Rosario takes single-game final to capture Predator Pro/Am Tour Championship Amateur title
Skip Maloney
Dec. 12, 2018
(l to r): Mac Jankov, Annie Flores, Ron Bernardo & Abel Rosario
(l to r): Mac Jankov, Annie Flores, Ron Bernardo & Abel Rosario
As the clock hands edged their way toward 3 a.m. on Monday morning, December 10, it was clear that fatigue was becoming a dominant factor in the last matches of the $9,630-added Predator Pro Am Tour Championships’ Amateur tournament, which had drawn 94 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY over the weekend. The 16-entrant, $1,000-added  Open/Pro Division of the Tour Championships at the same location (separate story) were over, won by Jorge Rodriguez. So, too, were the three, $500-added (total) Second (two) and Third Chance events. All that remained were the Amateur semifinals and finals; Annie Flores and Abel Rosario in the former, and whoever won, against hot seat occupant, Ron Bernardo, in the final.
 
They were all tired. So was Upstate Al in the AZBTv broadcast booth, whose commentary on the semifinal was sparse, to say the least. He let people know he was still there, usually by just saying so, and here and there, a few pertinent comments on possible shot options for the players. 
 
There was still $11,500 worth of prize money to be allocated among the last three. They could have opted for a three-way split, giving each of them $3,833.33; not a band chunk of change for a weekend of work. But they didn’t. With a difference of $2,500 at stake between 1st and 2nd place, splitting the top two prizes, while clearly an option, didn’t happen either. This, after all, was the Tour Championship, and they’d all worked an entire year to get here. Rosario and Flores played a tight, full race-to-7 semifinal match, which eventually sent Rosario, who won it 7-5,  back for a second shot against Bernardo. What they did do, in deference to the hour and the lurking specter of increased fatigue, which would most certainly have had an effect on the quality of the final match, was to turn the final match into a single game contest. One game for 63% ($6,000) of the remaining marbles.
 
Abel Rosario won it to claim the Amateur title. He’d entered the tournament as the tour’s #1-ranked B player, and while the tour’s #5-ranked C player (Bernardo) won their earlier meeting – a double hill hot seat match – he had to, and likely, at that hour, was glad to accept the $3,500 runner-up prize.
 
As is often the case, in many different fields of endeavor, the headlines don’t always indicate the whole story, and among many of the ups and downs encountered by the 94 entrants, Rhio Anne (Annie) Flores’ third place finish, her best on the tour since last November, was among the event’s most notable highlights. She’d flown to London to watch her companion, Alex Kazakis, compete in the 25th Annual Mosconi Cup. While certainly experiencing divided loyalties in her support for Team USA and Kazakis, it couldn’t have been a whole lot of fun to watch Kazakis go down in defeat against Shane Van Boening, in what could have (and from Kazakis’ point of view, should have) been the match that tied the overall match score at 10-10 and led to a single match for the title. She flew back from London and arrived just in time to join the Predator Pro Am’s Tour Championships.
 
It was Abel Rosario who’d ended Flores’ winners’ side journey, after which she embarked on a six-match, loss-side journey that took her as far as the semifinal. Rosario moved on and eventually arrived at a winners’ side semifinal against Gary Bozigian. Bernardo, in the meantime, squared off against Mac Jankov.
 
Rosario sent Bozigian to the loss side 7-5. Bernardo downed Jankov 6-4, setting up his first of two against Rosario in the hot seat match. In the deciding game, the 9-ball was jammed into the edge of a corner pocket, with no clear path to get at it, because the cue ball was down there, too. Bernardo executed a massé shot and dropped the 9-ball to claim the hot seat. It guaranteed Bernardo at least 2nd place ($3,500), while Rosario had to settle for a minimum third place finish
 
“That,” said Tony Robles, when it happened, “was a $1,500 shot,” which guaranteed Bernardo, at minimum, 2nd place ($3,500), while Rosario had to contend with the possibility of finishing 3rd ($2,000). It didn’t turn out that way.
 
On the loss side, Flores had chalked up four wins, including most recently, a 7-5 win over Juan Guzman and a 7-3 victory over Brian Toolsee, when she ran into Bozigian. Jankov picked up Corey Avallone, who’d most recently shut out Naoko Saiki, and eliminated Esteban Morell, double hill.
 
Both matches for advancement to the quarterfinals went double hill; Jankov eliminating Avallone 6-5 and Flores defeating Bozigian 7-6. Flores moved on to eliminate Jankov 9-6 in the quarterfinals.
 
As tired as they both were, going into their semifinal rematch, Rosario and Flores (likely with the added burden of some lingering jet lag) put on quite a back-and-forth show. In the end, though, Rosario pulled out in front to win it 7-5.
 
The single-game final was on, and among the few that were left, including Tour Director Tony Robles, perched in a seat just outside the perimeter of the TV table’s viewing range, there was a hope that neither of the competitors, Rosario or Bernardo, were in the mood for any kind of protracted ‘safety’ game. They weren’t. In a handful of ‘innings,’ it was over. Rosario sunk the final 9-ball and everybody got to go home.
 
Robles thanked Holden Chin and his Raxx staff for their hospitality, his own Predator Pro Am staff and title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, PlayNAPL.com, The DeVito Team, PoolOnTheNet.com, Cappelle (BilliardsPress.com), AZBilliards, Pool & Billiard Magazine and Billiards Digest. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour will be the 2019 season opener, scheduled for the weekend of January 26-27 and hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.