Meet Bobby Hunter
Bobby Hunter is probably best known as the 1990 World Straight Pool Champion and was one of the top nine-ball players in the world at that time. He fell in love with the game as a teenager and was fascinated with the level of workmanship that went into the best custom cues of the day. At the age of nineteen, Bob traveled from his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan to Brooklyn, New York to try to convince the great George Balabushka to build him a cue. (Balabushka's cues were in great demand then, as now, and Bob had been told that taking an order over the phone from someone he had never heard of was not something that George was inclined to do.) When they met, Bob was invited into the little shop in the garage, and the two spoke at length. Throughout the conversation, to try to determine whether this kid was a real pool player, George asked questions about different players, pretending he couldn't remember their names. When Bob passed the "test" Balabushka agreed to build him his first custom cue.
Bob played on the road and in the occasional tournament throughout the '70s. At one of the tournaments (Burlington, Iowa - 1974), a cuemaker named Billy Stroud had set up a booth and was displaying some of his work. Ever the cue nut and drawn to fine workmanship, Bob spent hours talking with Billy and examining his cues. It was obvious that these cues were built by someone who took pride in his work and, before the week was over, Bob had ordered his first Joss West. When he received the cue, he was as impressed with the playability as he had been with the workmanship, and spent the next 18 years playing, almost exclusively, with Billy's cues.
When Passion Spills Over
Bobby decided to try his hand at cue building in 1980. Armed with almost no knowledge of the craft, he bought a lathe which was suitable for doing repairs, but, he later discovered, inadequate for building a complete cue. Frustrated by this and by the difficulty in getting information on cuemaking, he sold his equipment and concentrated his efforts on his playing career. Throughout the 1980s, he played in every major tournament he could and by the end of the decade he had become a threat to win any event he entered. After capturing the world title in '90, he defeated Johnny Archer to win the Bass Ale Classic in Boston, finished 2nd to Ralf Souquet at the '91 Challenge Cup in Sweden, triumphed over Earl Strickland to take the Glass City Open title in '91, and finished 2nd to Archer at the '92 World 9-ball Championship in Taipei, Taiwan.
Despite the fact that he was playing the best pool of his life, Bobby refused to renew his player contract at the end of 1992 due to his growing dissatisfaction with the management of the pro tour (the first of many players who would eventually make the same decision). It was time to make a move, and not a horizontal one.
The idea of building a world class custom cue had never lost its appeal and he started putting a shop together. The focus was, first, to build a cue that played well. When the first one was finished, he put it together and gave it the test. It was not quite right. The cue seemed to be a little too stiff. Every time he jacked up a little and pounded one, balls would fly right off the table. A little re-taper of the shafts was in order. After he fine tuned the shaft taper, the cue passed the test with flying colors.
An Artist Emerges
Now that he knew he could build a cue that could perform with the best of them, Bobby turned his attention to design and inlay work, and perfecting his finish. He picked up an old pantograph from a print shop that was upgrading to computerized machines and used it to do the inlay work in the early cues. Since 2003 the designs have been executed with a Haas 4-axis mill.
Today, Bobby's experience as a top player, together with his attention to detail, have enabled him to build cues that are known throughout the world for their superior playability, clean designs, flawless workmanship, and a finish that is second to none.