photo: Lori Sutliffe
Lucky Luke Sutliffe is a man who counts his blessings.
He is a man who inspires others with his positive attitude. He is also a man who absolutely loves the game of pool. When Luke walks into a pool hall, he is in his element.
“There is something inside me I can’t describe. The music, the balls breaking, the sound of the balls hitting the back of the pocket… the entire atmosphere is when I am at peace. Pool is my love and my passion. Big things will happen for me because I have the heart. My love for this game is beyond measurable. I love Pool.”
Luke’s lifelong addiction to pool began when he was only five years old. His dad took him to the Recreation Center across the street. They had ping-pong, air hockey, shuffleboard, and a 4’ x 8’ pool table. Luke took one look and said, “I want to do that!”
At first he could barely hold the cue. He lost every game. That meant going to the last chair in line and moving up one place each game until it was his turn again. He persevered.
Over the years Luke got taller. He was able to hold a cue properly. He had no coach but he learned by watching the 12- 14 year olds play. The way he says it, he got tired of losing. His game improved through sheer determination. By the time Luke was 12, he was winning the local tournament. It was one dollar to enter with a ten dollar prize for first place. We can all relate to Luke’s memory of those times.
“Winning was an awesome feeling. I was the man!”
Around the time Luke started winning the local kids’ tournaments, he moved to Mississippi. There, he was lucky enough to be allowed to play in the local pool hall/tavern even though he was under age. One of his first opponents was an APA player ranked 7 (top rank in APA). Amazed at Luke’s talent, he asked, “Who are you?” He thought Luke was a 12-year-old hustler from Vegas. They played together for years. It was there that Luke got his pool name, Lucky Luke, which he has used ever since.
Two of the coolest moments in Luke’s pool career happened on consecutive New Year’s Eves. In a 2003 tournament on a valley bar table, Luke broke and ran seven racks of 9 ball. He said, “I’ll never forget it.” But just in case, the following year, in another 9 ball tournament on New Year’s Eve, he did the same thing. He broke and ran 7 racks again! New Year’s Eve seems to be a lucky day for Lucky Luke.
Thanks to his job as a project manager building O’Reilly auto parts stores, Luke travels a lot. He has played pool in 48 states, missing only Hawaii and Alaska. In April of 2010 Luke moved to Florida. He loves the sunshine state, especially the winters. There is some good pool to be played in the area. Currently Luke plays in Tony Crosby’s Poison Tour and the Simonis Tour.
Two of Luke’s goals for the future are to play in the US Open and the Ultimate 10 ball challenge.
Luke enjoys playing in the Southern Classic in Mississippi, however, recently Luke went to the Classic with a different purpose in mind. His fiancee’s mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Lori says, “While my family was in crisis, Luke almost immediately thought about doing a breast cancer cue auction in honor of my mom.” Bell Forest Products donated the wood for the cue.
Chuck Thomas, of Thomas Custom Cues in El Paso, built it. Luke took it to the Southern Classic and asked the players to sign it. Bad Boys Productions pitched in by keeping the cue at the podium and encouraging players to sign when they came to the podium. SVB, Alex Pagulayan, Dennis Orcollo, Niels Feijen, Jason Shaw, Mike Deschaine, and Wang Can are some of the world class players who signed the cue. Finally, he had a clear coat added over the signatures to protect them. The cue sold for $750 which was donated to breast cancer research.
Luke says his next charity cue will be an armed forces cue with proceeds going to assist veterans. “I love all branches of the service.” Lori adds, “I was amazed that he thought of such a meaningful gesture, knowing it would take dedication, hard work and lots of time from start to finish. It still blows my mind that he could step outside the madness and take action to do something that really mattered. Luke walks the walk… he’s modest, honest, loyal and kindhearted. He isn’t a bit arrogant, always has nice things to say about people he meets (especially in the pool world) and would go out of his way to help a friend, even a new friend.”
While at the Southern Classic, Luke also had a chance to spend some time with one of his pool playing role models, English player Chris Meller. Luke describes Chris as “one of the coolest people ever.” Chris has won numerous pool titles, including 2011 China Open champion. He has represented Europe in the Mosconi cup and is currently ranked first in the European Mosconi Cup rankings. At the Classic, Luke and Chris talked for hours.
Luke received pool pointers and tips. He said Chris was modest, dedicated, and appreciative of his fans—“exactly what I thought a pool player should be.”
One of Luke’s favorite pool halls is Strokers, right in his home town. Strokers has a down to earth family atmosphere. Luke says they have top notch food, better than any other pool hall he has seen. Everyone knows everyone. It’s also where the US Amateur finals will be held. Although Luke qualified for the Amateur, he lost out early in the tournament this year. He is planning to have a good time watching the finals and visiting with everyone.
He will be cheering for the editor of Sneaky Pete Mafia, SOS, in her attempt to win the Amateur title for a second time. Due to his skill as a player, his personality, and his promotion of the game of pool, Luke is lucky enough to have sponsors to help him on his path. He is excited that he is as of October 1st, he is sponsored by Balabushka Cues. Balabushka and another sponsor, Focus Gear, will design t-shirts for Luke to wear when he is playing.
Luke plays with a Schon cue with a Kamui clear SS black tip. That may change now that Balabushka is his sponsor. Luke is also sponsored by Sneaky Pete Mafia.
His goal is to be professional and respectful both on and off the table. “It’s how my parents raised me. Respect people and they will respect you.”
Luke gives a lot of credit to his coach, David Sapolis.
“My coach told me don’t worry about how many matches you need to win or how many games you need. Play in the game you are involved in.”
One of Luke’s strengths as a player is his ability to remain positive. After a recent loss, Luke posted this. “Lost my match hill-hill. I play tomorrow at noon. Most pool players give excuses—I was tired balls rolled funny etc etc. not this guy. I will be back with a vengeance tomorrow. Thanks for the support. The way I see it, I’m just getting started.”
Luke’s passion for pool is one aspect of a life that inspires others. A few days ago Luke left $20 on a gas pump to make a stranger’s day. He commonly posts motivational messages on facebook. A friend wrote,“I am truly inspired by you on a daily basis…we may not talk a lot…and I know we don’t know each other well…but your positive attitude and your posts do matter… just know that…you are a great person and you affect more people than you realize.”
Luke’s fiancée, Lori Miller, has this to say, “Not because I love him or because I’m marrying him in about 2 weeks but because he is so genuine, I look up to him as a person.”
Lucky Luke really is lucky. It’s luck that he has created for himself through his approach to life. They say the harder you work, the luckier you are.
Editor: Dana Gornall