Double Delight as Pinoys Take Top Spots!

Rodolfo Luat

It was a win double for the Philippines contingent at the 2004 Taiwan World Pool Championship Qualifying Tournament as first Marlon Manolo and then Rodolfo Luat carved their paths through top quality fields to secure spots in the starting line-up of the main event which breaks off on Saturday 10th July.

Marvellous Marlon became the first player through as he won the opening competition on Sunday morning and it was a win that puts the Philippines entry up to eight players with eight more spots to be played for.

The 28 year-old from Mandaluyong City held off the challenge of local hope Chun-Chiang Wu 9-6 in the final to take his place in Group 1 where he will face the likes of defending champion Thorsten Hohmann and compatriot Ramil Gallego.

Manalo first beat Finnish-born Timo Makela before knocking out fellow Pinoy Damu-Ag Panfilo Jr.

Takashi Uraoka and Gandy Valle were next on the hit list before Wu, who despite the backing of the local crowd, was no match for the 2000 Asian Snooker champion.

After his victory Manalo revealed that although he was pleased to have qualified for the 128-man final stages, he believed he should have been handed an automatic place in the finals.

“Last year only Efren Reyes, Alex Pagulayan and myself won all our group matches in Cardiff and I had a perfect record, beating players like Mika Immonen and Charlie Williams.

“But I had to qualify and I'm pleased that I won on the first day. I was confident, even though there are so many top players here.

“I'm pleased for the people who support me, the Mayor of Mandaluyong, Benhur S Abalos always supports me so I'm pleased that I am now in the main event.

“I will spend the rest of the week practising me and see how far I can go – maybe I can go all the way!”.

Later in the day it was the turn of 46 year-old Filipino veteran Rodolfo Luat who fired out a warning shot to his rivals as he won through a high quality field to take the second qualifying spot.

“I'm back!' he said after disposing of quality Taiwanese shooter Chun-yang Hsu in a ding dong battle that saw Luat come from 6 – 2 down to gut out a 9 – 7 victory.

He now takes his place in Group 9 alongside the likes of Ralf Souquet and Steve Davis.

“I'm playing well again. I recently came fifth in the BCA Open and was runner-up in the Japan Open, beating players like Ralf Souquet and Mika Immonen to get there,” he said afterwards.

Luat, who was a Cardiff quarter-finalist in 2000, failed to make it through the qualifying school last year and many feared that the skilful Filipino's power's were on the wane. However, victories of trio of tough Taiwanese players followed by a 7 – 2 win over fancied Russian Evgeny Stalev set up a final show-down with Hsu.

The young Taiwanese, who had already put paid to the hopes of Antonio Lining, cashed in on some Luat errors to move into a 6 – 2 lead. Hsu, though, saw the tide slowly turn against him as Luat began to break and run the racks with some fluidity.

A miss on the 2-ball in what was to be the last rack gave ‘Boy Samson' the opportunity to run out for a slot in the main event.

“I'm looking forward to it and I will be practising hard between now and Saturday. There are a lot of good players in the tournament and I'll be looking for revenge over Steve Davis who knocked me out of the World Championship 9 – 8 in 2002.”

Play continues on Monday as the destination of two further spots is determined.

Elsewhere, the two Panamanian players scheduled for the main draw – Marco Valencia and Lino Castillo – have informed tournament organisers Matchroom Sport that they will not be travelling to Taiwan.

Their replacements as nominated by the South American federation, the CBP, will be 2000 finalist Ismael Paez of Mexico, who will take Valencia's place in Group 3, and Argentinian Jorge Llanos, who joins Group 16.

Photo courtesy of Diana Hoppe - Pool Pics By Hoppe