Hollingsworth caps phenomenal year with undefeated run at JIC 18 & Under Boys final event

Landon Hollingsworth

Tatum Cutting downs hot seat occupant Kennedy Meyman in 18 & Under Girls Final

Greenville, SC’s Landon Hollingsworth is going to find it hard to duplicate this, his 16th year around the sun. Two Billiards Education Foundation Junior National titles, a best-earnings year at the regional tour level that included a victory on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, a 3rd place finish on that tour that necessitated his victories over former US Open champions Tommy Kennedy and Johnny Archer, a trip to Austria to represent the USA in the World Junior Nationals, a competitor in Pat Fleming’s International Open, and this weekend (Oct. 28-30) an undefeated run through a field of 16 fellow juniors in the 18 & Under Division of the Junior International Championships. And the year’s not over yet.

In his five-match, four-opponent race to the JIC finish line on Saturday, which began last January, Hollingsworth faced and defeated the two opponents he had faced in the two division finals of the BEF Junior Nationals; Riley Adkins in the 18 & Under division and Joey Tate in the 16 & Under division. He got by Adkins in the winners’ side quarterfinal of the JIC 18 & Under Championships, and faced Tate twice, in the hot seat and finals, downing him both times. In between those two, in the winners’ side semifinal of the JIC event, he faced and defeated Nathan Childress, who had entered the final event of the JIC’s 18 & Under Boys division ranked at the top of all of the players who’d been competing since January.

Hollingsworth was pretty much in control from the opening break of the JIC 18 & Under Boys final. Joey Tate broke dry and Hollingsworth ran the table to start things off. He won the second rack on his own break, in spite of giving the table to Tate briefly. And then, things got a bit dicey for a while.

“I started out good,” he said after the match, “but then I missed a ball, Joey got out and the next thing I knew, I was down 4-2.”

He not only “missed a ball,” he scratched in rack three, which allowed Tate to run out and get on the board. Tate broke and ran the next rack, and though he (Tate) would scratch on the break in the next rack, Landon returned the unforced error by rattling the 9-ball in the pocket. Tate executed what seemed at the time to be a momentum-changing bank on the 9-ball to win his third rack and then, broke and ran to tie things at 4-4.

The pivotal point in the match would come, Tate would recall, when he scratched on the break in rack #9 and then, later, “when I missed a shot at a 7-ball and he banked his shot on it and drew back to (set up) the 9-ball.” 

“That,” he said, “was probably the turning point.”

Though Tate would break dry in rack #10 (they each did so only once throughout the match), he was able to play a mid-rack safe that eventually allowed him to knot the match at 5-5, but it was the last rack that he won. Hollingsworth won the next five, breaking and running rack #14 and then, in rack #15, at the end, claiming the 18 & Under Boys title by sinking the 8- and 9-ball simultaneously.

Hollingsworth agreed with Tate’s ‘turning point’ assessment.

“That was probably when I started feeling most comfortable,” he said, “when I got the lead back.”

Throughout all of this 16th year of his, there was something about this particular title that registered strongly with him. Not that he undervalued his Junior National Championships, or his efforts on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, or beating Tommy Kennedy and Johnny Archer, it was, for him, about the game(s) he played against his peers.

“Thinking that I’d got here,’ he said about his first thoughts at the end of the match, that with a few upcoming exceptions, would be his last in an 18 and Under division. “That I’d finally done it.”

And he had.

Tatum Cutting

Cutting comes back from hot seat loss to down Meyman in the finals

Like Hollingsworth, Tatum Cutting was playing in her last match as an 18 & Under competitor. The trip to the winners’ circle took a semifinal detour, but Cutting got back on track; in spades, as they say, because not only did she get an opportunity to face Kennedy Meyman (15) a second time, she shut her out in the finals.

The marquee matchup between two of the girls who’d been butting heads since the JIC series happened, but it happened in the event quarterfinals. Skylar Hess and Sophia Mast got sent to the loss side in their winners’ side semifinals, advancing Cutting and Meyman to the hot seat match. Heyman downed Cutting on Friday night 8-5.

On the loss side, Hess beat Precilia Kinsley, Mast eliminated Bethany Tate and the long-awaited Mast/Hess showdown got underway in the subsequent quarterfinals. It went double hill before Mast prevailed, only to be eliminated herself, in a second double hill match, by Cutting.

The final match was not, both girls would admit, how either of them expected it to go. Meyman will have future opportunities competing against other 18 & Under Girls. It was Cutting’s last chance, at least as an 18 & Under Junior. And she made it count. 

Immediately after the match, Cutting couldn’t remember what she thought when she saw that final 9-ball drop into its hole. 

“Well, before I even shot the 9-ball, my heart was racing,” she said. “After I shot it, I . . . didn’t think of anything. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’d never been in that kind of a situation before, so. . . maybe tomorrow, I’ll remember.” 

And so it ended. A year of frequent and often intense junior competition, culminating in a pair of championship final events that will likely linger in the minds of its competitors for many years to come. They’re already looking forward to next year. Stay tuned, as Ra Hanna and his On the Wire Media organization prepare and eventually announce what is likely to be billed as a “bigger and better year” for his groundbreaking Junior International Championships.