I had a gun put to my head for being deaf but now I'm the GOAT of pool and I focus by turning my hearing aids off | The Sun

SHANE VAN BOENING is the GOAT – and used his hearing impairment and a fishing rod to fuel him to glory.

He has won his version of the US Open five times – the same as Roger Federer.

He has won his version of the Ryder Cup three times – the same as Tiger Woods.

He has been crowned his version of world champion once – the same as Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and Jenson Button.

But the South Dakota Kid is by no means a household name despite holding a strong argument for being pool’s best ever.

However, Matchroom Pool are hoping to change that by pouring investment into the World Nineball Tour and hosting two major events in the UK this month.

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Van Boening, 39, was born in Rapid City with all the hallmarks of a future pool star.

After all, his grandfather, grandmother, auntie and mother were all champion billiards players and he first picked up a cue aged two… and rapidly started potting. 

But he was also born deaf.

It was his hearing problems that prompted childhood bullying to the point of having a gun pressed to his head in one terrifying moment – and he used pool as his escapism. 

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Now, though, he has turned his struggles into a benefit by switching off his hearing aids around the table to block out the noise in big tournaments.

Mild-mannered and tee-total Van Boening, who could face Kevin Hart's former drug-dealer brother Robert, told CBS: “The kids would start throwin' rocks at me. They would put gum in my hair.  

“I would go home to my mum and I'd be crying. She made me feel better by asking me, ‘Do you wanna go to the pool room?’

“It's actually a big advantage for me. When I play a pool tournament I can just shut it off.

“When I won my first US Open I had everything off. I was focused. Total silence. I'm totally 100 per cent zoned in.”

Van Boening was beating world-class players as a young teenager and won that first of his record-equalling five US Open crowns in 2007.

In total he has more than 100 pro tournaments, a three-time national amateur champ and led the USA to Mosconi Cup glory over Europe in 2009, 2018 and 2019, hitting an incredible winning shot to secure the 2018 victory. 

The current world No2 hits around half a million pool shots per year and has mastered his serve, aka the break, with relentless practice – sometimes spending an entire eight-hour session solely working on that one stroke. 

It has reaped the rewards, though, with his name cemented into history and more than £1.5million in prize money.


But there was one glaring omission on his impressive CV: the world championship.

Until April 2022, that is, when glove-wearing Van Boening achieved his lifelong dream by beating Albin Ouschan 13-6 in Milton Keynes. 

And he will be back in the UK this month for the World Pool Masters, staged near Matchroom Pool HQ in Brentwood, before the UK Open at London’s Copper Box Arena at the end of May.

The sports promotions company, headed up by Barry and Eddie Hearn, have high hopes for pool – and want to grow the game in a similar way to their impact on darts and snooker with bigger names, more global events and an increase on the $3m tour prize money. 

And Van Boening is in full support of the plans.

The American star, who is usually ice fishing on frozen lakes if he isn’t practising or competing, said: “Nineball is the future because we have a lot of events around the world coming thick and fast. 

“It’s a great opportunity to travel the world. More Nineball events means we have the opportunity to make a real career out of this sport. It lets people aspire to become something. 

“The Mosconi Cup is the most important one on the calendar for me and if you want a shot of playing in that, you need to play the World Nineball Tour calendar.”

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