Hatch Finishes On Top Of A Tough Field At The Spring Tri-State Invitational In Erie PA

Dennis Hatch, Mike Dechaine

Dennis Hatch from Buffalo NY showed his nine-ball prowess topping a very strong field of 32 at the Spring Tri-State Invitational at Gold Crown Billiards in Erie PA on April 24th and 25th. The $5000 added event had twelve past winners which included last year’s champion, Mike Dechaine from Providence RI.  In addition, there were also  a number of past Joss Tour winners  participating along with a number of noted pros:  Earl Strickland from New York NY, Shawn Putnam of Powder Springs GA, Alex Olinger from Dayton OH, and Mike Davis from Raleigh NC, just to name a few. The entry fee was a mere $100.

In keeping with the prior 21 quarterly tri-state events, proprietor Paul Schofield’s “No Conflict Rules” were used for the racking and breaking process. In part, the rules require the balls be shuffled to prevent pattern racking and the breaker shot after a legal break.  Making a ball on the break is not required but a break hard enough to get a certain number of balls over the center string is required to combat the soft break.  The rules resolve the rack manipulation issues that plague the sport today. There were no problems between the players over the rack.

There were other unusual rules. There were no “short games”. If the 9-ball was pocketed early, the shooter spotted the ball immediately at either end, his choice. Fouls were called on all balls and there were no referees. Players were required to call fouls on themselves. A comfortable and respectable dress code was in force.  Thirty-four volunteers worked the charts, announced matches, kept score, and maintained the equipment.  Each table was cleaned and brushed before all 115 matches. A scorekeeper was assigned to every match.

Twenty-four players were eliminated in the qualifying rounds. This is where Dennis Hatch got warmed up and found his stride, catapulting himself along with seven others into a single elimination championship bracket.  Hatch rolled over Chad Bowling of Akron OH (6-2) in his opening match before facing Alex Olinger who proceeded to hand Hatch his only loss (2-6).  Hatch bounced back with five straight wins: Kurt England from Mansfield OH (5-1), Mike Davis from Raleigh NC (5-1), Ron Casanzio from Rochester NY (5-3), Brian Groce from Indianapolis IN, (5-2), and Earl Strickland (5-1).

The convention like atmosphere of the qualifying rounds quickly transitioned into a race to 8 pressurized sudden death struggle of a single elimination bracket. In the opening round, with the score tied at 6, Shawn Putnam  caught an unfortunate scratch, leaving the door open for Hatch to win that game and the next one, which he did. The semi-finals saw Hatch defeat Bucky Souvanthong of Binghamton NY by a score of 8-5. It only seemed fitting that if Dennis Hatch was to get the job done, he was going to have to go through last year’s champion and just maybe the best player in the country today, Mike Dechaine. A pivotal moment came in the middle of the match. Dechaine declared that he “sharked himself” after he stopped the match to ask permission to remove debris from an object ball. After handling the ball, Dechaine went ahead and missed the easiest of shots.  That was all Hatch needed. The writing was on the wall:  Dennis Hatch 8 Mike Dechaine 5.

Hatch also collected the prize for the most consecutive break-and-runs with 6.  Paul Schofield calls Dennis Hatch’s two day performance the best pool ever played at Gold Crown Billiards Erie PA in the 37 year history of the room.  Plans are in the works and every effort is being made to grow the prize fund and recruit an even tougher field for 2016.


1st Dennis Hatch $2,500.00
2nd Mike Dechaine $1,700.00
3rd-4th Alex Olinger $1,000.00
3rd-4th Bucky Souvanthong $1,000.00
5th-8th Shawn Putnam $500.00
5th-8th Earl Strickland $500.00
5th-8th Jerry Crowe $500.00
5th-8th Brian Groce $500.00