A Japanese woman by the name of Masako Katsura ruled the billiards industry in the early 1900s. She was dubbed “The First Lady of Billiards” because she was regarded as the world’s best player. Today, Katsura is still regarded as one of history’s most talented players. We’ll take a look at her life and work in this article.
Childhood Masako Katsura was born in 1913 in Tokyo, Japan. There is almost no had some significant awareness of what life resembled for youthful Katsura, yet we truly do realize that she lived with her sibling and three sisters.
Katsura’s father tragically passed away when she was just 12 years old, forcing her to live with her older sister and her husband, Tomio Kobashi, who owned and worked in a billiard parlor.
Katsura would have been properly introduced to billiards here, and this is where she developed her passion for the game. She was already a natural at the game when she was 13, and by the time she was 14, she was working as an assistant in the billiard halls.
It is also common knowledge that Kobashi was a competent player, and it is highly likely that he would have assisted Katsura in comprehending the game and gaining an advantage in all aspects. In point of fact, the family ended up purchasing a billiard table for the house so that Katsura could practice at home because she was already so devoted to the game in such a short amount of time.
Masako Katsuro makes a name for herself playing pool.
It’s clear that all of this practice helped Katsura become extremely talented at the sport quickly, to the point where she entered tournaments and defeated Japanese men from all of the surrounding cities.
She won the women’s championship straight rail tournament for the entirety of Japan when she was 15 years old, just a few years after she first started playing the game. This was no easy feat. Even Katsura’s younger sisters were competing, with both of them eventually winning the same tournament.
The fact that women were not playing billiards competitively as much as men at the time is what made Katsura’s skills so impressive. In particular, playing the game in public was regarded as unladylike in Japan.
This main made Katsura’s achievements even more critical, and she immediately became something of a VIP in her nation of origin.
Katsura began to be referred to as the “First Lady of Billiards” around this time. She continued to use the nickname as her professional name when she began traveling internationally in the 1930s.
Marriage and Love In 1947, an American serviceman by the name of Vernon Greenleaf, who had been a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps for 22 years at the time, saw Katsura.
The two of them met in a service club in Tokyo where Katsura hosted and managed billiard competitions. Vernon started taking lessons from Katsura because he was already in love, and the two of them fell in love. They got married in November 1950, but they didn’t have any kids.
Although we’ll get into the titles and accomplishments a little later, Katsura’s billiards career was already on the rise when they got married.
In the three-cushion championship held in Japan, she finished in second place. In addition, Katsura won a straight rail competition with 10,000 contiguous points because she sank consecutive balls without missing a single one. This was a remarkable feat of skill that very few could match.
She nursed the balls around 27 tables for four and a half hours during this feat. The main explanation she halted was on the grounds that 10,000 was a decent achievement number.
It would remain a world record for twenty years.
Moving to the United States Immigrating to the United States with her new husband marked the next significant event in Katsura’s life. This was a year after they wedded in 1951 when Vernon was moved to a U.S. post, finishing his time at the Haneda Air Base in Tokyo.
This was a significant move, particularly considering Katsura’s limited English proficiency, but the two were determined to succeed. In December 1951, they set sail and arrived in San Francisco, exactly where the World Three-Cushion Billiards Tournament was scheduled to take place in three months.
After receiving a conditional placement from Cochran, the tournament’s billiard parlor, Katsura was all set to participate.
Naturally, Katsura’s success meant that she was really beginning to establish a name for herself, and word of her reputation spread quickly.
Between the years 1933 and 1945, Cochran won the world title eight times. Howevxer, as previously stated, Cochran wanted to ensure that she was up to standard because the tournament placement was contingent.
Cochran sent his son W.R. Cochran, a naval officer stationed in Japan, to look for himself in light of this.
W.R., impressed by Katsura’s abilities, told his father, “She’s better than you are.” Cochran, a champion himself, was naturally even more excited to meet Katsura now.
She gave herself to a private exhibition for Cochran, where she was everything his son claimed, when she and her husband arrived in the United States. She hit runs of 300 and 400, according to Cochran himself, making “quite unbelievable shots” as he watched in awe.
Cochran finalized the offer after seeing this for himself, and Katsura was now competing in her first world championship.
Katsura’s Professional Life At this point, Katsura’s professional life really took off. Katsura was the first woman to compete in a tournament like the World Three-Cushion Billiards Championship in 1952. Willie Hoppe was the champion at the time, and he was a world champion with more than 51 world titles, which he won from 1906 to 1952.
When Katsura participated in the competition, he later retired in the year. Naturally, there was a ton of hype for seeing them compete. While billiards was in no way, shape or form a unimaginably famous game, the public still totally loved the possibility that a lady was contending in a generally male game (which most games were back in that time), and there was without a doubt buzz encompassing her and how she could whip her male rivals.
“People from San Francisco would didn’t even know a cue from a cucumber flocked in to see her play as she stole the show,” Life magazine reported at the time.
However, Katsura did not stop at the 1952 championship. Katsura participated in and won her first-ever U.S. Women’s Three-Cushion Billiards Championship in 1953. This was a significant moment not only for her but for women in general who were working to break barriers in sports that were dominated by men.
Katsura won six U.S. championships during her career, including this one.
However, this does not imply that Katsura could not be defeated. Her career progressed, particularly to the World Three-Cushion Tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1954, where scores were posted by some of the best players in the world, many of whom had come out of retirement.
The cast included;
Miller Harold Worst Juan, Ezequiel Navarra Welker Cochran, and Kilgore Katsura, the defending champion, were the only female competitors. The matches got off to a good start when Katsura defeated Miller (60-47) and continued his winning streak against a variety of opponents.
However, she started losing games (60-28) to players like Ezequiel Navarra, but she won against his brother and finished fourth. On October 25, 1954, Worst, who had just come out of retirement for the tournament, won.
Taking a Break from
Billiards In 1958, she came back and appeared in 30 exhibitions. During that time, she also published two instructional books on how to play billiards, both of which were published in Japan.
However, in 1959, news of Katsura’s exhibition match against Harold Worst in a one-week match with a maximum score of 1,200 points hosted by the Randolph Recreations venue in Chicago caused a stir in the billiards community.
After that, they moved the show to Philadelphia, where they played six matches to 50 points (three cushions) and then showed it in New York. There were a few media feathers ruffled when this happened.
In March 1959, Katsura made an appearance on the popular guess game show What’s My Line?, which was on CBS. where she amusingly signed her name with Japanese characters on the name card.
She also made an appearance on the ABC show You Asked For It, where she went backstage on western movie sets to show how they were set up and recorded. In 1960, she did the same thing again, showing some of her trickshot performances to the cameras.
By 1961, the world of billiards had reached the point where such three-cushion world championship competitions were neither organized nor held. This meant that Harold Worst had been the champion for more than seven years, and as a result, he offered Katsura a $2000 competitive match.
Most horrendously terrible was entirely dedicated to these occasions that he attempted to make a lawful move against the Argentinian three-pad competition that was charging itself as the big showdown competition for covering the dates of the occasion.
While Katsura accepted, Worst defeated her by 350 to 276.
Katsura went quiet after winning the world championship in 1961, and the world saw her living relatively off the grid. She was said to have retired professionally and in the billiards community, and there were rumors that her husband had tried to stop her from playing billiards anymore. In 1967, he passed away.
In 1976, nearly two decades after her last public performance, Katsura made an appearance at Palace Billiards in San Francisco. There, she borrowed a cue from a random player and proceeded to sink 100 points at the straight rail without making any mistakes.
Purportedly from the scene, it was expressed that ‘without a miss, she grinned and bowed to a praising group, pulling back from the spotlight and vanishing perpetually from the American billiard stage. ( At the time, Robert Byrne was a prolific pool and billiards author.
And that’s what took place.
In 1990, Katsura went back to Japan to live with her sister, where she remained until her death in 1995.
The Katsura Memorial, a memorial tournament, was held in his honor in September 2002: The Primary Women Three Pad Fantastic Prix, which was facilitated in Japan and circulated on SkyTV all over the planet.
Katsura is still regarded as one of history’s greatest billiards players to this day.
In 1966, she was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America’s Hall of Fame, and in 2003, she was given the Player of the Century award from the U.S. Billiard Media Association. In Walk 2021, she was highlighted in the GoogleDoodle work of art observing Global Ladies’ Day.
It is impossible to overstate Katsura’s influence on the billiards game, and she will always be remembered as one of the greats.
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