Gandy Valle Wins in Singapore

Unheralded Filipino Gandy Valle scored a stunning victory in the opening leg of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour by defeating Chinese-Taipei's 16 year old boy wonder Wu Chia Ching 11-8 in the finals after earlier scoring a huge upset over Taiwan's sensational Yang Shin Chung 11-8 in a gripping semi final that lasted more than two hours before a jam-packed Suntec Exhibition Hall in the heart of Singapore.

Valle never looked like a player who had to earn his place among the elite pool players in the region by coming through a qualifying tournament and then earning a berth in the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour by finishing among the leaders in the Hope P1 million All-Filipino Billiards Championship last week.

The predominantly pro-Filipino crowd who were terribly disappointed when superstars Efren 'Bata' Reyes and Francisco 'Django' Bustamante were ousted in the quarter finals let their emotions erupt when Valle beat Yang and then put the finishing touches to a great performance by overcoming the dangerous Wu who had earlier shocked 2000 World Pool Champion and Taiwanese legend Fong Pang Chao in the very first round.

Valle who remained cool and collected throughout his semi final and finals showdown against his touted Taiwanese opponents despite hardly having a break between the race-to-eleven matches, pocketed the top prize of $10,000. Valle hardly had time to put his cue stick away before he received a call from the 'Godfather' of Philippine pool Ariesto 'Putch' Puyat who was instrumental in getting Valle into the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour. Puyat congratulated Valle for his 'fine performance' and later told Manila Standard 'I am really happy for this boy. He played so well, he deserved to win.'

Valle himself said he 'went through the eye of needle to make it' and promised he would 'practice hard and maintain discipline' while looking ahead to more successes on the international circuit.

Yang who made an incredible comeback after being down 6-0 to defeat No. 2 seed Bustamante in the quarter finals 9-7 looked ready to repeat the feat when he went down 6-0 to Valle and then won seven of the next eight racks to claw back to 8-7. But Valle pulled off some big shots in the heat of battle and an exquisite bank shot on the 1-ball gave him a 9-7 lead before Yang, hammering down four balls on the break and then playing a superb safety made it 9-8. Unhappy over the loose racking which appeared to be unsettling him Valle asked for a re-rack on the 18th frame and ran out to go to the hill at 10-8 and when Yang who came up dry in four of the first nine racks scratched after going for a bank shot on the 2-ball, Valle calmly wrapped up the match 11-8.

The finals started off fairly quietly but after Valle scratched on the break in the sixth rack Wu pulled ahead 4-2 in the alternate break format. Another scratch on the break by Valle gave Wu a 6-4 lead but Valle with an excellent 4-9 combination leveled the count at 6-6. The Filipino took the lead for the first time in the match at 7-6 but he came up dry on his break and once again they were tied at 7-7. A terrific 2-9 carom and a run out put Valle on the hill and after Wu, in one last desperate effort ran out to make it 10-9, Valle extricated himself from a couple of difficult situations to break and run out in style to win 11-9.

The victory by Valle once again showed the depth of talent in the Philippines which is matched perhaps only by Chinese-Taipei in the Asian region. The two powerhouse squads are expected to resume their storied rivalry in the next leg in Jakarta in April. While the Filipino and Taiwanese players competed with a great deal of fairness and sportsmanship, the pro-Filipino fans in Singapore were a disappointment when they ignored accepted etiquette and applauded errors by Wu which was criticized by the commentators including outstanding Filipino TV pool analyst Bob Guerrero.