Larson goes undefeated to capture 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic title
Skip Maloney
Jun. 12, 2017
April Larson
April Larson
In discussing the young April Larson, in an interview about her which appeared in Billiards Digest magazine last July, Mark Wilson, captain of the US Mosconi Cup team for three years, made mention of her skills and the likelihood of their development over time.
"She's got the tools," he said. "It's just a matter, now, of sharpening them."
Since that interview, Larson, a five-time Junior Nationals Champion in two separate divisions (under 13 & 13-17), has gone on to compete at the professional level, chalking up a victory at the North American Pool Tour's (NAPT) Summer 10-Ball Classic last August, and finishing among the top 10 in four other events last year; a stop on the North Central Pool Tour (runner up), the Super Billiards Expo's Women's Championship (5th), the NAPT's Inaugural 10-Ball Invitational (7th) and The Tornado Open (9th).
On the weekend of June 10-11, she traveled with her sharpened tools to Calgary, Alberta and went undefeated at the $5,000-added, 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic to chalk up her first (recorded) win of 2017. This, in spite of a strong nine-match, loss-side winning streak by her eventual opponent in the finals, Emily Duddy, who'd finished third in the 1st Ashton Twins Classic last year.
In races to 9, Larson's seven opponents in this most recent event, which drew 46 entrants to the Hidden Spot in Calgary, were chalking up an average of just under five racks per match against her (4.71, to be exact), but her undefeated run through the field was surgical, none the less. What had to be frightening to her opponents was the casual ease with which she approached every shot, stroke and eventual game victory; no signs of body language hinting at nervousness, silent aggression, or frustration when an unlucky roll or unforced error led to one of those 4.71 racks against her. Just a friendly, business-like attitude that served her well through the 100 games that she played, and the 67 of them that she won to secure the title.  
And the recently-turned-17-year-old has yet to graduate from high school.
"I have one more year left," she said, "and I can't wait to be out."
With plans to join Mark Wilson's program at Lindenwood University, where she will presumably further sharpen her already considerable skills, her future in the sport is bright. And being noted by those who've opposed her, like veteran pro LoreeJon Hasson, who defeated her in a one-on-one Challenge Match at The Break Room's 2nd Annual 8-Ball Classic last weekend. The match went double hill before Hasson won the challenge and then warned potential opponents in Larson's future.
"WPBA ladies," said Hasson, after the match, "Watch out! April is the real deal."
Following victories over Maria DeWolff, Shaundra Norquay, Kathie MacDonald and Denise Belanger, Larson moved into a winners' side semifinal against the opponent who would end up keeping Larson's racks-against average below 5, Rashiela Dela Cruz. In the meantime, one of the event-namesake Ashton twins (Joanne) advanced to the other winners' side semifinal versus Liz Cole.
Dela Cruz chalked up her event-leading seven racks against Larson, but the youngster put up her nine and advanced to the hot seat match. She was joined by Ashton, who'd defeated Cole 9-5.
Larson grabbed the hot seat 9-3 over Ashton and waited for Duddy to complete her loss-side run.
On the loss side, it was Dela Cruz who ran into Duddy, six matches into the streak that would put her into the finals against Larson. Duddy had most recently eliminated Theresa Lien 9-2 and Veronique Menard 9-7. Cole drew Cathy Metzinger, who'd defeated Robyn Petrosino 9-1 (Petrosino had sent Duddy to the loss side in the event's second round) and last year's Ashton Classic winner, Brittany Bryant 9-6 to reach her.
Duddy advanced to the quarterfinals 9-6 over Dela Cruz, where she was met by Metzinger, who'd eliminated Cole 9-7. Duddy defeated Metzinger 9-3 and then spoiled Joanne Ashton's bid for a second shot at Larson with a 9-7 win in the semifinals.
By virtue of her resume, her gutsy loss-side streak and natural inclinations toward self-confidence, Duddy entered the race-to-13 finals prepared to win. She maintained that air of confidence through about 14 of the eventual 18 games, in spite of chalking up only one of the first seven. At 6-1, she chalked up two in a row to cut Larson's lead in half. They traded racks to 7-4, before Larson chalked up three for a 10-4 lead. In the 15th rack, Larson took aim at an easy 9-ball shot and rattled it in the hole. Thanking goodness for small favors, Duddy dropped it to win what would prove to be her last rack.
In typical style, Larson shrugged off that single one of her very few unforced errors, and returned to the table for racks 16, 17 and 18. She won them all to complete her undefeated run, and claim the event title.
On her way back home, Larson said that underneath her apparent calm exterior throughout the tournament ("Everybody says that," she noted), was a nervous wreck. Friends who gathered around the pool table when the last match was over were surprised that she was shaking, a remnant of nerves, hidden below the surface of her calm exterior.
"Oh, for sure," she said. "I was glad it was over."
Though she'd faced and defeated Duddy before at her first SBE appearance two years ago, she was under no illusions that a win this time would be guaranteed.
"I told some friends of mine before the event started that if I got into a final against either Emily or Joanne (Ashton), it was going to be tough," she said. "I wanted this real bad, and I knew I had to forget who I was playing, and just play the table."
And she did, of course. She joined Emily and a few gathered well-wishers in a ceremonial 'shot' just after the match ended; a 'shot,' which given Canada's age restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, and her own preferences, consisted of milk. She tries not to drink anything during a match - no water, or soft drinks - to avoid any need for a bathroom break, but she reportedly welcomed the milk.
She'll rest up for a week, and then travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in Big Dog Billiards and Diveny Custom Cues' 2017 Midwest Billiards and Cue Expo, scheduled for June 21-25. Though she won't be a part of that event's Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge, One Pocket Championship or Banks Ring Game, she will sign on to that event's $2,000-added 9-Ball Open, where she'll mix it up with the boys.
"I've been able to experience the best of the best women," she said, "so it's all the same to me."
Note to Mosconi Cup organizers: It might be time to rethink the male restriction on members of the US team.
" I certainly hope so," she said, "because that's what I'd like to do."