32 players take center stage in Puerto Princesa Cup

PUERTO PRINCESA – Thirty-two tough competitors, including several double world champions, world and national youth titlists, and other veteran campaigners will take center stage today, Friday, in the opening of the Puerto Princesa Mayor's Cup, the second leg of the Philippine Pool Tour.

This bustling resort city, nicknamed "The City In The Forest" because of its lush vegetation, will host the three-day event to be held at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum with all eyes focusing on the big guns and rising stars from Germany, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Two-time world champions Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann of Germany, Chia-Ching Wu and Jung-Lin Chang of Taiwan, and reigning world junior champion Ko Pin-Yi banner the field of invaders.

But they will be tested by the formidable field of Filipino players led by Antonio Gabica, winner of the first PPT leg last month, Marlon Manalo, and Jericho Banares, 2008 Philippine junior champion and a standout in the Mandaluyong Mayor's Cup.

Souquet, currently the biggest money earner among billiard players this year with $106,786, has his eyes set on the $10,000 top prize in this event organized by the Billiards and Snookers Congress of the Philippines and supported by San Miguel Beer and Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn.

Hohmann, the 2003 World Pool titlist and winner of the IPT North American Open Championship, is also one of the favorites, along with Wu, the 2005 World 9- Ball and 8-Ball champion.

Thirteen pool players qualified for the Puerto Princesa leg Tuesday at the end of the elimination round. They were led by Ko Pin-Yi, power breaker Jeff de Luna and two-time national youth finalist Jordan Legaspi. The other players who advanced were Oliver Villafuerte, Wang Ming, Arturo Palma, Richard Alinsub, Jorge Dacer, Boots Augusto, Rocky Tullao, Edgar Acaba, Romeo Silvano and Raymund Faraon.

They join the 17 seeded players who earlier qualified for the main tournament by virtue of their performance in the Mandaluyong Cup and their standings in world pool rankings. They are: Souquet, Hohmann, Wu, Antonio Gabica, Marlon Manalo, Leonardo Andam, Jericho Bañares, Mario Tolentino, Leonardo Didal, Chien-Te Chung, Gerry Watson, Kenji Taguchi, Allan Soliman, Luis Saberdo, Junbert Ogang, Courtney Symons and Jung-Lin Chang.

Puerto Princesa will field two local bets – Jade Samson and Jonathan Corpuz – in the tournament. They won their spots by topping the qualifiers held in the Palawan capital.    

Ko, a Physical Education student in Taipei, who started playing competitive billiards at the age of 12, beat Roland Garcia, 9-7, for his third victory in the eliminations.

De Luna, who was relegated to the loser's bracket Tuesday following his loss to Jin Hu-Dang, 6-9, vented his ire on Resty Labastida, 9-1, to make the cut.

Legaspi crushed Dang, 9-6; Wang scuttled Rocky Tullao, 9-5; Dacer whipped Labastida, 9-4; Augusto nipped Romeo Silvano, 9-7; Alinsub edged Elvis Calasang, 9-8; Villafuerte outlasted Fu Jin-Bo, 9-7; and Palma squeaked past Chu Hung-Ming, 9-8.

In the loser's bracket, Tullao tripped Rollo, 9-8; Acaba defeated Silverio Tulabing, 9-7; and Silvano ripped Raymund Faraon, 9-4.

Faraon earned the last ticket to the Puerto Cup after defeating Tulabing in the playoff finals, 9-3.