Shane begins his reign: Van Boening wins $50,000 U.S. Open title

Shane Van Boening

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – With sniper-fire shotmaking, deft safety play and a head as cool as table slate, 24-year-old Shane Van Boening has beaten the reigning world 9-ball champion to win the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship.

Van Boening defeated Ronnie Alcano in the final, 13-10, to take the $50,000 title Saturday night at the Chesapeake Conference Center.

Not much more than a rookie on the men’s circuit, Van Boening from Sioux Falls, S.D., played the tournament of his life, trumping 2006 World Pool Championship winner Alcano not once, but twice – 11-4 in the winners’ side semifinal, and then 13-10 in the final.

Just remarkable was the confident and measured manner in which he did it. He kept the same pace, expression and loose body language throughout the final, prompting fellow pro Shannon Daulton to say at one point, “This guy looks like he’s practicing.”

“I don’t know how I do it,” the understated Van Boening said when asked how he kept his cool.

The outcome of the final wasn’t clear until the last few racks, as neither player could put much distance between himself and his opponent. Both players showed nerves early, clanking balls off the tight pockets of the Diamond tournament table and struggling to find a productive speed on the break.

Tied at 8-8, the match became a race-to-5, and Van Boening started to assert himself. He won a crucial safety battle in the 17th rack, forcing Alcano to foul twice before he mopped up the rack. Leading 10-9, Van Boening executed an amazing jump-kick safety that buried both the cue ball and object ball, forced another Alcano foul.

As Van Boening built a 12-9 lead, the obviously partisan crowd roared with approval. Only in the last rack, a fairly elementary runout, did a half-smile begin to bend Van Boening’s normally straight-line expression.

“The patterns were pretty easy,” he said. “I thought I was going to get it.”

The win solidifies Van Boening’s burgeoning reputation as America’s top cueist. In less than a year, he has shored up the few weaknesses in his game and filled the vacuum for a truly dominant U.S. player. He finished second at the prestigious 9-Ball Championship and May, and won the World 10-Ball Championship later in the month.

The U.S. Open win is certainly the highlight of his young career. And the win is worth more than just the paycheck and prestige. Van Boening is now a lock for the U.S. Mosconi Cup team, and the victory over Alcano sends a strong message to the field of the 2007 World Pool Championship, set for early November in Manila, that Van Boening is the man to beat.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said of the WPC. “We’ll see what happens.”