HUNTINGTON, New York, April 9
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Typical afternoons at The Big Kahuna Bar & Grill in Huntington are filled with chorus of sounds.
Ice rattles in cold cocktail glasses, sports broadcasts grace the sound system and the chatter of patrons fills the air so that complete silence isn’t an item on the menu.
When listening closely enough, however, it’s possible to hear something special: the sound of magic as it radiates from the pool cues of the world’s best billiards trick shot artist, “house pro” Andy “The Magic Man” Segal, of Huntington.
Following the sound, Segal can be found at one of the Big Kahuna’s several billiards tables, knocking cue balls through elevated racks, around obstacles and into the numbered pool balls in a “Mouse Trap”-esque sequence of events guaranteed to put a smile, or draw an excited gasp, from any of those lucky enough to witness the magic. From there, Segal ventures over to his iPad, filled with an encyclopedia’s worth of shots, marks whether he was successful or failed, loads up another trick, rinses and repeats.
“I love the tables here,” Segal, 46, said of the East Jericho Turnpike bar and billiard club. “They’re some of the best tables you can have.”
The 15-year resident of Huntington has been competing as a trick shot artist for the last 13 years. During that time, he’s risen to become the no. 1 ranked player in the world, set four world records and claimed more championships than is reasonable to list – upwards of 17 titles spanning ESPN, Masters, U.S. Open and World championships.
But, at first, Segal’s love for trick shots bloomed as two separate passions: magic and billiards.
“Ever since I was a teenager I used to love magic – it was all I did – and pool always fascinated me,” he said.
At Carnegie Mellon University, Segal began to intertwine those two loves in the basement of the university’s dorm-room complexes. While he developed his trick shots from then on, Segal first came onto the professional billiards scene as a 9-Ball player in the 1990s.
Even then, despite getting pretty “good” at the game – he was internationally ranked – Segal found himself itching to put on a spectacle for onlookers in-between rounds. He wanted to be more than just a player; he wanted to be an entertainer.
“I would do magic, maybe a trick shot here or there during halftime,” he said. “I love entertaining so that kind of just stuck with me.”
Finally, in 2002 – after having met pro-pool player and trick shot artist, Mike Massey – Segal got the chance to show off his tricks at the North American Artistic Pool Championship in Utica, N.Y. He finished fourth and advanced to the 2003 WPA World Artistic Pool Championships in Ukraine. A fifth-place finish and two gold medals kept Segal’s dream alive, and then, in 2003, he made the complete transition into trick shot artist as he secured a spot in the ESPN Trick Shot Magic competition, a tournament he’s since gone on to win four times, consecutively, from 2009-2014.
“That was it for me; I never played 9-Ball competitively again,” Segal said.
Born in Queens, N.Y., Segal made the move to Huntington in 2000 with his wife, Kimberly, and daughter, Jessica, who is now a student at Elwood-John Glenn High School. Having been surrounded by the concrete sidewalks and brick buildings of New York City for too long, he said, the couple wanted their surroundings to be a bit livelier.
“We wanted to be able to open the front door and go outside,” he said.
Also an avid golfer, kickboxer and actor, Segal has traveled the world in his days as a trick shot artist, having performed in Argentina, Columbia, Russia and other countries. For the first time, on April 11, he’ll be bringing the show to The Big Kahuna in Huntington as a part of the Ultimate Trick Shot Tour. From 11 a.m.-8 p.m. the world’s best trick shot artists – including Segal and the no. 2-ranked Jamey Grey – will flood the bar for a chance at a title.
“They’re tough. There’s no difference in the levels of talent – between us, it’s just a difference in strategy or focus,” Segal said.
Like a basketball game of H-O-R-S-E, each of those competing in the tournament will be matched up against an opponent. Then, they will alternate between choosing and attempting shots as they try to accrue points. Each player gets three chances to perform the shot – if the shot is made, that person gets a point. Ties are possible in the opening round, but once the field is narrowed for the following elimination round, overtime then decides who will advance to the next round.
No matter who wins, though, Segal said, perhaps the most-important aspect of the day will be that a group of friends has some fun making magic.
“Honestly, in the trick-shot tournaments, we’re all helping each other out. It’s a friendly competition; we want people to succeed,” Segal said.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, April 9, 2015; A2)