79 Players in Puerto Princesa Cup

Ralf Souquet

Seventy-nine players – 23 foreign and 56 Filipino -- will vie for the prestigious crown in the Puerto Princesa Mayor's Cup, which comes off the wraps starting Monday, June 16, with the Elimination Round at the Star Billiards Center in Quezon City, and moves to Puerto Princesa City on June 19 to 23 for the Main Tournament.

Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann of Germany and Chia-Ching Wu of Taiwan have been tipped as favorites to win the event because of the two world championships each has in his belt.

Another contender for top honors is Jung-Lin Chang, who has dominated the Guinness 9-Ball Tour for two years running.

But not to be outdone is the Filipino contingent led by Antonio Gabica, winner of the Mandaluyong Mayor's Cup last month and reigning San Miguel Philippine Open champion. Four Filipinos figured in the final four of that first leg of the Philippine Pool Tour.

Other Filipino players who figure to contest for top honors are Marlon Manalo, Jeffrey De Luna, Leonardo Andam, Leonardo Didal, and Jericho Banares.

Souquet, currently the money leader among billiard players this year, will bring in his rich championship experience and his recent triumph in the 2008 World 8-Ball Championship in Fujairah last April.

Hohmann will try to relive the magic that enabled him to rule the 2003 WPC in Cardiff, Wales, the 2005 world straight pool championships in New York three years ago, and the 2006 IPT North America 8-Ball Championship.

Wu, who dominated the billiards scene in 2005 by winning the 9-Ball and 8-Ball crowns, is also a man to watch in this event organized by the Billiards and Snookers Congress of the Philippines in partnership with Raya Sports, Star Billiards and the Philippine Billiards Development Foundation.

The tournament, hosted by Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn and supported by San Miguel Beer offers a total of $30,000 in prize money.

But all eyes will be on our local bets, who are out to prove that ten ball is their game.

Apart from Gabica, other Filipino players look ready to contest for top honors.

Jericho Banares, a big revelation during the first leg of this event, will try to prove that he is not just a flash in the pan. The 2008 Philippine junior champion is now being touted as the next big thing in local billiards.

Former Asian Snooker titlist Marlon Manalo, SEA Games veteran Leonardo Andam and Jeffrey de Luna are also expected to give their highly-touted foreign counterparts a run for their money.

De Luna ruled the Manny Pacquiao International billiards tournament last November. Also a Doha Asiad silver medalist, he is no stranger to pulling off surprises against the big guns in the international billiard scene. De Luna was the only player to record a win against Souquet in Fujairah.

World junior champions Pin Yi Ko and Hui-chan Lu are likewise expected to create a lot of stir. Lu was a two-time champ (2005 and 2006) until he was dethroned by Ko last December. Playing against the big boys and beating them are certainly foremost on their minds.

Also expected to draw attention is Chinese player Li Jia, a woman player who leads six other Chinese competitors.

The Puerto Princesa Cup is the second leg of the Philippine Pool Tour, a series of Ten Ball tournaments in strategic Philippine cities designed to promote both pool and tourism in the country.

Final deadline for registration in the tournament is 12 pm. today, June 14.