Owen wins Seminole Pro Tour Opener

Mr. Cues II in Atlanta Georgia played host to the season opener of the ever Expanding Seminole Pro Tour. For the past two years this ten ball tour, formerly known as the Florida Pro Tour, has been expanding outward to different states, with this season including stops not only in Atlanta, but also in North Carolina and New York.

The season opener was a concentration of some of the finest cueists the US has to offer. Such talents as Earl “The Pearl” Strickland, Corey Deuel, John Schmidt, Gabe Owen, Stevie Moore, Mike Davis, and Ronnie Wiseman as well as strong shortstops including Atlanta's Paul Song. Day two of the tournament saw some great matches. At one point there were four US Open champions playing at the same time; to the delight of the spectators who were overjoyed at the prospect of watching some world class pool.

The feature matchup for day two pitted none other than Earl Strickland against Seminole sponsored Corey Deuel. Deuel seemed to have been pushed to the limit all tournament long surviving a close 7-5 victory over Raymond Linares; then coming up short against very capable local Mitch Yarborough 7-6. Corey missed the case 10 ball and was sent to the 1 loss side where his final test would be against 5 time US Open champion Earl Strickland.

This match up was an exhibition of firepower as Corey shot out to a 4-0 lead. The usually boisterous Earl quickly reverted to a state of utmost concentration and did not let Deuel back to the table until he was in a safety and only leading by one game at 4-3. Strickland was really showing his prowess making sloppy layouts look like roadmaps and continued to put the pressure on Corey by taking a 5-4 lead. Deuel responded and captured the next two games and was the first man on the hill. Strickland quickly joined Mr. Deuel on the hill. The players would stretch the match to its capacity as the race to 7 would be decided by a single game.

Now we all know that the tournament atmosphere can provide electricity and color to any venue, especially when two combatants of this caliber enter the arena. This was no different and in this match, in the Hill-Hill game those who were lucky enough to be spectators witnessed what many believed to be the moment of the tournament. Strickland was at the table and got position against the side rail straight in on the seven ball. His cueing was slightly elevated seeing as there was a ball underneath him. As he got down to shoot he jumped right back up and started chalking his cue very thoroughly. As he turned the cue on the chalk, with a look of mingled intensity and amusement, he delivered one of the best one liners I've ever heard… “The only thing in the world that can save you now, is a mis-cue!”

Spits of laughter popped up from around the crowd as they restrained themselves so as not to disturb “The Pearl”. He pocketed the final four balls and won the match to uproarious applause.

On the final day the cream really did rise to the top. In the final 8 were six very strong pros and two locals who were showing that they had what it took to play with the best. Paul Song was the first shortstop eliminated as he succumbed to Strickland 8-5 finishing in 7th place. Mitch Yarborough was really raising some eyebrows as he beat his share of big names and bagged a very impressive 4th place prize.

The real talk of the day however was Gabe Owen whose impressive consistency has reaped him many rewards as of late both in tournament and after hours play. The crowd was extremely impressed at how high he could consistently keep his level of play and with good reason. Gabe was on a mission. As last years runner up in the Mizerak State Championship held in Hollywood Florida, he was ready to show that he is a true force to be reckoned with on the Seminole Pro Tour.

Gabe dispatched of Yarborough in an impressive 8-1 shellacking.  He then was to play a fellow US Open Champion, none other than “Mr.400” John Schmidt. Both players came out firing and played at a slightly quicker pace than normal for the two. However they carried it well and put on a great show that ultimately ended with Owen edging out Schmidt 8-6. The finals would pit Mike Davis, whose unorthodox stroke amazed the crowd against Gabe Owen. Davis who made an amazing out Hill-Hill against Schmidt in the hot seat match was finally ready for his chance at a second Seminole Pro Tour win (Jacksonville 08'). However Owen had something else in mind. In the final race to 9 Owen relied on his consistent methodical approach to take the match and the title of Seminole Pro Tour Atlanta Stop Champion.

We would like to thank the folks at Mr.Cues II for being such hospitable guests and helping with all things necessary to keep the running of the tournament on time and smooth. We'd also like to thank our sponsors the Seminole Tribe of Florida for continuing to support the tour and pool in our region and those neighboring ours.