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Billiards City: Masako Katsura and the Art of Trick Shots

Billiards City: Masako Katsura and the Art of Trick Shots

Masako Katsura is a legendary billiards player who is known for her great skills and contributions to the game. She was well-known in Japan before she moved to the U.S., where she competed in world championships, gave exhibition matches, and appeared on TV shows. Even though she has a private life, her legacy in the world of billiards is still strong. Here is everything you need to know about the first lady of the pool, Masako Katsura.

Who Was Masako Katsura?

Masako Katsura was a legend. She was the best billiards player in the world, and she won a game that only men played. Because of this, she paved the way for other women to not only join the sport but also be taken seriously.

Masako “Katsy” Katsura was the first woman ever to play billiards on an international stage. She was a first-of-its-kind opponent in a sport where men usually win most of the time. She quickly became well-known in Japan. From there she started to conquer the rest of the world as the “First Lady of billiards” competing – and winning – in international tournaments, regardless of her opponent.


Name  Masako Katsura (桂 マサ子)
Nickname Katsy
Height 5 ft
Weight 96 lbs (44 kg)
Born and Raised Tokyo, Japan
Citizenship American
Born March 7, 1913,
Died December 20, 1995 (Age 82)
Spouse Vernon Greenleaf (died 1967)
Coached by Tomio Kobashi, Kinrey Matsuyama
Professional Career Ended 1961


Early Life

Masako Katsura was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1913. We don’t know much about Katsura’s life as a child, except that she lived with her brother and three sisters.

Sadly, when Katsura was just 12 years old, her father passed away, and she was forced to go and live with her older sister and her husband, Tomio Kobashi, who owned and worked in a billiard parlor.

This is where Katsura would have learned how to play pool for the first time and where her love for the game would have grown. At 13, she was already a natural at the game and would be found regularly within the billiard halls, and at 14 was working there as an assistant.

It’s also known that Kobashi himself was a decent player and would certainly have played a role in helping Katsura understand the game and get ahead when it came to all aspects of it. Katsura became so interested in the game in such a short amount of time that her family bought her a billiard table so she could practice at home.

Masako Katsura Moves To America


Katsura’s career in the pool ended when World War II broke out. She put on a one-woman show for the Japanese troops during the war. After the war, she changed her focus and showed American troops how to play billiards.

Katsura’s international career got off to a good start because of these performances. One American soldier wrote about Masako Katsura to his father, who was a billiards champion. “This girl is better than you,” he said. Cochran reached out to Katsura and told him he should come to the U.S.

Katsura won the national women’s billiards tournament before she started playing in the national men’s tournament.

Katsura moved to California in the year 1951. From the streets of Tokyo, she found a very different world. Back home, there were a lot of pool halls where women worked and played. But in America, men went to billiard halls.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve only met one woman who plays pool,” Katsura said. “Here, a pool hall is seen as a place for men… You know, if someone had a billiard parlor for women only, that would be good.”

How did Masako Katsura figure out how to play pool?

Miss Masako Katsura learned how to be a great cue player in the pool halls of Tokyo, Japan. Her brother-in-law owned a bar in Tokyo where she began playing when she was 14 years old. She says that at first, she wasn’t very interested in billiards. But when she was feeling weak and tired, her brother-in-law would suggest that she play billiards to exercise her body and mind.

As she played in the hall, she began to work there soon after. As she worked, she was interested in how different customers played and did different trick shots.

Masako Katsura and What She Has Done in the U.S.

After she had won Japan’s national women’s billiards tournament, she came to the US and finished second in the National All Men’s Competition (twice).

She was now playing here and there in the US. She made history as the first woman to ever play in the international billiards title, where she finished sixth.

Two years after she moved to the United States, in 1954, she went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to compete in the world championship. She came in fourth. Even though it was hard for women to play sports like billiards in the 1950s, Katsura seemed to be able to do it anyway, and she won against all odds.

Miss Masako Katsura wanted to play more, but she said that her husband’s job keeps her from playing much. Miss Katsura played sports and helped women’s sports in so many ways that the new Women’s Professional Billiard Association invited her to join.

Welkren Cochran, her American manager, said that Katsura has opened up a previously male-dominated sports field to women.

The US Billiards only needed Katsura.

When Katsura and her husband finally got to the United States, Cochran didn’t waste any time and decided to be in charge of her. After a month, Cochran said that the game needed a woman player to compete with the best men, and Katsura gave them that woman player.

Her manager, Cochran, always went with her when she performed at different shows, exhibitions, and tournaments around the US to tell the press about her unmatched skills.

The Detroit Free Press called Katsura a “real Japanese cue-tee.”

Cochran told the Kansas City Star that Katsura would work on her craft for long periods. Even though he had won six times, he was still surprised by her shots on the board.

Even though she beat almost everyone, the guys didn’t mind telling her how great her shots were. One of her opponents, Jay Bozeman, said she was one of the best players he had ever seen. Another competitor, Willie Hope, was surprised to see her play. He said, “I wasn’t expecting that… “The girl is great.”

Beginning of Katsura’s Sports Career: Katsura took her love of sports seriously and began practicing her skills day and night. After enough practice, she went to the Women’s Championship straight rail and beat her opponent.

After that, she never looked back, and people from all over the world began to praise her. In an interview from 1959, she said, “Then I went pro and started touring with my sister all over Japan, China, and Formosa.” Her sisters have also been the winners of the straight rail championships in different years.

Kinrey Matsuyama, a professional billiards player who had won Japan’s national three-cushion championship many times, noticed her in the meantime. In 1952, a Times article said that he was the Japanese Willie Hoppe. Katsura impressed Matsuyama, so he started coaching her for master-level tournaments.

By 1947, she had broken all the rules in billiards and was the only professional female player in the country. She won many national-level matches and became the center of attention for the sports world.

After that, Matsuyama taught her how to play three-cushion billiards, which was a tricky game that required a lot of mental strength and skill.

It was a new challenge for Katsura, but she got it right away. In 1949, she took part in the national three-cushion tournament in Japan and came in second.

Career beginnings

Katsura’s pool career took a big step forward in 1937 when she met Kinrey Matsunya. Matsunya, who was, among other things, the Japanese three-cushion champion more than once and the U.S. national champion in 1934, helped her get to the highest level of professional play.

Katsura’s pool skills got a lot better after Matsunya taught him how to play. By 1947, she was famous as the only professional billiards player in Japan who was a woman. In 1948, she came in second place at the Japanese national three-cushion championship. For the next two years, she also came in second place.

Katsura’s 7th place finish at the World Championship shocked the billiards world because she beat top players like Ray Kilgore, Joe Procita, and Herb Hardt. Even though she won, she lost to Matsuyama, her former coach, in a close match 50 to 48 points.

Her win at the World Championship made her famous in the world of billiards. Welker Cochran, a two-time world champion, came out of retirement to tour the United States with her. In the following year’s championship, Katsura once again impressed, finishing fifth alongside Matsuyama.

Her path to success across the world

In the 1950s, she made a name for herself in the pool scene, which helped her career take off.

Due to her credibility, Champion Welker Cochran became Katsura’s manager and told the newspapers, “The game has needed a woman player with skill enough to compete against the greatest of men players. And now I’m sure that it’s finally got that.”

Katsura was written about in newspapers all over the country, and her gender was more important to the media than her skills.

One newspaper even said that the winner was a “real Japanese cue-tee.”

The other person in the media called Katsura “a little lady, a wisp of a woman who looks like she couldn’t blow a feather away, but who can make billiard balls explode or act like children who have been punished.”

But other Billiard players respected her, and Willie Hoppe said, “People in the East told me she was good, but I never thought I’d see anything like this. This girl is great. She will win some of her matches, even against the best.



So, this complete analysis of Masako Katsura is the end of our look at her. Most people who die are erased from records and memories, but some people are still alive. People like Masako are remembered even after so much time has passed.

She was a person or thing that became famous in the past century and then disappeared in the same century. But she is best known for how well she plays billiards. At an international sports conference, she spoke for women from all over the world.

That’s why so many people remember her and love her to the moon and back.

Questions People Ask Most Often – FAQs

Masako Katsura How did she die?

Masako Katsura died in Tokyo in 1995, when she was 82 years old. No one knows for sure what killed her, but it is said that she died naturally and peacefully.

Who is Masako Katsura?

Masako Katsura was a champion at three-cushion billiards. She got more women in the United States interested in billiards and three-cushion billiards competitions. She was known for how well she played pool.


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