Luat Wins Villar Cup

Senate President Manny Villar awards the Villar Cup trophy to Rodolfo Luat.

BACOLOD CITY – Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat got off to a dazzling start and then held off hometown bet Ramil Gallego's fierce rallies for a 13-10 win in the finals to crown himself champion of the First Senate President Manny Villar Cup Bacolod leg Sunday night at the Garden Royal Function Hall of Goldenfields Commercial Complex here.

It was a breakthrough feat for the 50-year-old veteran internationalist, who has not won a title in almost two years since winning the Taiwan leg of the 2006 San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour.

“I'm very happy with this victory” said Luat, who also earned the top prize of $15,000 for ruling this fifth stop of the prestigious island-hopping series presented by Villards: Tulong sa Pagsulong ng Philippine sports.

It was not easy sailing for Luat, who has not made it past the second round in the previous Villar Cup leg, in scoring this title conquest.

He opened his bid by upending reigning world no.1 Dennis Orcollo, 11-6, to earn a second round match against two-time world champion Ronnie Alcano, whom he defeated 11-7, to advance into the quarterfinals.

There, he had a heck of a battle with Cebu leg champion Gandy Valle before prevailing, 11-9, to move within two wins of the coveted crown at stake in this four-day competition organized by the Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines in cooperation with the city government of Bacolod led by Mayor Evelio Leonardia and the Negros Billiards Stable (NBS) of businessman Jonathan Sy and sponsored by Camella Communities.

He met another Bugsy boy in Michael Feliciano, a qualifier, in the semifinals, and they engaged in another tough battle before his vast experience led him to an 11-7 win.

Then came the title-duel against Gallego, a Bacoleno billiards idol, who ruled the series' Bulacan leg and who came into the match fresh from beating pool icon Efren “Bata” Reyes, 11-8, in the other Final Four match.

Despite playing before a huge partisan crown rooting against him, Luat did not flinch and instead raced to a 6-0 lead.

Gallego, not wanting to disappoint his townmates, returned from a timeout with a 6-2 run to close in at 8-6 and make it anybody's game.

Luat's lead was further reduced to one, 9-8, and Gallego had a chance to tie the count in the 18th rack but missed his shot on the orange-5 that instead gave the former a two-point advantage.

They then split the next four frames before Gallego broke dry in the 23rd racks, and Luat methodically cleaned it up to seal the win and became the fifth holder of the Villar Cup.

Gallego settled for the runner-up purse worth $5,000, while Reyes and Feliciano took home $2,500 each.

Meanwhile, William Millares subdued local bet Jarry Pelayo, 9-6, in the finals to bag the “Panersera-pababa” title and took the P50,000 cash prize in the side event that attracted a total of 178 players.