Fresh from VA State Championship, Taylor goes undefeated on JPNEWT Season Finale

Liz Taylor and Kia Burwell

The last two times that Liz Taylor played on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour, finishing as winner, and later, 9th place in the spring of 2010, Barack Obama was President of the United States. Now, 10 years later, as the world waits to see who will be the 46th President, Liz Taylor made a somewhat triumphant return and went undefeated on the tour’s 2020 season finale. The victory came a week after she had successfully defended her title in the 2020 VA State 8-Ball Championships. The tour’s season finale drew 18 entrants to On Cue Sports Bar & Grill in Front Royal, VA.

After being awarded an opening round bye, Taylor advanced to defeat Tiffany Lear and Lynn Richard, both 7-3, to draw the tour’s second highest ranked player, Kia Burwell in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Playing in the other one was the tour’s #1-ranked player, tour director Linda Shea, who had also been awarded an opening round bye, and then shut out Dawn Takacs and defeated Christie Hurdel 7-2 to draw 4th-ranked Lai Li.

Taylor and Shea advanced to the hot seat match with identical 7-4 wins over Burwell and Li, respectively. In what would prove to be one of the more entertaining matches of the event, Shea and Taylor traded the opening two racks, before Shea began edging out to what appeared to be a commanding 5-1 lead. Taylor, though, won the next rack to make it 5-2, before Shea reached the hill at 6-2. Taylor won the next four to force a 13th and deciding game.

With three balls left in the deciding rack (6, 8, & 9), Taylor took a long, two-rail kick shot in an attempt to hit the 6-ball and it sent both the 6-ball and the cue ball, down table, where Shea had herself a bit of a connect-the-dots pattern to finish the rack and the match. The 6-ball went down smoothly, Shea had positioned herself well for the 8-ball and it went down, too. The cue ball fell either a little short or a little long, depending on your perspective. Shorter, and Shea would have had a credible shot to put the 9-ball in a corner pocket. Longer, and she could have put it straight into a side pocket. Where it lay, she had an oblique angle shot at putting it in a side pocket, and she came within half a ball of doing just that. But the half that didn’t make it, bounced the 9-ball out into the center of the table, as the cue ball meandered into place for a fairly straight-in shot for Taylor. She made it and claimed the hot seat, as Shea moved to the semifinals. 

On the loss side, Burwell began her three-match march back to the finals against Christie Hurdel, who’d followed her defeat at the hands of Shea with victories over Kelly Costello 7-3 and Shelah Joner 7-4. Li drew Shanna Lewis, who’d lost a winners’ side, double hill battle versus Burwell and then, defeated Sharita Green 7-3 and Misti Zamora 7-2.

Li advanced to the quarterfinals 7-3 over Lewis, as Burwell downed Hurdel 7-5. Burwell then eliminated Li 7-3 in those quarterfinals. In the semifinal battle between the tour’s top two ranked players, #2 (Burwell) downed #1 (Shea) 7-1 for a shot at Taylor waiting in the hot seat. 

It was Burwell’s third appearance in a 2020 JPNEWT final and she was still looking for a win. She’d been runner-up to Shea in July and to Caroline Pao in October. The wait, for Taylor, which included the quarterfinal and semifinal matches, did not appear to affect her game at all.

She broke out to a 4-0 lead, before Burwell got on the board with a rack; the only one she would record. Taylor came back and won three straight to complete her undefeated run.

Based on their number of appearances and how they finished throughout the year, Shea and Burwell will finish the JPNEWT season as the top two players on the tour. Lai Li’s 4th place finish edged her ahead of Kathy Friend into third place. Friend and Caroline Pao round out the tour’s 2020 top five.

Shea thanked the ownership and staff at On Cue Sports Bar & Grill for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, angle aim Art (Britanya E Rapp) and Turtle Rack. She also added her gratitude for the “girls” on the tour, who consistently lend a hand when needed, like Sharon O’Hanlon and Judie Wilson.

Though like most pool tours, the JPNEWT was affected by the pandemic, it had to cancel only tthree of its events; one each in April, May and June. At the same time, according to Shea, the tour attracted new players at almost every event.

“I’m feeling grateful,” said Shea, the day after the season finale and three days ahead of Thanksgiving. “It was a good year, everybody (in a broad circle of family, friends and members of the pool community) is healthy.”

Shea said that the 2021 JPNEWT schedule is in the works and that the tour will be improving on location and numbers.

“We have a lot of league pool players in the area, who generally play on bar boxes,” she said, “so this coming year, we’ll be at a total of 12 locations and two of them will have bar box tables to bridge to the area’s league players.”

“Overall,” she added, embracing activities beyond her direction of the pool tour, “I don’t think I have a thing to complain about.”