Rodney Was Up To “The Challenge” at The 3rd Annual Corpus Christi Classic Open 9-ball

Rodney Morris, Harrison Todd and Jui Lung Chen

This past June Harrison Todd, the owner of Paradise Pool & Billiards and the promoter of the Corpus Christi Classic, watched Rodney Morris run through the Sands Regency field and win the Reno event undefeated. When Todd congratulated Morris for his fine play, Morris stated, "Gabe Owen has won your event the past two years and I'm going to come take care of him. I might even bring Mika and Charlie with me!" When Todd saw Gabe at the U.S. Open, he told him what Morris had said. Several matches later Owen and Morris matched up and Owen beat Morris and the rest of the field to become the 2004 U.S. Open Champion. Owen told Todd that he had been inspired by Morris's challenge and was really pumped up after beating him.

Rodney did indeed show up in Corpus Christi, but he didn't get any help from Mika and Charlie. However, he stalled in two matches, down 6-1 in one and 6-2 in another, before finding his gear and two 9-8 comebacks. He defeated Christopher Cox, Gilbert Lopez 9-8, Gary Gold, Moises Herrera 9-7 and Sylver Ochoa. In the very last game of the Winner Bracket semi-final Jeremy Jones told him to go West young man. Out West he found Bob "the big game" Hunter, a former 14-1 World Champion. He is now one of the world's finest custom cuemakers is still a pleasure to watch and a true gentleman at that! This match was tight and Morris again barely escaped with the win. He then played "Double J" again and found a new way to win. At 7-7, Jones came up dry on the break and Morris ran out to 8-7, then broke and ran to a safety. After Jones fouled, Morris deceided to go for a 3 foul win, which is tough to do against a top one pocket player. Jones was really locked up tight after two fouls, and after missing, he replayed the 4 rail kick four times before finally making a legal hit. It was a tough way to lose, but Jones is a great champion and wished Morris well in the final match.

Waiting for Morris was Jui Lung Chen, who previously defeated Robert Ruiz, Daryl Owens, Javier Franco, Steve Smith and local favorite Shane Evans who was having a great event and definitely the crowd favorite. Chen beat "Double J" this year in the Finals of the Texas State Open and once again defeated the classy JJ. Chen is from Taiwan and it has been said that "the only English he knows is what he puts on the cue ball". He does understand 9-ball and has won enough events to make him very familiar with our system of currency. He plays with high style and confidence. However, Morris's reputation as an international superstar must have preceded him, as Chen got off to a slow start in the single race to 13. His breaks were dry and Morris got out from everywhere. In no time it was 9-3 but Morris came up dry and Chen won the next 4 games to make it 9-7. Then Morris won two and Chen won two. In game number 21, Chen missed a easy 2 ball and Rodney ran to the 9 but was looking at a tight bank in the side, but was forced to turn whitey loose because he had very little cut angle. The speeding cue ball raced 3 rails and finally stopped in the jaws of a 4.5" corner pocket. A larger pocket would have gobbled it up whole. Meanwhile, the nine-ball found the pocket for a 12-9 lead. This game could have been a turning point. After a weak Morris safety, Chen ran out and made a ball on the next break with a tough shot on the one. He missed his last shot and Rodney accepted this "challenge" and ran out to capture the 3rd Annual Corpus Christi Classic 13 games to 10.

Paradise Pool & Billiards added $7,000. and 71 players paid $100 entry fees making the prize fund $13,400. Matches were races to 9 on both sides of the chart. Most matches were on the 9' Lemacher flush pocket tables with new 860 Simonis cloth. The room was packed with spectators sitting in bleachers overlooking the beautiful tournament room - not a bad seat in the house and very little smoke due to the air purification system and tall ceilings.

Harrison Todd, the room owner and the tournament director, and his dedicated staff provided a great experience for all. Ron Geyer worked on his lathe and Joe Salazar displayed his custom cue collection. Custom cuemaker Jerry Olivier was there and so were fine cues from Schuler Legacy Cues and Mystick Cues. Lewis Jones and Paul Blank, who also helped promote the event, conducted the player auction that netted over $11,000. They helped Todd keep the 860 cloth spotless with Quick Clean and made sure the Aramith Super Pro balls were polished. Amanda and Corrina ran a break contest (Jorge the cook won with 9 in 3 breaks) and raffled off a fine Pechauer won by Gary Gold! Paradise Pool & Billiards was open 24 hours for three days with lots of one-pocket action and various games on the 6 x 12 snooker table. The added money has grown each year and this was the strongest field ever. Todd is going to try to add $10,000. next year to really establish the tournament as a must see event.

T-shirts with Gabe listed as the 2002 & 2003 Defending Champion were sold and a new name will be added to next year's event T-shirt. Rodney Morris 2004.

His "challenge" next year will be to win back-to-back just like Gabe Owen, and get his Entry Fee Paid for being the Defending Champion.

1st Place $3,500. Rodney Morris
2nd Place $2,200. Jui Lung Chen
3rd Place $1,600. Jeremy Jones
4th Place $1,100. Sylver Ochoa
5th Place $850. Bobby Hunter
6th Place $850. Shane Evans
7th Place $550. Charlie Bryant
8th Place $550. James Roberts
9th Place $325. Steve Smith
10th Place $325. James Davis, Sr.
11th Place $325. Bill Fuller
12th Place $325. Javier Franco
13th Place $225. Charlie Mora
14th Place $225. Daniel Nelder
15th Place $225. James Davis, Jr.
16th Place $225. Rick Stanley