A local pool phenom has been making waves in the Quad Cities and beyond, being a fierce competitor and beating people at the pool table who could easily be twice his age.
“Billiards starts off with the young guys,” Leisure Time Billiards owner Dwaine Bowman said. “And then you watch them develop into the pros. And Sam’s right there. I mean he’s right at the top.”
Sam Henderson, 16, went undefeated in the 8-ball Master division at the Iowa ACS State Tournament at the RiverCenter in Davenport. His team also won the open 8-ball competition.
“It was a great experience,” Henderson said. “It was my second time ever playing in that division.”
Henderson has been competitively playing pool since he was 11 years old. It has allowed him to earn a number of sponsors from local, national and even international companies.
Tracy Kennis, Sam’s mother, says he’s very humble and quiet but he never shies away from competition.
“When he started playing pool in the APA he was a two — skill level two,” Kennis said. “He wanted to be a six. And then he wanted to be a eight. And the top was a nine. He wanted to be a nine before a certain age. And he exceeded at that goal.”
Sam says he was inspired to play pool by his parents and from going to the pool hall learning from other people that wanted to teach him.
“Yeah, not a lot of people know how to play this game well,” Henderson said. “Everyone in my community kind of taught me a little something. Like, I would just go to the pool hall every weekend and someone would come up to me. ‘Hey, you want to teach me this thing?’ And the next weekend someone would teach me something new. And I would just take all that in and just learn.”
Sam has racked up many tournament wins, including one in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“Yeah I just sit back and enjoy the ride,” Kennis said. “I mean he has taken us on this journey that we didn’t even know was a thing with the billiards world. And we’ve been able to travel the country.”
The sophomore at Pleasant Valley has a very busy schedule. And to make sure Sam is able to continue to do competitions, Henderson and his family decided it would be better to complete online coursework so that he could travel for tournaments.
“It’s great having everyone behind me. and supporting me and cheering me on to go far in this game.”
Henderson wants to turn professional in a few years. He plans to compete in some big tournaments next year, including one at the Riverside Casino in Iowa and the Midwest regional championship at the RiverCenter in Davenport.