Bustamante wins US Open Warm Up event

Francisco Bustamante and Ralf Souquet accept their prize money from John Moody

The US Open warm-up event took place at the beautiful Great Slates pool room in Cambridge, MD over the Sep 4/5th weekend. 22 players in the limited 64 player field were making their way to the US Open 9 Ball Championships in Virginia. This event was also Stop #11 on the Planet Pool 9 Ball Tour and many of the tour regulars took the opportunity to mix it up with the pros. Room owner John Moody graciously added $4000 and invited several top pros to compete. In attendance were world ranked #1 Ralf Souquet and #2 Francisco Bustamante as well as Earl Strickland, Allen Hopkins, Young Hwa Jeong, Frankie Hernandez, Santos Sambajon Jr. and Ronnie Wiseman. 4 of the top 5 tour regulars Ryan McCreesh, Mike Davis, Jim Henson and Pooky Rasmeloungon joined the field making this the strongest Planet Pool event ever.

With so many professional players in the room, everyone was searching for the first victim of the many talented challengers. Surprisingly, round one concluded with no significant upsets. Two high profile first round matches included Santos Sambajon Jr. scoring a 9-7 victory over Mike Davis and Frankie Hernandez defeating Ronnie Wiseman on the hill. The second round saw Allen Hopkins escape 9-7 over rising tour star Brandon Shuff and Bustamante overcoming fellow countryman Edgar Acaba 9-8. Earl Strickland was not as fortunate as Tony Chohan erased a 4-0 deficit to win 9-7. By Saturday night, the winner side was down to Hopkins vs Sambajon, Jim Henson vs Bustamante, Ralf Souquet vs Ryan McCreesh and Young Hwa Jeong vs Brian Yi with 16 players holding on in the elimination bracket.

Play continued Sunday morning with Bustamante escaping a certain loss from Jim Henson the winner of the last Planet Pool tour stop. Souquet defeated current tour points leader Ryan McCreesh 9-6. Bustamante easily dispatched Sambajon 9-2 while Souquet squeaked past Young Hwa Jeong 9-8. The hot seat match between the two best 9 ball players on the planet went to Bustamante with an impressive 9-2 win.

There were a couple of nice runs in the elimination bracket as Mike Davis won 5 matches to meet up with Ryan McCreesh. This match was all Davis as he took a 7-1 victory. Earl Strickland was also getting back into stroke with wins over room owner John Moody Sr., Scott Frost and Brian Yi before meeting up with Davis. After claiming that he couldn't use a bridge, Strickland proceeded to hang a 9-ball to give Davis the win 7-5. Davis then fell to Sambajon again this time by a 7-1 score. Sambajon defeated Hopkins on the hill placing him into 4th place. Sambajon continued to cruise racing out to a 6-0 lead over Souquet. A scratch on the break gave Souquet a small opening and he ran out. Souquet jokingly pushed 4 beads across to try and get back in the match. As Souquet corrected the score, a fan encouraged, “You'll get there!”. After running the next 3 racks, the score was right back at 6-4. Sambajon took a couple of trips to the table in the next couple racks but had nothing to shoot at and Souquet closed out the miracle comeback 7-6.

Despite all of the professional talent and qualified amateur challengers, the final match came down to world ranked #1 Souquet versus #2 Bustamante. The excellent set up in the back tournament room quickly filled with fans eager to take in the extended single race to 11 games. Bustamante looked strong having won his last two matches by 9-2 scores. Souquet was fresh off his 7 game comeback win. Bustamante rushed out to a 5-1 lead and stretched that into his favorite 9-2 score. Souquet dug deep once again winning the next 4 games to bring the score to 9-6. A missed position on the 5 ball by Bustamante in the next game seemed to leave an opening for Souquet but the Filipino sensation wowed the crowd with a phenomenal shot. He went rail first into the 5 with the cue ball running into the 9-ball which kissed off the 7 ball into the side. With a win in the next game, Bustamante won the match 11-6. 1st paid $2000 with $1200 for second.

The women's event had a change of pace as it was held on the Gabriel bar tables. 17 ladies entered the competition Sunday morning. Kathleen Lawless sent Jin Hee Park to the 1-loss side early and made her way to the hot seat match. Her opponent in that match was Gale Peddicord. Lawless came out on top with a 7-5 win. Jin Hee Park won 3 matches in the elimination bracket before matching up with Ji-Hyun Park. A 5-1 victory here sent Ji-Hyun Park into a personal best 4th place finish. Jin Hee Park took care of Gale Peddicord 5-3 to set up a rematch with Lawless. This time would be different as the determined Park cruised through the first set 7-1. The second set was more competitive but Park emerged with a 7-4 win for her second tour victory this year. 1st paid $375 with $260 for 2nd.

There are no changes at the top of the points list with Ryan McCreesh and Malea Haacke maintaining large leads. The next tour event will be at Breaktime Sports Grill & Pub in Salisbury, MD on September 18th - 19th.