After 17 years as a play-by-play commentator, calling the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) Masters was anything but easy for Mitch Laurance. Not only was his regular analyst missing from the booth, but she was competing in the very match he was calling. What’s more – the analyst happens to be his wife!
In Mount Pleasant, Mich., earlier this year, Mitch’s wife, Ewa, defeated top-ranked Ga Young Kim and No. 2 Allison Fisher to secure her first tournament win since 1998.
Mitch describes the host of emotions he experienced during the competition: “Any time I’ve done one of Ewa’s matches, it’s as if there are two separate voices going on: the one inside that is rooting for her to play well and win, and the one that’s outside and doing commentary. When you care about someone deeply, the victory is that much more special, but I believe I was able to hold it together pretty well.”
The Laurances have worked together on ESPN’s WPBA events for 17 years. Aside from playing a little in college, Mitch’s first experience with the sport was in the early 1990s when he started dating Ewa. His wife, conversely, started playing in her native Sweden at 14 years old.
“I fell in love with the game, then became obsessed with it,” Ewa says. “After winning the Swedish and European Championship at 17, [I] came to the U.S. to pursue my dream of becoming a professional pool player.”
It was a dream Mitch supported. “Because I was interested in her billiards career, I started to follow the sport more closely… I’ve always been drawn to the stories of sports, and the women of the WPBA Tour have some of the greatest stories out there.”
On Sunday, March 18, ESPN will televise the WPBA Masters from 1:30-4:30 p.m. ET. Mitch will call the action with guest analyst Jeanette Lee (“The Black Widow” for those who have seen her compete), who replaces Ewa.
“It’s pretty rare for a commentator to be calling a match that involves his/her spouse,” Mitch notes. “Actually I think it’s the only such combination in sports.”