Kazakis comes back from hot seat loss, downs Pagulayan in Beasley Custom Cues 9-Ball Open

In its language of origin (Greek), the name ‘Alex’ means ‘warrior.’ Two of them battled twice in the first Beasley Custom Cues 9-Ball Open (formerly the Don Coates Memorial), held on the long weekend of June 13-17. The annual event, sponsored by and with $10,000-added by Doug Beasley, has traditionally drawn the country’s (and increasingly, the world’s) best players, and this year, was no exception. Included in the roster of 85 entrants (among many others) were last year’s winner and runner-up, Sky Woodward and Zoren James Aranas; the 2016 winner, Rodney Morris, Johnny Archer, Neils Feijen, Ronnie Alcano, and the two Alex ‘warriors’ who fought twice to claim the title – Alex Kazakis and Alex Pagulayan. Kazakis lost their hot seat match but returned from the semifinals to defeat The Lion in the finals. The event, as always, was hosted by Brass Tap & Billiards in Raleigh, NC, whose history is longer than the event itself.
“Back in the 80s & 90s, they’d hold Wednesday night tournaments,” said Doug Beasley, on-site throughout the weekend at his table/booth, displaying his custom-made cues. “These weren’t money-added, or anything like that. They were just weekly tournaments, and you’d see Earl (Strickland), who used to live down here, Johnny Archer, Kim Davenport and Efren Reyes (among others).
“The former owner of the place (Tony Coates) was good friends with Johnny,” he added, “and he’d call him up and let him know he was getting an event together. They were all traveling around (more or less) together at the time, and they’d come in here, just for the weekly tournaments, so there’s a lot of history (related) to this room.”
The size of the room, dominated by the tables, lent itself to a ‘small bar’ atmosphere, which, in light of the talent on display during the weekend had a way of transforming it into a ‘big bar’ event; something akin to seeing a popular musician perform in a small nightclub. Tour directors Herman and Angela Parker, who took the reins of this event for the first time last year and operate the Viking Cues’ Q-City 9-Ball Tour, run a tight ship and in spite of some common (and relatively insignificant) issues related to the room’s size, the increasing rise in temperature (as spectators grew toward the final day), and well-known personality issues, the event went off without a hitch. Herman took lead on the ‘issues’ as they arose, from navigating rule disputes, imagined and real personality clashes and the general melee of top-notch, and sometimes volatile professional pool players all in a room together, trying to win the $5,000 first prize.
By Saturday, June 16, the field had narrowed down to its final 12 players. Before the day was over, it would be down to six. The two Alexes advanced to a winners’ side semifinal; Kazakis squaring off against Josh Roberts (whom he’d meet and defeat twice), and Pagulayan, facing Ronnie Alcano. Kazakis got into the hot seat match with a 9-5 win over Roberts, and faced Pagulayan (the sport’s best comedian), who’d sent Alcano to the loss side 9-6. Pagulayan claimed the hot seat 9-6 over Kazakis and waited on his return from the semifinals against Roberts.
On the loss side, where, at this point, everyone was ‘in the money,’ there were a lot of dangerous competitors, any one of whom could have advanced to challenge Pagulayan’s occupation of the hot seat. New York’s Joey Korsiak, Brandon Shuff, Shannon Fitch (a Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball regular, who played well throughout the weekend) and Filipino Jeff DeLuna were the first to be eliminated in the event’s first money round (13th through 16th). Alcano, coming over from the winners’ side, picked up Zoren James Aranas, who’d eliminated Rodney Morris 9-6, and Tony Chohan 9-5. Roberts drew the increasingly dangerous, 19-year-old Albanian, Klenti Kaci, who’d defeated Justin Martin 9-2 and Fedor Gorst 9-7 to reach him.
Aranas got by Alcano 9-7, as Roberts chalked up two impressive wins in a row; defeating Kaci 9-5, and then, by the same score in the quarterfinals, Aranas. This set up the semifinal re-match between Kazakis and Roberts.
The room was getting a little ‘tighter,’ as humidity and a degree of oxygen deprivation was beginning to have an effect on the way the balls were rolling on the table. This, by way of an observation from UpstateAl, who along with Levi Combs, under the auspices of #LiveAction Media Streaming, was providing the broadcast for the event.
Roberts made the event’s semifinal match a little closer than their previous match in the winners’ side semifinals. It was a tight match, but Kazakis pulled ahead to win it 9-7 and earn (definitely earn) his re-match in the finals against Pagulayan.
Not surprisingly, the race-to-13, single match final shaped up early as something of an epic battle. Tied up at 2-2, Kazakis and Pagulayan moved into a repetitive (alternate) break and win sequence, that began when Pagulayan took two in a row to go ahead 4-2. Kazakis won rack #7 to narrow the gap to a single game. They repeated this win one, lose one sequence through the next seven games, until Kazakis broke through to win two in a row and create the match’s second tie at 7-7.
Pagulayan answered with two in a row of his own to get back in front by two (9-7), for the fourth time since rack #6. It was, with one exception, the last winning rack for Pagulayan. Kazakis went on a five-rack run that was eventually interrupted by Pagulayan’s 10th winning rack. Kazakis sealed the deal with rack #23 and at 13-10, claimed the title to the 1st Beasley Custom Cues 9-Ball Open.
Tour directors Herman and Angela Parker thanked Rich Kuntz and his Brass Tap staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Doug Beasley Custom Cues, the Coastal Carolina TAP League, Omega, AZBilliards, #LiveAction Media Streaming (with Levi Combs, and Upstate Al commentating), and Outsville Great White Pro Chalk.   
The Parkers will be back at work with the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour next weekend, June 23-24, when they will hold a $500-added event at Speakeazy Billiards in Sanford, NC.