All-Asian Final Four in Phil Open

Jeffrey De Luna

They were 64 players from all regions of the world when the Philippine Open Pool Championship began last Wednesday, May 27 – each one hoping to take the top prize $20,000 and the trophy that goes with it. Five days later, this Sunday, May 31, there are only four of them left contending for the prize. And they are all Asians – Ricky Yang of Indonesia, Hui-Chan Lu of Chinese Taipei, and Demosthenes Pulpul and Jeffrey De Luna of the Philippines.

The last three Americans and three Europeans bowed out of the tournament on Saturday. And they included such redoubtable names as world 10-ball champion and second-seeded Darren Appleton, former US Open champion Corey Deuel, perennial top 10 player Marcus Chamat, and women's champion and last woman in the tournament, Kelly Fisher.
All fell under the onslaught of the new power players from Asia, some of whom were being seen for the first time by their Atlantic rivals.

Pulpul Shows He Belongs Among Elite

Last year, Demosthenes Pulpul, an unknown player from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, surprisingly barged his way into the Final Four of the World Ten Ball Championship. This year, the man fondly called by his peers and friends as “Plong-Plong” has secured yet another Final Four seat in the Philippine Open.

In front of a large crowd at the SM Megamall and tens of millions watching on live national and international TV, Pulpul proved that he belongs among pool's elite. He ran roughshod over Taiwanese Hui-Chan Lu, 9-1, in a performance that left many in awe. He attacked the 10-ball rack with a highly effective break and nearly flawless pocketing and position play.

The Filipino jumped the gun early on his rival, taking a commanding 7-0 lead.
Although Lu managed to break into the scoring column, he couldn't make a run. Once Pulpul returned to the table, he raced farther ahead again, wrapping up the match on the 10th rack.

“My break was good and effective,” said Pulpul in Filipino. “And I was more relaxed than my opponent. He looked a little flustered because he was playing on TV.”

Earlier in the day, Pulpul beat the last female player in the tournament, Kelley Fisher of the United Kingdom. And he did so in the same decisive fashion. Fisher, who was unbeaten up to that point, went down 9-2.

In five matches, Pulpul has lost a total of 14 racks, with no opponent winning more than four racks against him. His other victims were: Elvis Calasang (9-3), Kok Keong (9-4), and Mario Tolentino (9-4).

Yang Raises Indonesian Flag

Also unbeaten after four days of competition is Ricky Yang, who has served notice together with Rudi Susanto that Indonesia is also a pool-playing nation.

Like Pulpul, Yang posted his fifth win in as many matches to gain a seat in the much coveted Final Four. But the Indonesian ace had to grind out a win over Rudoslaw Babica of Poland, 9-7.

Yang's four other victories were recorded against the following players: Kenji Taguchi (9-2), Leonardo Didal (9-8), Sastoshi Kawabata (9-6), and Pei-Wei Chang (9-6).

De Luna the giant killer

First, he took down the world's No.1 player. Second, he beat the world's No. 2 player and reigning world 10-ball champion. With his feats, Jeffrey de Luna has indisputably earned the title of giant killer in the Philippine Open Pool Championship.

The power-breaking Filipino served notice first last Friday with his smashing 9-6 triumph over Ralf Souquet. He led the match throughout, never allowing the German to close in.

Came Saturday, he pulled off yet another convincing victory, this time against Darren Appleton of UK, 9-7. The Briton fought every step of the way, but De Luna could not be denied.

Appleton missed two golden opportunities during a critical stage of the match – a jump shot on 1-ball and a scratch after making the 5-ball in the 16th rack. That allowed De Luna to wrap up the match.

Finally, to cap his impressive run Saturday night, the Filipino beat Radislaw Babica, 9-5, to earn a place in the Final Four.

De Luna has had to play more games than the other semi-finalist because he lost to Pei-Wei Chang in the third round (2-9). After landing in the losers bracket, he then made his run. His other victories were recorded against Elmer Kalaquian (9-8), Jestoni Magadia (9-2), Oscar Dominguez (9-4), and Rudi Susanto (9-4).   

Lu Is Fourth Semifinalist

In his most impressive outing yet in an international tournament, Hui-Chan Lu of Chinese Taipei has garnered the fourth slot in the Final Four of the Philippine Open. And he has done so in a way that tags him as a possible winner when the smoke of competition clears.

But for his lone loss to Pulpul, Lu has been devastating and impressive.

In his win-or-die match Saturday night against the equally impressive Corey Deuel, the Taiwanese took control early and did not give the American much room to get back. He took the match 9-6.

Earlier in the tournament, he took down Arnel Bautista (9-4), Thorsten Hohmann (9-4), Pin-Yi Ko (9-3), and Rudi Susanto (9-5).