Mary Hopkin wins NWPA Season Opener

Mary Hopkin, of Richland, Wash. inched out Kim Gates in the nail-biting hill-hill final match of the Northwest Womens Pool Association's first tour stop of 2003. A field of 38 women battled it out Jan 11-12 at Q Street Billiards for cash and a paid birth at the Women's Professional Billiard Tour's Viejas Casino Classic in Alpine, Calif. in March.

Hopkin solidly defeated veteran player Jeanne Crowell, of Eugene, Ore. in the first round (7-4) before losing her second match (5-7) to Andrea Saenz-Maes, of Tacoma, Wash., who had a strong tournament and her best finish in an NWPA event, earning third place. Hopkin played consistently strong through the B-side of the bracket, posting wins over Bonnie Mahaffey, of Eugene, Ore. (7-1); Shawn Graves, of Woodinville, Wash. (7-3); Cindy Doty, of Longview, Wash. (7-6); Jana Smallboy, of Alberta, Canada, (7-2); Martha Hartsell, of Junction City, Ore., (7-2); Jo Woodward, of Kent, Wash. (7-4); and Saenz-Maes (7-3) before meeting up with Gates in the finals.

Meanwhile, Gates steamrolled through the winners bracket, trouncing Kendra Marcoulier, of Bend, Ore. (7-2); Jeri Engh, of Osceola, Wis. (7-4); Woodward (7-1); Julie Stallings, of Junction City, Ore. (7-0); Shawn Wolf, of Tacoma, Wash. (7-5) and Saenz-Maes (7-6).

The final match started with Hopkin crushing the balls in the first break, making five balls and leaving the one ball open in the middle of the table. The five ball was locked between the nine and seven balls at the foot spot of the table. Hopkin pocketed the one ball and followed the shot with a clean five-nine combo in the corner, invigorating the crowd. Hopkin kept control of the table for the following two games, making the score 3-0 before Gates was able to make her mark. Gates, struggling with balls jawing in the pockets, came out aggressively and played strong safeties to garner three games and tie the match at 3-3. Then the momentum in the match went Hopkin's direction, who racked up four more games against the still struggling Gates, making the match, 7-3. Gates took a break and came back in full force, hitting balls solidly and running out at every opportunity. She kept Hopkin kicking at balls, finally able to tie up the match at seven-seven. Then Gates snapped the nine on the break to reach the hill first, making it 8-7 in her favor.

During the 16th rack, Hopkin got to the table after Gates missed a five ball and then rattled the eight ball. Gates missed position and was faced with a short-rail bank into the side, which she missed, leaving an easy nine ball for Hopkin, who tied the score at 8-8. The crowd of nearly 30 spectators, including Q-Street owners Sharon and Dennis Blackwell, were as on edge as the players when the final game of the match began. Hopkin started the rack solidly, but jawed the five ball. Gates got up with new resolve and easily ran the rack down, leaving a long straight shot in the corner pocket on the nine, which she hit with authority. The crowd, including Hopkin, moaned as the nine-ball jawed in the pocket, leaving Hopkin the match.

Gates showed why she was voted the NWPA's 2002 Sportswoman of the Year as she graciously congratulated Hopkin on the tournament. The results for the top 12 finishers are as follows:

1st: Mary Hopkin -- $490, paid entry to WPBA event at Viejas Casino in March, 200pts
2nd: Kim Gates -- $342, 160pts
3rd: Andrea Saenz-Maes -- $242, 125pts
4th: Jo Woodward -- $184, 100pts
5th/6th: Martha Hartsell -- $112, 80pts
5th/6th: Shawn Wolf -- $112, 80pts
7th/8th: Jana Smallboy -- $82, 65pts
7th/8th: Rhonda Zuraff -- $82, 65pts
9th-12th: Julie Burney -- $68, 50pts
9th-12th: Cindy Doty -- $68, 50pts
9th-12th: Julie Stallings -- $68, 50pts
9th-12th: Kari Stevens -- $68, 50pts