Pao goes undefeated to win her 4th JPNEWT stop in as many tries

Final Eight Players

A few days shy of a year ago (Oct. 14, 2019), Caroline Pao and Linda Shea battled it out for an event title at Stop #7 of the 2019 J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour, hosted by Eagle Billiards in Dickson City, PA. They were also competing for the top spot in the tour rankings at the time. It was a short field of 12 entrants that day and they met, first, in a winners’ side semifinal and then later in the finals. Pao won both matches to claim the event title, her third of the season, but it wasn’t enough to move her into the tour’s top spot over Shea, who’d competed in all seven of the tour’s stops to that point.

This year (Oct. 10-11), things were a little different for the two frequent competitors on Shea’s tour. Though it was, this time, Stop #8 on the (2020) tour at the same location, and Shea was once again at the top of the tour rankings, there’d been a lot of proverbial water under the bridge of pool since that earlier matchup. It was Pao’s first cash payout since she’d finished 9th at the WPBA’s Ashton Twins Classic in January. Shea, on the other hand, was looking for her third win on this year’s interrupted tour, which had been forced to cancel stops #2 through #4. Shea won the first stop back (#5), was runner-up to Kathy Friend in #6 and then beat Friend in the finals of #7. 

Enter Caroline Pao with her first appearance on the tour since that win a year ago and Kia Burwell, who, like Shea, had competed in all four of the tour’s 2020 stops and arrived in Dickson City as the tour’s #3 competitor behind Shea and Friend.

It was Burwell who met up with Shea, twice, and eventually eliminated her in the event semifinals. She met Pao, twice, as well, but was defeated both times, as Pao went undefeated to pick up her fourth JPNEWT win in four tries. The event drew 29 entrants to Eagle Billiards.

Pao showed little sign of any prolonged absence from the tables and marched to a winners’ side semifinal against Ada Lio, having given up only three racks in 24 games; none to Carol V. Clark, one to April Hatcher and two to Chari Slater. Burwell, in the meantime, got by Linda Cheung, survived a double hill battle versus Shanna Lewis and defeated Karen Carter 7-2 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Shea.

Shea and Burwell got into something of a predictable double hill match at which Burwell prevailed to earn her spot in the hot seat match. Pao sent Lio to the loss side 7-1, giving her a winners’ side aggregate score, going into the hot seat match, of 32-4. Though Burwell put up a better fight than any of Pao’s previous opponents, Pao took the hot seat 7-3 and waited on Burwell’s return.

On the loss side, Shea picked up Shanna Lewis, who was working on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently sent Christie Hurdel (7-2) and Chari Slater (double hill) home. Lio drew Kassandra Bein, who was also working on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had sent Karen Carter (7-3) and Suzzie Wong (7-4) to the proverbial showers.

Shea advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Lewis and was joined by Bein, who’d extended her loss-side winning streak by ending Lio’s 7-2. Shea then put a stop to Bein’s winning streak 7-3 in those quarterfinals. Burwell, in turn, put a stop to Shea’s modest two-match, loss-side winning streak with a 7-3 win in the semifinals.

Pao showed no sign that waiting for the finals had affected her play. In fact, she gave up one less rack in the finals against Burwell than she had in their earlier hot seat match. Pao completed her undefeated run with the 7-2 win and in her first appearance on the 2020 tour, moved among the top 10 competitors on the tour. Burwell, in the absence of the tour’s #2-ranked player (Kathy Friend), moved into second place behind Shea.

Pao, who noted after the event, that she doesn’t play in as many tournaments as she used to, as a result of work commitments, did enjoy being back.

“It was actually fun competing again,” she said, “especially since I don’t get to compete as much.”

“Kia (Burwell) has been working on her game,” she added. “She’s always been a tough competitor, but is much tougher now. I really enjoy sparring with her.”

Though she and Shea did not meet in a match this time out, Pao remembers their past quite well. She’s aware, as well, that her own inability to compete as often has a way of keeping her out of contention for any of the top spots on the tour.

“Linda is a great player,” she said, “and I enjoy competing with her because she is such a strong competitor. I’d never be able to catch up to her in (tour) points since I would not be able to attend all of the events.”

“I only got lucky to be ranked as high (last year) because I was able to play in three events,” she said, “and was fortunate enough to win the three events I played in.”

She added her first in 2020 to make it four events.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Eagle Billiards, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Coins of the Realm, angle aim Art (Britanya E. Rapp) and the Turtle Rack. The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for Nov. 7-8, will be hosted by Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.