa State Men's 8 Ball Championships in October of 2018. We were a bunch of kids playing against adults. I am pretty sure no one thought we would do well but we actually won the tournament undefeated! Another tournament that I am proud of is Cash on the Rocks at Racks on the Rocks in Peoria, IL in 2019. This was a 9 Ball tournament open to everyone. I had just turned 13 years old and I was playing against some monsters on the table. I did better than even I expected placing 9th place out of 60 players. I lost 9 -4 to Chris Robinson who is on the Mosconi Cup Team this year.

If you could play any pro pool player today, in any game, who and what would it be?

Well, I have already played Sky Woodward so I would choose to play the one and only Shane Van Boening in a game of 10 Ball. I thought I might get the chance because Shane was supposed to be at the VNEA Junior Tournament this year but because of Covid19 it was canceled.

What big tournament do you want to play in one day?

My ULTIMATE goal would be the Mosconi Cup. There are so many other tournaments I cannot wait to play in. I look forward to playing in Derby but I will have to wait 7 more years since the age changed to 21. I know Ra Hanna is working with Diamond on a Junior Tournament in January 2021 that would give juniors another opportunity to play and I would like to play in that but I am not sure my mom will let me miss school. I would also like to play in the US Amateur Tournament someday.

Where did the nickname Ryno come from?

My middle name is Ryne after Ryne Sandberg, 2nd Baseman for the Chicago Cubs. We asked people from my community what a good nickname would be and my friend Colin Brandt was the first to chime in and say Ryno. Several others agreed that Ryno was the best nickname for me.

What was your reaction when you first heard the news that McDermott cues was bringing you on as a sponsored player/ambassador?

I was in Shock! I had asked them to sponsor me but at the time they were not taking on new Ambassadors. I just happened to be in New Orleans for the BEF Junior Tournament which was alongside the BCA Expo and McDermott Cues had a booth. Andy Werner from McDermott handed me a cue and told me to try it out

on the table in their booth. I was just having fun. After we left the booth, Danielle Martin and Andy Werner came to find me and my parents and asked me to come back to the booth. Greg Knight, Owner of McDermott Cues was there and turns out he had been watching me shoot on their table the whole time. He asked me if I would like to be sponsored and I was so shocked all I could do was nod my head yes! I was 11 years old at the time and now 3 years later they are the best Cue Sponsor I could ask for.

What are your favorite and least favorite games to play and why?

My favorite game to play is 10 Ball. There is not slop and strategy is a must. I don't really have a "least" favorite but if I had to pick one I guess it would be 8 Ball because my opponent can just run any balls in any order.

Which table size do you prefer to play on? 9ft or 7ft?

I prefer to play on the 9ft table. Just a year ago, I was honestly scared of the 9ft table but so many people kept telling me that my game would improve if I played on the 9ft so my Sponsor Shawn and Wes from Anytime Billiards in Des Moines, IA found me a 9ft Diamond Table with 4 1/4 pockets and my parents couldn't turn down the offer. Even when I got the 9ft in May 2020, I chose to play on my 7ft table in my basement. One day though, I just started practicing on the 9ft and even though it was a change and hard to get used to the tight pockets, I didn't give up and I am not longer intimidated. My game has improved so much just in 6 months.

Favorite pool movie?

I don't really have a favorite. I have seen the Color of Money but honestly it is really hard for me to watch a movie about pool when I would rather be playing pool.

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