Groce chalks up his fifth title at Midwest Bar Table Classic in Indianapolis
Skip Maloney
Oct. 31, 2017
(l to r): Brandon Thomas & Brian Groce
(l to r): Brandon Thomas & Brian Groce
The hot seat match of the 37th Annual Midwest Bar Table Classic, held on the weekend of October 21-22, featured two former winners of the event; one, Brian Groce, from 14 years ago (2003) and the other, Steve Oaks, from 34 years ago (1983).
 
“It was the best match of the whole tournament,” said event director, John Klotz, of the double hill battle that eventually put Groce in the hot seat. “There were one or two mistakes in the first couple of games, but from there to the end, it was just beautiful pool.”
 
The quality of the hot seat match led to hopes for a re-match in the finals, which did not materialize. Instead, a relative upstart, Brandon Thomas, who finished fifth in the 2015 Classic, downed Oaks (who’d sent him to the loss side) in the semifinals. Groce survived a first-set loss in the double elimination finals to win the second set and capture his fifth Midwest Classic title; his previous four coming in 2003, 2002, 2001, & 1998.
 
Previously hosted by Brickyard Billiards in Indianapolis, the $2,000-added, 37th Annual Midwest Bar Table Classic drew a full field of 64 entrants to a new location - John Wayne’s Pub, also in Indianapolis. While a host of familiar names and faces appeared on the brackets, the two-time defending champion of the event, Billy Thorpe, was not among them. Thorpe was making plans for attendance at the US Open 9-Ball Championships and gearing up for his first-ever appearance as a member of the USA Mosconi Cup team this coming December.
 
Following victories over Korey Harris, Mike France, Jayme Goodwin, and Ronnie Solgot, Groce stepped into a winners’ side semifinal against Jeremy Edwards, in what would prove to be the first of two-straight double hill matches that would put Groce in the hot seat. Oaks, in the meantime, having gotten by Dathan Schmidt, Chuck Thurnall, Alan Pham and Trent Vaught, faced Brandon Thomas in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Groce chalked up his first double hill win in a row, over Edwards, as Oaks sent Thomas to the loss side 9-6. The ‘best match of the tournament’ was on. When the dust settled, Groce was in the hot seat, and Oaks was on his way to a fateful match against Thomas in the semifinals.
 
On the loss side, Thomas began his trek back to the finals against Clay Carmen, who’d moved into the money rounds with wins over Dave Grau, a double hill win over Brian Winters, and then, eliminated Molly Bontrager, double hill, as well. Edwards picked up Alex Olinger, who was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had included money-round victories over Louis Demarco 7-4, a double hill win over Martin Zayala, Jr. and another double hill win, over Trent Vaught.
 
Thomas defeated Carmen 7-2, and was joined in the quarterfinal match by Edwards, who’d eliminated Olinger 7-4. Thomas took the quarterfinal match over Edwards 7-5, and then spoiled any hopes for a Groce/Oaks re-match with a 7-5 victory over Oaks in the semifinals.
Thomas used his momentum to take the opening set of the true double elimination final against Groce 7-3. Groce, though, caught a literal second wind and defeated Thomas by the same 7-3 score in the second set to secure the title to his fifth Midwest Bar Table Classic.
 
Event director John Klotz thanked Chuck Thomas, owner of John Wayne’s Pub for his debut hospitality, hosting the event, as well as sponsors Accu-Rack and Diamond Billiard Tables.