Sessions Succeeds at the U.S. Amateur Championships

Betty Sessions

On Saturday, November 7, Betty Sessions of Conyers, Georgia was crowned the 2009 U.S. Amateur Women's Champion. Of the 30 ladies who came to Strokers II in Tampa, Florida for their shot at the title, Sessions proved it was finally her day to shine. The elated Sessions can now complete her second and third place hardware collection with the coveted first place marble and bronze trophy. “That was the hardest field ever,” said Sessions. Ironically, her past three years of seconds and thirds were all at Mr. Cues II, her home room. “Three years in Atlanta and I couldn't do it.”

Sessions will also receive a custom event jacket, complimentary APA membership for one year, an invitation to return the following year to defend her title, and a paid invitation into a WPBA event for 2010. She has competed in at least ten WPBA events since 2000 but this will be her first in three years. This year, her fiancé Bob Lea, also qualified to compete in Tampa and will continue Sunday on the B-side.
This tournament format includes both 8-ball and 9-ball. The winner of the lag chooses the starting game or the opening break, race to 7 for the men and race to 5 for the women. Sessions' strategy has always been to begin with 8-ball whenever possible. “If it ever gets to hill-hill, I don't want to be playing 8-ball,” said Sessions. This approach has proven effective thus far. She went undefeated up until the driver's seat match against the young California superstar, Mary Rakin. Rakin dominated the match 5-1 without giving Sessions many opportunities.

Meanwhile, on the one-loss side, it was a battle of the former champs between 2006's Michell Monk and 2008's Amy Chen. Chen missed an 8 ball in the first rack which would ultimately set the tone for the rest of the match. Monk played a nearly flawless set, giving Chen few chances to recover. Monk would take that match 5-0 and advance to the semi-finals against Sessions.

In their semi-finals match, Sessions kicked it off with a textbook 8-ball table run. Unfortunately, both players began to feel the pressure. They traded racks until the score was 4-4. In the final rack, Monk missed an 8 ball, leaving Sessions a long, straight-in shot with the cue ball frozen to the rail. Sessions fired it in as well as she could but did not get quite enough steam to get back for the 9; then began the safety battle on the 9 ball. Ultimately, Monk shocked the crowd with an unexpected miss, leaving it for Sessions.

Sessions was excited for the rematch against Rakin. In a twist, Rakin won the lag and having previous experience of Sessions' game plan, Rakin chose to begin with 9-ball. Right out of the gate, Rakin made some unforeseen errors, allowing Sessions to capitalize and jump to a 3-0 lead. This became the theme of the match. The seasoned Sessions did not let up on the rattled Rakin. She continued to take advantage of every opportunity, even long-banking the 8 ball for perfect position on the 9 to get on the hill. It was a single-set finals race to nine. The final score was 9-3, Sessions.

Sessions dedicates this victory to her 16-month old daughter Madison. Along with the new addition to the family, Sessions also started taking online college classes to finish her degree. The recent changes to her life have given her a new appreciation for the game. As she stood by the tournament board, collecting her paperwork, the giddy, humble Sessions updated her Facebook status to read “Fourth time's a charm,” her subtle way of announcing her big win.

On the men's board, local Florida hot shot Dan Dennis stays to the right, along with last year's runner-up Chris Walls, and reigning champion Travis Gunn; both players looking to repeat their trip to the finals. Another familiar face is Bakersfield, California's Brian Parks, who escaped a hill-hill battle with Jeff Blattel of South Carolina. Parks has his eye on the prize this year and hopes to add to his previous fifth, fourth, and third place trophies with the big one.

Play continues with 9:30a.m. matches on Sunday. Visit for more information, online tournament brackets, and photos.