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Massac County pool champion breaks to serve country

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MASSAC COUNTY (WSIL) --"I’d wake up playing pool. I’d go to sleep playing pool. I’d sleep under the pool table, there was a couple times I’d sleep on the pool table. I was playing it all day everyday if I could."

Austin Summers has quite the passion for playing pool.

"I’d wake up before school probably like 4:30 or 5 and I didn’t have to be at school until 8:20," said Summers. " I’d go and play pool until 8:10 or 8:15. I’d be late everyday."

All that practice has certainly paid off. The recent Massac County grad was ranked the number one junior player in the world. A feat he could have never imagined when he started out.

"Without a stool I was probably like this – my eyeballs couldn’t even see over the table," said Summers." So whenever I got my stool, I was kind of able to do it like this or something. I don’t even remember how I did it."

In just 6 years of playing, pool has taken Summers across the country competing in tournaments. His talents even taking him international to compete in the World Nine Ball Championship in Russia.

"It was great honestly. It was something that I wouldn’t have been able to do without pool, so I thank that. I still talk to my buddy from Hong Kong basically everyday, every other day. We are good buddies. There is a lot of friendships I’ve met with people in different countries through pool that I still have a good relationship with.

But these days its not just about playing pool. Summers has chosen to wear another hat. He’s decided to to serve his country by joining the National guard.

"It’s been amazing honestly," said Summers. " I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a very great lifestyle and its probably one of the best choices I have ever made."

"I did recruit Austin, " said Staff Sergeant Adam Lock. "You know he is one of those kids that just struck me right away like somebody that I really liked. Kind of a happy go lucky, positive, good attitude. I didn’t even know about his pool aspects at all until I was talking with his school counselor and kinda saying hes kinda a big deal with this pool thing. He is going all around the country and across the world with this thing. Once I figured that out, it really resonated with me and hit home that someone like him would still take that sacrifice to step away from that for awhile and do something that he doesn’t have to do but something that he wants to do."

July 1st Summers heads to Fort Benning for 22 weeks for basic training.How much time he will have to play pool there, he is unsure. But Summers is not too worried about his game.

"Pool – It will be here when I get back," said Summers. "This is a once and a lifetime opportunity though 18 and I’m going to go support our country and represent."

"I think that anytime a young person looks to join the military, it speaks volumes but for someone like that that does it when they already have their irons in the fire," said Sergeant Lock. "It really speaks volumes."

Kendra Sheehan

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