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The JPNEWT and a peaceful transfer of power this weekend, as Miller prepares to take charge

Briana Miller (Vincent Rochefort)

This weekend, at the 6th stop on the 2022 J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour, the beginning of a slow, but steady process to peacefully transfer tour power from its current director, Maryland’s Linda Shea to Pennsylvania’s Briana Miller will begin. Shea is retiring from the oldest, continuously-operating women’s tour on the East Coast that she has been running and competing in for 14 years.

Though it’s difficult to trace the tour’s origins precisely, according to Dawn Hopkins it began as a women’s tour she founded in the early 90s, an adjunct to her All About Pool Magazine and its All About Pool Men’s Tour in Massachusetts. The All About Pool Ladies Tour (and Hopkins) shifted from a New England base to New Jersey, where it would become the Northeast Women’s Tour, operating at first, under the leadership of Colleen Shoop and Candy Rego, and later, Barbara Stock and Micaela Games. It was under their leadership that the tour began its association with and eventual name change to the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour at the end of 2001 season. 

Shea will be handing the reins of the tour over to a woman who’s been a key competitor on that tour since Shea took over from Barbara Stock in 2008. Miller, who was 13 years old and in the midst of a seven-year run as a BEF Junior National Champion when Shea took over, will be ‘learning the ropes’ in the course of the tour’s next seven stops, commencing with this weekend’s event at Champion Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, MD, through the season finale (Stop #12) on the weekend of Dec. 3-4 at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. Miller will assume tour director duties full-time with the commencement of the 2023 season.

“My husband retired,” Shea explained of the decision. “It was time for me to spend time with him.”

“I saw it coming beforehand,” she added, “that it was what I was going to do.”

Shea ‘landed’ on the idea of Briana Miller as her successor, shortly after Miller returned to the area from a three-year hiatus from the sport, while she attended Lindenwood University on a pool scholarship that earned her a finance degree. She graduated from Lindenwood and got a job in the St. Charles, MO area. As the pandemic played out, more or less at its height, she obtained permission to keep her job and to do it remotely from her hometown in Allentown, PA. She returned home and to competition on the JPNEWT.

“Briana came back from college, all settled down to stay in the game,” Shea said. “She was very excited. She grew up on this tour like I did.”

And very much in stroke, as it turned out. Miller won the JPNEWT season opener, her first on the tour in five years. The last time she and Shea had met in an event before that, Miller had shut Shea out in both the hot seat and finals. They did not meet in this year’s season opener. Miller went on to win two more of this season’s stops on the tour, including the last one in June at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD, where the season had begun, as well. Shea commented on her return after the opener.

“It (was) great to see her out and playing again,” she said at the time. “I loved it. She’s all grown up now; nice and settled and doing well. Her game showed it.”

The measured transition to her position as the tour’s director will likely start out slowly, as Miller starts doing some of the things she’s been watching people do since she was a teenager. She had actually started to do a few things to help out during the last stop at Triple Nines.

“This week, I’ll just start helping out with the tour,” she said. “(Things like) assigning tables, calling matches, updating brackets, things like that. I’ve been around these things my entire life, so it’s not anything new to me.”

As the weeks and months progress toward 2023, she’ll also be looking into who, among people with whom she has been competing and interacting for years on the tour, will be likely candidates to help her in the multitude of tasks she’ll be confronting in the New Year. There are more than a few among the JPNEWT’s membership who could do so.

“I’ll be trying to keep things in-house,” she said, “working with people I trust.”

There are a few things that are causing her some minor anxiety about the transition. Aspects of running a tour that she wisely has identified as things she knows she doesn’t know. Yet.

“Relationships with room owners, for example,” she said. “Establishing new relationships and maintaining existing ones.”

Shea, in the meantime, will be looking forward to time with her husband, John, which prompted the decision to give up her role as JPNEWT’s tour director in the first place. Without his support, she said, her time on the tour would have been a lot harder. She is also quick to point out that while she might be retiring the tools of the tour director trade, she’s not going to be hanging up her pool cue just yet.

“I still hope to play,” she said, “only it will be without having to load up 300 pounds of equipment before I go.”

“I don’t think I have regrets,” she added. “I love this game and I hope I did my part. I’m hoping that I’m leaving the tour when it’s better than I found it.”

Plans for the immediate future with her husband are indeterminate as yet, although they have reportedly discussed the idea of attaining a small travel trailer and taking trips around the country, where Shea can compete in tournaments other than the JPNEWT. It’s not the first thing on her retirement list, however.

“The first thing I’m going to do is show up for one of our events an hour before it starts, not three hours earlier to set up,” she said. “Briana and I will be working together until the end of the year, so I’ll be lending her some assistance.”

“I have no doubt that she’ll blend right in.”

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Friend goes undefeated to take Stop 10 on the JPNEWT

Over the last few months, as the J. Pechauer Northeast Women's Tour has been closing in on its final 2015 event (Stop # 11; November 7-8 at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD), the battle for any individual event title has almost been less significant than the jockeying for position on the tour rankings.  These standings are important because of their significance in determining who, from the tour, will be selected to compete in the WPBA Regional Tour Championship in January. Though the number of women to be selected for that RTC has yet to be determined, the women of the JPNEWT know, as the season draws to a close, that the closer they are to the top, the better their chances. 
Following tour stop # 10, held on the weekend of October 17-18, all ten of the tour's Top 10 players remained in the Top 10, although some of them were in different positions than they'd occupied prior to the event. Kathy Friend, for example, who won the $1,000-added event that drew 19 entrants to Pro Shot Billiards in Dickson City, PA, moved from her #7 slot to #5.
The runner-up, tour director Linda Shea, remained in the #2 spot, as did Karen Corr in the #1 spot, even though she didn't compete in this event (her eight straight wins through September made her #1 tour ranking unapproachable). Nicole Monaco, who finished in the tie for 9th place at this most recent event, maintained her position at #3, although she was joined (tied) by Jia Li, who came in at #4, and finished in the tie for 5th place. Kia Sidbury stayed put in the #6 ranking slot, while Briana Miller, who didn't compete, dropped from #5 to Friend's previous spot at #7. Tina Scott stayed where she was at #9. Kim Whitman, who didn't compete, and Nicole Fleming, who did, switched positions; Whitman dropped from # 8 to #10, while Fleming moved up from #10 to #8.
In addition to its significance in the overall tour rankings, this most recent event was a qualifier for the WPBA Masters Tournament, set for February 3-7 at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mt. Pleasant, MI. It was a good time for Friend to return to the JPNEWT winners' circle, where she hasn't been in nine years. The last time she took a JPNEWT title, at Comet Billiards in Parsippany, NJ, on June 25, 2006, was also the first time she took a JPNEWT title.  In that earlier event, she lost her first match and won six on the loss side to meet and defeat hot seat occupant, Barbara Stock.
At this most recent event, Friend opted out of the loss-side run, in favor of the undefeated route, which, after an opening round bye, took her through victories over Tina Scott, Sharon O'Hanlon, and Boye Lu, before meeting up with Linda Shea in a winners' side semifinal. Kia Sidbury, in the meantime, had gotten by Meredith Lynch and Judie Wilson, to pick up Dawn Fox in the other winners' side semifinal. Friend and Shea locked up in a double hill fight, their first of two, before Friend advanced to the hot seat match. She was joined by Sidbury, who sent Fox west 7-1. Friend claimed the hot seat 7-2 over Sidbury and waited in the hot seat for what turned out to be Shea's return.
On the loss side, Shea picked up Jia Li, who'd been defeated by Dawn Fox in the opening round, and embarked on a four-match, loss-side streak that included victories over Judie Wilson 7-5 and Borana Andoni 7-1. Fox drew Nicole Fleming, who'd gotten by Lynch 7-3 and Boye Lu 7-4 to reach her.
Shea eliminated Li 7-3 and in the quarterfinals, met up with Fox, who'd ousted Fleming 7-2. Shea took the quarterfinal match 7-4 over Fox, and then downed Sidbury 7-5, for a second shot at Friend. 
Technically, their second meeting, in the finals, was not a double hill match. Friend took rack #13 to finish ahead of Shea at 7-6, but had Shea, coming from the loss side, won that rack, the match would have been extended to nine games. Friend chalked up the win to claim the title, win $600 and qualify for the WPBA Masters tournament in February.