Corteza, Three Others in Guiness 9-Ball Tour Today

Lee Van Corteza (right) along with Jonathan Sy (left) and fire cracker victim Jarry “Putol” Pelayo (middle)

Lee Van Corteza, the reigning 2nd BSCP National Pool 9-ball champion, will spearhead the Philippines' bid in the Guinness 9-Ball Tour which kicks off today, Friday (April 20) at the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The other Filipino bets are double world champion (9-ball and 8-ball) Ronato “Volcano” Alcano, Dennis “Robocop” Orcollo, 2006 World Pool League champion; and Jeffrey “The Bull” de Luna, silver medalist in the 2006 Doha Asian Games 9-ball competition.

Filipino players dominated the Tour last year as they won all four legs. Efren “Bata” Reyes won two events, and Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat and Ramil “Bebeng” Gallego took one each. The 2006 Tour and all previous editions were sponsored by San Miguel Beer.

However, Reyes along his stable mate former world no.1 Francisco “Django” Bustamante will missed to play in the Asian 9-ball tour this year because the two FIlipino cue icon are brand endorser of San Miguel Beer, a direct competitor of Guinness, an Iris stout beer, the new titled sponsor of the Asian 9-ball tour which served a qualifying round of November's World Pool Championships in Manila.

“Magandang exposure ito para sa World Pool Championships, pangarap ko kasing Mag champ sa WPC, sabagay kahit sino mang Filipino ay ‘yun ang dream nila (It's a good exposure and preparation for my WPC campaign.” said the 28-years-old top player of Negros Billiard Stable (NBS), who has won four Gold Medals and one Silver Medal at the Southeast Asian Games, and was the winner of the 2004 Asian 9-ball Tour tournament in the Manila as well, beating fellow countryman Francisco “Django” Bustamante 13-11 in the final.

“Sana ipagdasal n'yo po ako (please pray for me).” added Davao cue master Corteza who beat Marlon “Marvelous” Manalo, 13-11, in the finals to rules the 2nd BSCP National Pool Championships recently held at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Malate, Manila.

He is nicknamed "Van Van" or “The Slayer“, and started playing pool in 1993. He also won the 39th All Japan Championships last December to already secured slot in World Pool Championships in Manila on November.

Corteza will also see action in a series of competitions in the United States slated next month. He will play in the Predator Championships in Florida whose stint is backed up by sportsman/ businessman Jonathan "Bacolod" Sy.

He was invited to strut his stuff along with Alcano in the $50,000 winner-take all International Challenge of Champions on August 8 and 9 in the Mohegan Suns Casino in Unscasville, Connecticut in USA.

Sportsman/ businessman Jonathan “Bacolod” Sy are aiming this year's World Pool Champion is coming from the South (Visayas-Mindanao).

“The main objective of NBS (Negros Billiard Stable) is that a player coming from Visayas and Mindanao will be declared world champion. Along with Sir Jonathan (Sy), we are full support for Van-Van campaign.” said Christopher Palses, head coach and team manager of Negros Billiard Stable.

“ I always beside Lee Van (Corteza) campaign.” added sportsman/ businessman Jonathan Sy, benefactor of Corteza, as well Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat, fire cracker victim Jarry “Putol” Pelayo, Panfilo “Lintok Abu” Damuag, Reynaldo “Karambola king” Grandea, Jech-Jech “ giant killer” Lemen, Ricky “Bai” Zerna, Godofredo “Boy Cotabato” Ducanes and Russian Petiza among others.

Efren “Bata” Reyes from Angeles City, Pampanga, acknowledged “The Magician” in the pool world won the World 9-ball Pool Championships in 1999 at Cardiff, Wales in England.

Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan, a native of Cabagan, Isabela won the world 9-ball crown in 2004 at Taipei in Taiwan while Ronato “Volcano” Alcano from Calamba, Laguna bested German ace Ralf “Kaiser” Souquet to rules the 2006 World 9-ball crown in Manila.

Bustamante, the pride of Tarlac City finished runner-up in the 2002 edition in Cardiff yielding to American Earl “The Pearl” Strickland while Pagulayan also finished runner-up in the 2003 edition in Cardiff losing to eventual champion Thorsten “The Hitman' Hohmann of Germany

Meanwhile, Filipino supremacy in the Tour will be hotly contested this time by players from Chinese Taipei, China, Vietnam and Indonesia. While Taiwanese players like Wu Chia-ching and Yang Ching-shun have long been known as among the world's best, the players from China, Vietnam and Indonesia are beginning to rise in the international arena. They drew attention at the 2006 World Pool championship in Manila last November.

The Philippine team will be missing the celebrated Reyes and Bustamante this time. All four Filipino representatives this year did not see action in the Tour last year. But Alcano won a leg in the 2005 Tour and Corteza topped the Philippine leg in the 2004 Tour. All four are considered among the elite in Filipino pool today

With Guinness as the new sponsor, the entire Tour offers total prize money of $320,000 (up from US$160,000 last year), and it will feature a Grand Final in Bali for the Top 10 players. Winners of each leg will win US$15,000 while the Grand Final Champion will walk away with US$36,000. With six stops, this is the biggest Tour since its inception in 2003.

After the opening leg in Jakarta, the Tour's other stops are Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei on May 18 to 20 then off to Genting Highlands Resort in Malaysia on June 15 to 17, 2007. The next leg will be in Singapore on July 13 to 15, 2007, and in Shanghai, China on August 3 to 5, 2007.

The Grand Championship Final is slated August 31 to Sept. 2 in Bali, Indonesia.

The Tour qualifies players for the WPA World Pool Championship. The top ten finishers will automatically qualify for pool's most prestigious event, which is slated in Manila on November 3-11.

The Guinness 9-Ball Tour will be broadcast live by Star Sports, with 15 hours devoted to each leg. Each leg will be held over three days, with the field of 24 players divided into eight groups which will play a single round-robin format. The eight group winners will advance to the quarter-finals where the knockout format will apply as the players play through to the final.