Linares goes undefeated to win Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour’s third stop at Stroker’s

Jason Richko, Raymond Linares and Kyle Bova

The top three finishers in last weekend’s (July 31-August 1) stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, their third to be hosted by Stroker’s in Palm Harbor, FL, could be on the front cover, or at least mentioned in the first chapter of a book entitled Florida State’s Top Pool Competitors. Ray Linares topped the list in the winners’ circle, after navigating his way through a hot seat match versus Kyle Bova and a final against Jason Richko to claim his first (recorded) title since he won the tour’s Bar Box Championship back in November of 2020. This past weekend’s $1,000-added event drew 57 entrants to Stroker’s.

Linares didn’t have a rack chalked up against him until the third round of this event when he met and defeated T. Smoke 7-4. A 7-3 victory over room owner, Jose Del Rio followed, which put Linares into a winners’ side semifinal against Robert Hammock. Bova, in the meantime, had defeated Randall McLuckie, Evan Huynh, Casey Silvers, and Ke Wu to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal matchup against Edward Porter. Jason Richko, who’d won two matches on the winners’ side, versus Bill Tincher and Joe Klein, was sent to the loss side by junior player Julio Estevez 7-5. Estevez, who would end the tournament as the top junior, followed him over in the next round.

Bova got into the hot seat match 7-4 over Porter and was joined by Linares, who’d defeated Hammock 7-3. Linares claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Bova and waited on the return of Richko.

It was Hammock who picked up Richko on the loss side. At the time, Richko was in the midst of the seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would put him into the finals. He had most recently eliminated Ke Wu 5-3 and Robert Batson 7-2. Porter drew Julio Estevez, who was likely looking at the possibility of a rematch versus Richko. He’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal match to Hammock and on the loss side, shut out Casey Silvers and defeated Joselito Martinez 6-3.

Richko downed Hammock 7-2 to earn his rematch. Estevez did his part, downing Porter 7-4. Richko wreaked his vengeance on Estevez by allowing him only a single rack in the quarterfinals that followed.

Richko then downed Bova 6-4 in the semifinals for a shot at Linares, waiting for him in the hot seat. Linares completed his undefeated run with a 9-3 win in the finals.

Sonja Chbeeb was the event’s top female finisher (17-24th). 

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose Del Rio and his staff for their “awesome hospitality and hosting the tour, year after year,” as well as title sponsor Predator, kamui, Diamond Products,  Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Stitch it to me Embroidery, Central Florida USA Pool League, AZ Billiards & Skills for Rent. The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, a $1,000-added Amateur 9-Ball event, scheduled for Saturday, August 21, will be hosted Q-Ball in Jacksonville, FL.