Pool ace Wingebach rules the table
When Ray Wingebach visited his favorite Pittsburg pool halls in the late 1940s, he was there to play. He played for the love of a game he began playing when he was 12. At that time, though, he also played for a more practical reason.
"I'd go down there to win a little extra money," said Wingebach.
Sometimes though, he'd win a little too much extra money.
"My wife was working for a telephone company at the time," Wingebach recalled. "She made about $12 a week, and I'd show up with more money than she made that week."
Dorothy, his wife of 53 years, remembered not being too thrilled about her husband's good fortune.
"He'd make me so mad sometimes," she said. "I worked all week for my money and here he was making more than me, and he was doing it by shooting pool."
Those days didn't last, as Wingebach gave up his beloved game when more important things came around. He moved from Pittsburg to Eudora in 1954 and went to work at the Lawrence Farmland Co-op as an instrument technician. Soon after, he began his family.
"I quit playing when my kids were born," Wingebach said. "And I didn't start playing again until they were out of the house."
Nowadays, Wingebach, 78, is back playing for the reason he had when he first picked up a pool cue.
"I just love playing the game," he said. "I love understanding the 'English' of a ball, and I love getting into that zone where it seems I can't miss."
Instead of in pool halls, Wingebach now plays in organized tournaments and leagues. And as he did those many years ago, he still wins. The trophies in the basement of his Eudora home can attest to that.
In 1992 he won first-place in the Kansas City Championships of the American Pool-Players Association, and in 2002 he was the MVP of the eight-ball division of that same league.
"He can put a ball anywhere he wants," said his son John Wingebach. "The only time I ever win against him is when he lets me."
Despite the awards and family praise, Wingebach remains humble about the game he loves.
"I'm pretty good," he admits, "but there are a lot of great pool players out there."
A tournament win that earned Wingebach and his playing partners a trip to Las Vegas to play showed him how right he was.
"Out in Las Vegas, there are some of the best pool players that I've ever seen," Wingebach said. "We didn't last long out there. We were done pretty quickly."
When Wingebach isn't playing in tournaments and leagues, he keeps his skills up to scratch on a pool table in his basement.
That pool table served the same purpose for his grandchildren and now his great-grandchildren.
"When my son was little, he used to pull up a chair to stand on so he could shoot."