Ahead of International 9-Ball Open, Melling wins 4th Annual Great Dismal Swamp Classic
Skip Maloney
Oct. 22, 2018
(l to r): Chris Melling, Tommy Kennedy & Chris Robinson
(l to r): Chris Melling, Tommy Kennedy & Chris Robinson
The extended weekend of the 4th Annual Great Dismal Swamp Classic, began on Wednesday, Oct. 17, with an exhibition of giants. In a 9-ball race to 11, two iconic former winners of the US Open 9-Ball Championships, Tommy Kennedy and Johnny Archer (who played each other in the finals of the 1992 event, won by Kennedy), squared off in an exhibition match. The event ended on Sunday, October 22, when Chris Melling completed an undefeated run through a star-studded field of 32, who’d gathered to participate in what was, for many of them, a warm-up for the 1st International 9-Ball Open, now already underway, about 50 miles north in Norfolk, VA. The $7,000-added, 2018 Dismal Swamp Classic drew 32 entrants to Colonial Cues in Elizabeth City, NC.
 
It’s an unfortunate truth about the sport, but there are no precise records that could provide any insight into the history of the Kennedy/Archer matchups over the years. They’ve been at it for over a quarter of a century, and the 1992 US Open 9-Ball Championships were nowhere near where it started, nor, as this most recent exhibition demonstrates, the end of it, either. Beyond their battles over the years – suffice it to say, numerous – they’ve been friends, dating back to the days when the pool world was all about traveling from place to place, looking for action and discovering the familiar faces of fellow road warriors.
 
In spite of its status as an exhibition match between two friends, both of them, according to Kennedy, took it quite seriously.
 
“Absolutely,” said Kennedy. “I wanted to win.”
 
He did. He won it 11-6, removed his metaphorical players’ cap and donned the tour director cap as the 4th Annual Dismal Swamp Classic got underway.
 
As a warm-up to the 1st International US Open, which settled into the area and time slot of the US Open 9-Ball Championships (the 43rd Annual of which will be contested in April, 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas), this edition of the annual Dismal Swamp Classic attracted 32 of the top competitors in the game. Melling was an early-line favorite, with (among others) Jayson Shaw, Tony Chohan, Earl Strickland, Sky Woodward, Brandon Shuff, and, of course, Archer and Kennedy in the mix of possible winners. Melling immediately established himself as the player to beat, and never looked back.
 
As the event whittled its way down to a final 12, Kennedy and Strickland were the only names missing from the above list. Melling had advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Denis Grabe, while Josh Roberts and Scott Haas squared off in the other one. Melling advanced to the hot seat 9-6 over Grabe and was joined by Roberts, who’d defeated Haas 9-4. Melling sent Roberts to the semifinals 9-4 to claim the hot seat.
 
On the loss side, by the time Grabe and Haas arrived to compete in the battles for 5th/6th place, only one of the names from above had advanced – Sky Woodward - and it was Grabe who picked him up. Woodward had most recently eliminated, in order, two of the event’s most potent contenders, Chohan and Shaw, to draw Grabe. Haas picked up Californian youngster Chris Robinson, who’d been sent to the loss side by Chohan and was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that eventually earned him a spot in the finals. He’d most recently eliminated, in order, Brandon Shuff and Alex Kazakis.
 
Woodward advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Grabe and was joined by Robinson, who’d sent Haas packing 7-4. Robinson went on (arguably to the surprise of more than a few) to defeat Woodward in those quarterfinals 7-5, and then Roberts 7-2 in the semifinals.
 
Though there’s almost nothing in the annals of pool matchups that could ever be considered a foregone conclusion, the odds in the ‘Chris’ finals (Melling vs. Robinson) heavily favored Melling. With Fargo Rates 63 points apart (781-718, in favor of Melling), the matchup in a race to 11 gave Robinson only a 15.7% chance of winning. Robinson chalked up just a little over 31% of the games they played, and Melling won it 11-5 to claim the Dismal Swamp Classic title.
 
Kennedy, as tour director, thanked the ownership and staff at Colonial Cues, as well as sponsors J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Mueller Recreational Products, Simonis, Accu-Rack, BilliardNet.TV (which streamed the event live throughout the weekend), Elizabeth City, The Glover Law Firm, and Travelers Inn.