Ga Young Kim becomes first WPBA Masters back-to-back champion

Ga Young Kim
She was the third woman to lay claim to the WPBA Masters title, following victories by Jasmin Ouschan in 2011 and Ewa Mataya Laurance in 2012. On February 9, after four days at the Soaring Eagle Resort in Mt. Pleasant, MI, Korea's Ga Young Kim became the event's first back-to-back champion, wending her way through a field of 48 and completing the title run, undefeated. She faced and defeated Ouschan in the semifinals and downed Kelly Fisher in the finals.
The fourth annual five-day event began on Wednesday, February 5, with an afternoon Kid's Clinic and an evening Charity Pro-Am, supporting the Notah Begay III Foundation. The event matches began on Thursday, and as had been done last year, the semifinal and final matches were broadcast live on ESPN3. 
The 48 entrants began in a standard, double elimination format. When both the winners' side and losers' side bracket had worked down to their final two players, those four re-drew to play two semifinals and then, a final match. The double elimination phase of the tournament featured races to 9, while the semifinals and final match were races to 4; best two out of three, unless the score, after two matches, was tied, in which case, a single, sudden death rack was played to determine the winner. This format worked to the benefit of both Fisher in her semifinal match against Siming Chen and Kim's final match against Fisher. 
Sixteen of the women were seeded at the start and awarded byes. Kim's path in defense of her title went through Jasmin Ouschan twice. After downing Maureen Seto and then, Vivian Villareal, Kim shut out Ouschan in her third round of play. Kim went on to defeat Karen Corr 9-5 to advance to her single elimination final against Ouschan, as Chen defeated Kim White-Newsome 9-1 to become the other winners' side semifinalist.
On the loss side, Ouschan went to work on a three-match winning streak, downing Melissa Little 9-5 and Line Kjorsvik 9-4, before eliminating White-Newsome 9-6 to earn a re-match against Kim. Fisher, who'd been sent to the losers' bracket by Ouschan 9-7 in the second round, fought back through Laura Smith, Villareal, Jennifer Chen and Brittany Bryant, before downing Karen Corr 9-4 to earn the last semifinal spot.
In the first of the two semifinal matches, which began at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Kim turned in a dominating performance to defeat Ouschan a second time. With a cascading series of uncharacteristic and literally, breath-taking errors, Ouschan failed to win a game in either four-game set. At a potential turning point in the second set (Kim ahead 2-0), Ouschan had a chance to make it 2-1, possibly allowing the momentum to shift, but she rattled the 9-ball into its pocket, giving Kim what proved to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead.  
The semifinal match between Chen and Fisher was something of a 'rubber' match between them. They had faced each other twice in the Queen's Cup team event in the Philippines last November. Chen shut out Fisher in their first meeting and Chen returned the favor by shutting Fisher out in their second meeting. Team East would go on to defeat the Western squad and claim the first Queen's Cup title. 
As they'd done in the Philippines, Chen and Fisher traded the first two sets of their Michigan matchup; Fisher taking the opener 4-2, and Chen winning four straight to win the second set 4-1. Rules dictated a lag for the sudden death break and it went to Chen, who promptly sank five balls on the break, and left herself with a dead straight shot at one of the balls left. She dropped it, sunk the 5-ball and 8-ball and lined up easily for the shot that would advance her to the finals against Ga Young Kim. And missed it, badly. Fisher stepped to the table and sunk the long table 9-ball to earn the shot against Kim.
Kim opened the final proceedings by dropping the 9-ball on the opening break, which led Fisher to examine the subsequent rack (to the accompaniment of spectator laughter). They fought to a 2-2 tie, before Kim finished it 4-2. Fisher got out ahead 3-1 in the second set, and though Kim would narrow the lead to a single game, Fisher would win 4-2, forcing a sudden death finish.
As she had done in her semifinal, sudden death match, Fisher lost the lag (prompting a colleague to comment that while Fisher's game was fine, her lag could use some work). Kim sunk a ball on the break, but ended up right on top of the 1-ball and had to play a safety. Fisher almost made a two-rail, cross-corner shot work, but the 1-ball fell about a half-inch short of the corner pocket. 
Kim stepped to the table and dropped the hanging 1-ball. Though she would run the table from there, it was not without drama, as the rolling cue ball forced her out of position in shooting her second-to-last ball. Kim settled herself, sunk the ball and watched the cue ball travel three rails and give her a good look at the 9-ball. She dropped it to claim her second straight WPBA Masters title. 
Fisher acknowledged to commentator Ewa Mataya Laurance that the loss was disappointing and odd that the championship had come down, more or less, to the sudden death lag.
"You try to forget about the unlucky things," Kim told Laurance,  in reference to scratching on the break in the second set of the finals. "I think the Soaring Eagle is real lucky for me. It is not easy to win back to back in the same tournament, and this is only the second time I have ever done that."
"I am really, really, really happy," she added.
The semi-finals and finals can be viewed online at for the next 30 days.