Davis And Calhoun Tops In Texas

Belinda Calhoun and James Davis, Sr.

Eighty-five players gathered at Eric's Billiards in Austin, Texas, July 20-23, to compete for the $4,000 added money and title of Texas State Open 9-Ball Champion. Races were to 9 on both sides, alternate break, Express rules. Owners Eric and Francis Teggeman and Manager, Lynn Hill, and staff had every detail in place for the arrival of the contestants on Thursday evening for the players meeting.

Play began on Friday morning at 10:30 on twelve Simonis covered Brunswick 9' Gold Crowns and continued through to a 10:00pm final first day round. Pre-tournament favorites all advanced along with a few dark horses. After four rounds on Saturday, the tournament had been shaved to the final 16 setting the stage for some awesome match ups on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the Ladies Division was in full swing as they had begun on Saturday morning. The field would be pruned to 4 players by the end of play on Saturday night. The fans were treated to an exciting second round match up between Touring Pros Megan Minerich (7) and Belinda Calhoun (9). Local players Helen Hayes, Cristina De La Garza, and Jennifer Kraber all held their own against Minerich and showed their potential for joining the pro ranks.

At the end of an arduous schedule on Saturday, the Open division had been pared to six. Notable performances were given by locals Isael Velasquez (13-16) whose enthusiasm and work ethic paid off, David Henson, always steady (7-8), Rick Stanley, who caught a gear on Saturday night (5-6), and Mario Juarez, on another planet (5-6). The feature match of the night was James Davis, Sr. and Jui Lung Chen which resulted in a victory for Davis 9-8 when Chen came up empty on the break in the final game of the set. Forget the University of Texas and Texas A&M. These two players have become the hottest rivalry in Texas via their encounters on the Fast Eddie's Tour. Spectators are privy to world class play when these two players meet.

The stage was set for Sunday, high noon, in the Eric's arena. Four players in the Ladies Division and six players in the Open Division would shoot it out for the title. In the first round, Megan Minerich prevailed over Shayla Neris who would finish 4th with $110. Sylver Ochoa defeated Rick Stanley 9-2, and in a nail biter Chen eked by Juarez 9-8 when in the final game Juarez rattled the 3. Stanley and Juarez received $450 for 5-6. The next round consisted of both winner's bracket matches and in the Open Division, the match to determine who would finish in 4th. The Ladies Division saw Calhoun best Kraber 9-4 and in the Open Division a thrilling match up between James Davis, Sr. and Jr. Jueco went hill-hill. Jueco came up empty on the break and Davis proceeded to run out. Jueco is a 22 year old from Alaska that shows an abundance of natural ability and knowledge way beyond his years as was evidenced by reaching the winners bracket final. The match to determine who would finish in 4th and who would meet Jueco in the semi-final ended in a close victory for Chen, 9-7 over Ochoa. Sylver Ochoa is also a "young gun" that displays ability, talent, and knowledge of a seasoned pro that will undoubtedly enjoy a long successful career. Sylver earned $700 for 4th place.

Everyone was ready for the semi-finals in both divisions. Jennifer Kraber, a regular participant and high finisher on the WPBA Regional Hunter Tour would face 20th ranked WPBA Professional, Megan Minerich. Minerich would hold a lead in the match until she reached the hill. Kraber closed the gap to also reach the hill. Game 17 provided an excellent display of tactics and safety play. Minerich gained the offensive advantage and was running out until position on the 9-ball ran long and left Megan with a tough cut into the side pocket. Showing her experience, Minerich played the shot to err short and sure enough, Kraber was left with a testy, long shot on the 9. After what many thought may have been a slightly rushed shot, given the circumstances, Kraber jawed the 9 leaving Megan with the win. Jennifer collected $215 for third place, an excellent showing for the attorney who only started playing pool seven years ago and only on a serious level for four years. In the Open Division semi-final, recent first time dad, Jui Lung Chen took dead aim at Jr. Jueco 9-4, leaving Jueco in 3rd place with $1,070.

Before the finals, the drawing for the $2,000 Annie-O Custom Cue, Sardo Tight Rack, set of Super Pro Aramith Balls, and the 9-Ball Roll-A-Rack was held. All winners were present and presented with their spoils. Producers/promoters, sponsors, exhibitors Joe Salazar and Ron Geyer, tournament staff Letitia Witt, Nita Goldrick, and birthday girl Kaye Watson, and Eric's bar, (Crystal, Todd, Jessica, and Carrie) and deli staff were all thanked and acknowledged. By the way, if you weren't present, you missed out on the chicken noodle soup with homemade pasta noodles provided by Lee LeTeff that was one of the most delectable dishes you could ever experience. Thanks also to Jeremy, Dan and Jimmy for preparing the tables and to Jimmy, Jason, and Matt for their contributions.

Back to the action. The Ladies final was a rematch between Belinda Calhoun and Megan Minerich. Calhoun would hold a 1 or 2 game lead the first half of the match. Minerich missed an opportunity to tie the match at 6 giving Belinda once again a two game advantage at 7-5. As can often happen in that situation, the following game was relinquished to Calhoun for an 8-5 lead. However, Megan was able to win game 14 to narrow the lead 8-6. In the ensuing game, Calhoun faltered on the six ball on what appeared to be the winning rack making the score 8-7. Calhoun returned to form taking game 16 and her 8th State title 9-7. Minerich garnered $325 for her performance while Belinda pocketed $430 for first.

The Open Division final everyone was anticipating came to pass, Davis vs. Chen, yet a further confrontation in the rivalry. Davis would be thankful for the true double elimination format as Chen won the first set 9-5. Can we get any more dramatic? Even though there would be many who felt Davis would not regain momentum, two quick wins would prove them wrong. Davis would stretch his lead to 5-2. At this point, Chen, through his precision safeties and kicking, was able to win the next three games to tie the score at five. There was a buzz in the bleachers. Would Chen repeat his first set performance or would Davis prevail? Davis, also known as "Bastrop," or "Slow Death," methodically and deliberately dissected the following four racks holding Chen at bay and tallying another victory for the Davis side in the escalating rivalry giving him the $2,200 first place prize money and his first Texas State Open 9-Ball title. Chen would settle for the $1,500 second place prize money.

Keep your calendars open around the 3rd week of July next year and make your plans to attend the 3rd Annual Texas State Open 9-Ball Championships. It promises not to disappoint. Congratulations to James Davis, Sr. and Belinda Calhoun.

Complete Results:
1. James Davis, Sr. $2200
2. Jui Chen Li $1500
3. James David Jr. $1070
4. Sylver Ochoa $700
5th/6th Rick Stanley, Mario Juarez $450
7th/8th David Henson, Robert Newkirk $375
9th/12th Lewis Jones, Fred Gardner, Roman Bayda, Robert Clark $300
13th/16th Corey Dordek, Bill Fuller, Isael Velasquez, Carl Ray Almanza $230

1. Belinda Calhoun $430
2. Megan Minerich $325
3. Jennifer Kraber $215
4. Shayla Neris $110