Philippine Open to Start World Ranking Tour

Ralf Souquet

IT'S all systems go for the first-ever Philippine Open Pool Championship which will kick off at SM Megamall, Megatrade Hall 2, on Wednesday, May 27, 2009, and the best of the best in the world will compete for top prizes and highly coveted places in the world rankings of the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA).

A total of $84,000 in total prize money and spots in the prestigious World Ten Ball Championship will be up for grabs in the tournament, which is the first event in the 2009 WPA World Ranking Tour.

Sixty-four of the finest players in the world, including the reigning World 10-ball champion and the world's No.1 player, will see action in the competition which is being organized by Raya Sports in cooperation with the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines and Star Billiards, and sanctioned by the WPA.

Leading the foreign bets are Ralf Souquet of Germany and Darren Appleton of Great Britain. Souquet is currently ranked No. 1 by the WPA and is the reigning world 8-ball champion. Appleton, on the other hand, is the defending world 10-Ball titlist. He captured the crown last year in the event's inaugural staging in Manila.

The winner of the Philippine Open will get the top prize of $20,000. Prizes will be awarded up to 32nd place.

The Philippine Open will also be used as springboard in selecting players for this year's WTBC  event, which is tentatively set in Cebu in October.

With Souquet and Appleton on board, Europe is touted as the heavy favorite in the event as it will send a strong 19-player cast in the tournament.

Also included on its list are the top lady players – Europe's female  No.1 player Jasmin Ouschan of Austria and top players on the women's tour like Karen Corr of Ireland and Kelly Fisher of Great Britain.

Ouschan became the darling of the crowd in last year's WTBC when she beat among others top-ranked Thomas Engert of Germany in a live TV match.

Europe is also sending players who in the WPA top 10 rankings like Mika Immonen of Finland, 2008 US Open champion and ranked No. 4 in the world, and Marcus Chamat of Sweden.

America and Asia are likewise fielding their crack players.

The United States, consisting of seven players, will be led by US No. 1 and former US open titlist Shane Van Boening and the multi-titled Corey Deuel.

Asia is fielding a squad of 17 players (excluding the Philippines). They are led by Taiwanese No. 1 Fu Che-Wei, world junior champion Ko Pin Yi, Japanese star Satoshi Kawabata, China's top player Fu Jian-Bo, and Indonesian No. 1 Ricky Yang.

On the home front, 10 Filipino players have earned places in the event, seven of whom have qualified based on year-round BSCP rankings and through the qualifying event staged at the Star Billiards Center last weekend.

The seven who have made it are Jericho Banares, Jeffrey De Luna, Leonardo Didal, Mario Tolentino, Demosthenes Pulpul, Alan Cuartero and 15-year-old Jonas Magpantay.

They are slated to be joined by three other Filipinos who have made it to the main draw based on their WPA rankings – former world champion Ronnie Alcano, Warren Kiamco and Dennis Orcullo.             

The other events in the WPA ranking tour are the China Open, the Qatar Open, the US Open, and the World Ten Ball Championship. Top 10 players in the rankings receive a variety of benefits and bonuses from the world's governing body for pool.