Later this month the World Women’s Snooker (WWS) Tour will head to the United States for the landmark first staging of the US Women’s Snooker Open at OX Billiards.
One man who has been instrumental in making the event happen has been Mike Dominguez, owner of our host venue in Seattle and we recently caught up with him ahead of the event to learn more…
Hi Mike, there are now just over two weeks to go until the first balls are potted at the inaugural US Women’s Snooker Open at OX – how excited are you for the event?
There is a lot of excitement at OX because of this event. The players are getting ready, Simon [Barker] just finished installing new baize, and Christian and I are setting up a new camera for table two on our stream.
I am very excited and anxious! My focus will be to make sure everyone has a great time and that the tournament goes well. Every time we do events like this we get better at it and my hope is that we set the standard very high the first time around, so the next time it will be easier to improve.
What can our players who will be visiting Seattle for the first time expect from the event and the city itself?
Bring your walking shoes, camera, and taste buds. Seattle is a beautiful city with plenty of city and nature hikes. The food and drinks in Seattle are very good just about anywhere you go.
The weather should still be warm and the sun will stay out a little later than usual. The common landmarks like Pike Market and the Space Needle are very close to OX.
Taking a trip to West Seattle will put you on a sandy beach with the Seattle skyline as a backdrop. And city parks like Volunteer Park and Cal Anderson Park are nice walkable green spaces.
Tell us a little about your journey and the story of Ox Billiards
The journey began with BAIZE Snooker Club, which I opened on 29 February 2020 in the hopes of helping snooker grow in Seattle and the States.
Unfortunately, little over three weeks later, COVID-19 hit Seattle and almost three weeks later all business were to shut down. We were open for 22 days and only lasted 18 months. BAZIE was doomed and we had to close our doors.
In the short time BAIZE was alive we developed a small but strong following. That following kept the dream alive. I lost almost all our money in BAIZE, but we did find investors in order to try again. Jaime, my wife, put up money and new investors Christian Youngers and Phuc Dang put us over the top. The four of us put together the idea of a club with snooker and pool. But I could not find a name for the new club.
For months the club was being built without a name. It was until there was no more time to wait that the name came to me. I could not decide between Slate, OX, or Under The Hill as names. None spoke to me and I thought there was possibly another name that could better suit the club. I knew that I did not have the answer, so I decided to ask Alex Higgins. I picked up a biography about him and picked a random page and started reading.
It was the part of the book when Alex attempt suicide and takes pills and drinks bottles of booze. He eventually falls unconscious in a coma for a few days in the hospital. The doctors tell his wife that she should prepare for his death. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Alex comes out of his coma. “He must have the constitution of an OX.” Lynn says.
My jaw dropped and I had chills run through my body. Jaime liked the name OX because I am an OX, and it was the year of the OX, but I felt that name had too much to do with me, so I didn’t really like it all that much. But after reading the Alex book, I was sold. I immediately sent the name of the club and how I found it to my friend and he came up with the inspired logo the next day. OX was born.
What is it that draws you to snooker personally?
The difficulty of the sport is the main draw. You have to be determined, persistent, and disciplined in order to get better at it. I guess there has to be a little bit of self-loathing as well since it can be very torturous. It is a brutal game and for those that play and understand how difficult it is, it feels like belonging to a family. Finally, when you do get better, you feel great. There is no limit to learning in this sport, because you can never be the best, you can always improve.
The staging of this tournament would not have been possible without your passion and determination – how much potential do you believe that snooker has in the US, both women’s and the sport as a whole?
I know that the US has the players to compete on the world amateur stage. We just do not have exposure to tables. If we had more snooker tables in America, then we would see more and better players. So, the question is why don’t we have more tables? An argument can be made that the demand is not there— but that is false because how can they demand snooker if they don’t know what it is. Another argument is that snooker is too expensive to have in a club because the tables are big and more money can be made from smaller tables packed in a club. Ok, but that is a business decision and not a choice the player makes.
It comes down to the business. Do you want to promote snooker in America? If so, then it can be done. If you want to squeeze a maximum and immediate return on investment from every square inch of your club, that is their right too.
OX found a business model that works with both snooker and pool. We have a plan stemming from the BAIZE days and it has evolved as we moved along. It works and is working. Several people have looked at our plan and said, “Do you really think that will work?” I would answer, “I hope so.” So far, it has.
There are new clubs opening in the US that have snooker tables and I think that is exciting. I would be willing to help them in any way I could. Snooker is a beautiful sport and someday America will embrace it.
Along your journey so far, you have had some of the icons of our sport including Judd Trump, Allison Fisher and Ricky Walden visit Ox in recent months – tell us about those experiences.
All three people have been down to earth and friendly. They have been encouraging and loved OX’s space and what we are doing.
In a very symbolic way, Judd’s visit was the antithesis to how BAIZE began. About 22 days after BAIZE opened, it had to close due to COVID, and about 22 days after OX opened Judd did an exhibition! Everything was flipped on its head.
Allison gave a two-day coaching clinic at OX and she was teaching players how to use the snooker stance. She can take one quick look at your game and help you in myriad ways. Her knowledge is incredible.
Ricky Walden was supposed to visit BAIZE soon after it opened, but it wasn’t possible. So, when it finally happened, it felt like a sort of homecoming. We had great long conversations while he was here.
All of them were extremely friendly and giving. They will all have a special place in my heart, and it feels strange to even say that.
Earlier this year you visited the professional World Championship in Sheffield for the first time – was the experience what you expected?
Yes and No. Yes, the theatre was as intimate as describes and there are no bad seats in the house. The energy in the theatre is electric. If I was to compare, it felt like a college basketball game at The Don Haskins Arena in El Paso, TX. A small but loud place to watch sports.
I could not get over seeing pro snooker players walking around or in the bars having drinks. You could go up and meet them and have a selfie. It took them forever to get anywhere so I tried not to do that. Judd’s manager made us feel at home and we were not expecting his hospitality. It was incredible to be with them.
It was also a fantastic opportunity to meet Rebecca Kenna and Mink Nutcharut. After talking with Bex for a while we realised that there was an opportunity to sponsor her on her first year as a pro. I was really shocked that someone had not taken that opportunity. OX was thrilled to sponsor her. We knew of her from Facebook and had followed her for a while. I was hoping to meet her before we went on the trip, but to get a chance to sponsor her was amazing.
We were lucky enough to grab great seats and were spoiled in our first session when Neil made his 147. We saw Ronnie win his 7th and the celebration afterward. All in all, it was so good it seemed fake. It was too good to be true, someone must have scripted it for us.
What message would you have to any players thinking about entering what is set to be a historic event for women’s snooker this month?
Snooker is new to America and we are all eager and willing to learn. We welcome you with open arms and hope you feel at home.
We will have more WWS tournaments, but there is only one first time and someone will have be the winner, will it be you?
The US Women’s Snooker Open will run from 26-28 August 2022 at Ox Billiards and the entry deadline is fast-approaching – but we do intend to accept late entries for the event in order to complete the draw, so please contact us as soon as possible if you may wish to enter!