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The Tri-State Tour becomes the Predator Tri-State Tour and starts a modest schedule of events

Aiden Wagner and Ray Lee

It’s been just over a year since the Tri-State Tour held an event; March 8, 2020, to be exact, when Russell Masciotti went undefeated to win his first regional tour event. Hosted by Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY, the event drew 38 entrants. An event was scheduled for the following weekend at Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ, but never happened. The Tri-State shut down, as did Tony Robles’ Predator Pro Am Tour. The former is back, the latter shut down permanently and Tony Robles moved to Florida. Just a little over 13 months later, the Tri-State has picked up Predator Cues as a title sponsor and begun a modest schedule of events, beginning with a $500-added event this past weekend (Saturday, April 17), hosted by Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. 

Ray Lee, whose last recorded event victory (according to our records) was at a stop on the Mezz Tour back in 2015, went undefeated through a field of 41 entrants. He and Aiden Wagner battled twice for the title; hot seat and finals.

John Leyman, Cue Sports International’s current Director of Rules and Referees and long-time co-tour director on the old Tri-State Tour, has stepped up to the plate. . . uhh, table and was on-hand for what is now the Predator Tri-State Tour’s first event back from the involuntary vacation of the global pandemic.

“It feels all right,” he said on Tuesday of his and pool’s return to the tri-state New York City area. “It’s still a little touch and go. We don’t have a firm schedule yet, but (the stop at Shooter’s Billiards) is a start to get back into the swing of things.”

While the area’s two major tours came to a halt, activity in the area didn’t cease entirely, as a number of local players stepped in and mounted tours of their own; Mhet Vergara set up his MVP Tour, Mac Jankov established a Mac Attack Tour and Dave Fitzpatrick was at the helm of the Garden State Tour, which had enjoyed something of a sporadic existence before. When the Predator Tri-State made its decision to start the proverbial and literal balls rolling again, they found themselves in scheduling competition with some of those tours that had rushed in to fill the no-competitive-pool-in-NYC vacuum. And that is likely to continue into the foreseeable future, as the Predator Tri-State takes it time, building up to the way things used to be. 

“We’ve had this one event this month and we’ll have one next month, too,” explained Leyman, adding that a more robust schedule, closer to the way things used to be, depends a great deal on how the ongoing pandemic continues to impact everybody’s lives, including pool players anxious to get back and start playing again.

Normally, the Tri-State Tour would be winding up its mid-year to mid-year calendar about now, preparing for the annual Tri-State Invitational, which has always marked the tour’s transfer from one season to the next. That invitational event will not be happening until the summer of 2022 and it will be the culmination of a long season that began this past weekend. That season could, however, end up having the same number of events as the previous 12-month schedule, because as Leyman noted, for a while, things are going to proceed slowly. 

“We’re definitely not going to be running as many tournaments,” he said. “We’re probably going to be cutting down (on our former schedule of tournaments every week). It’s going to be more feasible to do two a month.”

“Honestly,” he added, “it’s all COVID-related. It has a lot to do with that. Once we’re past the COVID problems, returning to what we were doing will probably happen, but until then, things are going to be different for a while.” 

Leyman talked of doing bigger events every couple of weeks and eventually re-scheduling the Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial Tournament. He also noted that The Predator Tri-State Tour is “definitely going to do a few Open/Pro events,” which had not been as much of a priority, pre-pandemic. And that, he said finally, “is all there is to that.”

Lee and Wagner worked their way through this past weekend’s field, arriving at their respective winners’ side semifinal matches; Lee, facing Henry Cha and Wagner, squaring off against KC Clayton. Lee got into the hot seat with a 7-4 win over Cha, as Wagner was sending Clayton to the loss side 6-1. Lee claimed the hot seat 7-3 and warmed it up from its protracted absence, while waiting for Wagner’s return from the semifinals.

Cha and Clayton showed up on the loss side and immediately lost their second match. Cha picked up Jimmy Acosta, who’d defeated Narang Nishant 9-5 and CJ Chey 9-6 to reach him. Clayton drew Hunter Sullivan, who, a week ago, had come from the loss side to double dip Kevin Scalzitti in the Garden State Pool Tour’s Amateur 9-Ball State Championship, and in Wayne, NJ was looking to chalk up his third event victory in eight weeks. He’d recently defeated Jennifer Pass and Brandonne Alli, both 6-4, to face Clayton.

Acosta eliminated Cha 7-3. He was joined in the quarterfinals by Sullivan, who’d defeated Clayton 6-1. Sullivan’s hopes for a third straight regional win got brighter when he downed Acosta in those quarterfinals 9-5.

Wagner, though, stopped Sullivan’s run and any hopes he may have been entertaining about facing Lee in the finals, with a 6-1 victory in the semifinals. Lee and Wagner battle to double hill in the finals that followed. Lee prevailed to secure the first event title of the Predator Tri-State Tour’s new season.

TD John Leyman thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Billiards for their hospitality as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Billiards, Kamui, Quick Stik, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Joe Romer Trophies, Phil Cappelle Publications and Pool and Billiards. The next stop on the Predator Tri-State Tour, scheduled for May 22-23, will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside, NY.