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Winona’s Warrior Weaver. ~ Robert S Brumm

Rising junior pool star Xzaviar Aune (aw-knee) has faced down some extreme adversaries in his seventeen years on this planet — and most of them weren’t at the pool table. With years of debilitating heart defects and Mayo Clinic surgeries now behind him, Aune has a  survivor’s determination to succeed that is palpable.

Though he is known as a stoic and determined new competitor in the local Winona Pool Club, Aune has left a different mark on the community-at-large, recently completing his 300th hand-crafted blanket for young Mayo Clinic/Ronald McDonald House patients. Called ‘Zavy’s Lovies’ the blankets and pillowcases allow children to soak up the smell of home and comfort to help them recover from their long hospitalizations. Aune hopes to eventually craft enough of the blankets to fill every neo-natal ICU in the country during his lifetime!

Seventeen year-old Xzaviar doesn’t come from a storied pool family, and only just took up the sport two years ago. He quickly caught the eye of local pool mentor Joe “The Angle” Hengel, and now is in training with Pro-level instructor Gene Albrecht of Minneapolis.

Aune said, “About 6 months ago, I really took the next step up in my play abilities — right after I started some training sessions with Gene at the Jacoby Open in January.” He placed 2nd in age 15-18 boys at the Nekoosa, WI based state championship and qualified for the BEF 9-Ball Nationals in Las Vegas- finishing 26th in his 1st national appearance.

“I will be back looking for both a state and national junior championship next year,” Xzaviar added, “with my long-term goal of turning Pro in the billiards world alongside my favorite player Shane Van Boening.”

When asked what characteristic was the most important among the sport’s elite, Xzaviar adamantly replied, “Humility.” “Most of the best players have more humility and have a better chance at getting further. Consistently, every time they play,” he continued. “The humble player has the advantage.”

Billiards sports in North America have often been co-dependent with alcohol-centric bars — making junior/teen access far more difficult. Consequently, Aune is not a big fan of gambling or alcohol, and hopes that the resurgence in pool that seems to be occurring in the USA is long-lived and prosperous but “based upon billiards, not gambling, fighting, and drinking,” he said.

“I was thrilled to meet the amazing Jerry Briesath at the BEF Nationals this year since he is from Winona, too,” Aune exclaimed, “and I want to continue the tradition of consistent play, respect, and sportsmanship that Jerry has brought to the sport.”

Xzaviar is currently sponsored by the Wisconsin Artistic Pool Player Association (WAPPA). He exclusively uses Jacoby Custom Cues and dreams of someday being a player rep/Pro as part of their Nekoosa, WI, based stable of shooters.  

Rob is an (AP) Associated Press award winning photojournalist who will celebrate his 30th year in news gathering and photography on July 4, 2016. Starting out at the cross-town daily Menominee (MI) Herald-Leader in 1986, Rob has covered nearly three decades of breaking news, sports, and features on a tremendous variety of real-world subjects. Brumm is owner of Shoot-to-Thrill Photo Agency with the business still anchored in his hometown of Marinette, WI, USA. Photo: provided (and taken) by author Editor: Hannah Blue

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