Shu-Han Chang wins Regional Tour Championship

Shu-Han Chang

Taiwan's Shu-Han Chang is the new WPBA Regional Tour Champion.

With the new configuration of the WPBA Regional Tour system where non-exempt (players outside of the top 48 on the WPBA points list) can only qualify for the WPBA Classic Tour via the Regional Tour Championship, the sixty three player field at this event was full of top talent. The first stage of the event saw the players separated into eight round robin groups with each player playing everyone else in their group a race to six. After a day and a half of those matches, the top thirty two players advanced and played another day of round robin action in eight groups of four players. 

If the new round robin format was meant to create intrigue and drama for the players, it succeeded in a big way. Players not only found themselves with their backs to the wall on Sunda , but were also stuck sweating other matches and needing help from players that were opponents just one round ago. Two perfect examples were Heather Pulford who had to defeat Lisa Davids 6-0 in her last match in order to advance from her group (she failed to advance and Liz Lovely advanced instead) and Kim Pierce who found herself as the deciding factor between three players. If Pierce defeated Emily Duddy 6-4 in their final round match, then Pierce would advance. A loss to Duddy would mean Duddy advanced and a 6-5 Pierce win would mean that a third player, 14 year old Brianna Miller, would advance. Duddy pulled the match out hill-hill and proudly earned her tour card. 

The eight players who advanced out of phase two were all awarded WPBA Tour cards, with a ninth card going to the top player (based on Game Win/Loss Percentage) who did not advance from phase two. That award would go to Arizona's Susan Williams. The final eight players were them seeded into a single elimination brackets based on their winning percentages in phase two. While Chang, who is currently ranked #1 in Asia and qualified via the new former Taipei Tour, was a big favorite in this event from the start; it was actually Amy Chen who came out of her group with the best percentage. Chen's award for that top seed was a match with Kim Benson from the Western Women's Regional Tour. Showing that she was not impressed with Chen's previous performance, Benson scored the 9-7 upset win to advance into the final four. Joining Benson in the final four were Mary Rakin (9-7 win over Lisa Marr), Chang (9-5 win over Liz Lovely) and Naomi Williams (9-5 win over Emily Duddy).

Up to this point in the event, Chang had remained undefeated but had failed to really "wow" the crowd as most fans had expected. That turned around in the next round of play as Chang upped her game a level and dominated Canadian Naomi Williams. At the same time, Kim Benson's event was brought to an end by California's Mary Rakin 9-5. This left Rakin and Chang to fight for the first prize of $1400 in cash and paid entry into the 2010 WPBA Classic Tour Events.

As well as Rakin had played in this event, the finals were really about Chang who took advantage of almost every opportunity she was given and rolled to a 9-3 win over Rakin. Rakin was able to console herself with $2000 in cash and the coveted WPBA Tour Card.

The event took place at Hard Times Billiards in Bellflower California and both room staff and tournament directors and volunteers put on an outstanding show all weekend long. The fans were entertained by the top regional players in the world and were wowed by a player who could very well be the next great Asian star on the WPBA Tour.

Photos courtesy of Dave Thomson - Medium Pool