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Ming Ng goes undefeated to successfully defend her Texas Open title

Jenna Bishoff, Ming Ng and Autumn Duncan (Shayla Neris)

In what was only their second ‘big’ event at Skinny Bob’s Billiards in Round Rock, TX, which they purchased last May, the Sanders (Kim and Tracey) held one of the missing events from the 47th Annual Texas Open that had acted as something of a ‘soft opening’ to the renovated facility a few weeks ago. On the weekend of November 21-22, they held the (missing) $5,000-added, 47th Annual Texas Ladies Open, which drew 46 entrants to their location.

Ming Ng went undefeated through that field to defend the title she’d won last year, facing separate opponents in the hot seat and finals. Autumn Duncan navigated through the winners’ side to face Ng in the hot seat match, while Jenna Bishoff, sent to the loss side by Duncan, won six on the loss side to face her in the finals.

While the Sanders concur with the general idea that there’s something to be said for the calmer atmosphere inherent with reduced numbers and (arguably) an all-female crowd, Kim Sanders, for one, prefers the way it was before. She’s hoping that it will be that way again.

“Most of the women are like me,” she said. “They prefer to have it along with the rest of the tournaments. Before, when you had the Ladies event with the Open, the men and women came together and played pool together.”

“The combination makes them feel like they’re part of something bigger,” she added. “It’s just a different atmosphere.”

As pleased with the outcome of the Ladies event as they were with the earlier, larger pair of events, they continue to look forward to a planned week-long 48th Annual Texas Open in 2021.

“It went really well,” said Kim of the Ladies event. “We had a hiccup the first day when one of the matches went a little long, but after that, everything went smoothly.”

Ming Ng’s path to the winners’ circle, after an opening round bye, went through Gigi Callejas 7-1, Jennifer Kraber 7-3 and Kim Pierce, also 7-3, before arriving at a winners’ side semifinal match versus Bernie Store. Autumn Duncan, in the meantime, was also awarded an opening round bye and then downed Cari Balusek 7-2. She sent Bishoff to the loss side and defeated Jackie Karol, both 7-5, before squaring off against Ellen Couvillion in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Ng downed Store 7-2 and hooked up with Duncan, who’d survived a double hill battle versus Couvillion. Ng claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Duncan and waited for Bishoff to complete her loss-side run.

It was Couvillion who ran into Bishoff on the loss side, four matches into her winning streak that had most recently included wins over Michelle Yim 7-1 and Courtney Peters 7-3. Store drew Jennifer Kraber, who, after her defeat at the hands of Ng, went on a four-match winning streak that was about to end and had recently resulted in a shutout over Ricki Casper and a double hill win over Jackie Karol.

Store ended Kraber’s streak 7-2, as Bishoff downed Couvillion 7-4. Bishoff ended Store’s brief time on the loss side 7-1 in the quarterfinals, and then, downed Duncan in the semifinals 7-5.

Ng closed out her undefeated run with a 7-3 victory over Bishoff in the finals.

The Sanders thanked their staff for their hard work as well as sponsors Sanders Roofing & Exterminating, LLC, MinTS Amusements, Hanshew Custom Cues, ABC Supply Co. and GAF.

Stephanie Hefner Wins NAPT Division II Championship

Stephanie Hefner

A field of forty six of the top ladies in the country, representing seven different regional tours, made their way to Bullshooters in Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the North American Pool Tour’s Division II Championship on February 13th – 16th.
 
The event kicked off on Thursday with six round robin groups competing in seven rack matches. With the top four players from each group advancing based on total games won, players could not take any opponent lightly at any point in the match. 
 
After two days of play, the field was narrowed to just twenty four players. The top player from each group, as well as the top two runner-up finishers from round robin play, all earned first round byes, with the remaining sixteen “top four” finishers being forced to play first round matches. 
 
Home field advantage proved to be valuable coming out of the groups, with four of the eight byes earned by Arizona Woman’s Billiard Tour (AWBT) players. The pool gods proved fickle though, as three of those four players (Leandrea Gaff, Susan Williams and Jaye Succo) were all knocked to the one loss side after their first matches. Bernie Store was the only local player to win her first double elimination stage match. Store then went on to defeat the Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) tour’s Michelle Hughes to remain unbeaten going into Sunday. She was joined by the NWPA Tour’s Stephanie Hefner, Gigi Callejas (West Coast Women’s Tour) and Suzanne Smith (NWPA). 
 
On the one loss side, Hughes earned her place in Sunday play with a hill-hill win over Succo, and was joined by Williams, Marian Poole and a player who had clawed her way through the entire event, Bonnie Ogg from the West Coast Women’s Tour. 
 
Ogg’s play all weekend was noteworthy in that she escaped her group as the 4th player, and then lost her first match on Saturday to Suzanne Smith. Ogg then came within a rack of a “two and out” elimination, beating Khahn Ngo hill-hill on the one loss side Ogg’s last match on Saturday saw her trailing Ricki Casper 6-3, but she dug down and won four straight racks to earn her spot in Sunday play. 
 
Sunday play saw Hefner face off with Store. Store was the top ranked player in the event and Hefner knew she was going to be an obstacle that she had to overcome. She rose to the occasion and beat Store 7-5 to advance to the hot-seat match. “Going into this tournament, I really had ambition. I wanted to do well, and I knew she was going to be the toughest opponent. Not just because of her Fargo, but she’s the hometown girl. I’d never played her, so I didn’t know how we’d match up. It felt like an accomplishment getting through her, but I knew I couldn’t relax. “
 
Hefner then went on to hand Callejas a 7-3 loss to take the hot-seat, but she knew her job still wasn’t done as she headed to a practice table to stay sharp while waiting for an opponent. “I knew they would be fresh and I wanted to make sure that if I missed any balls, it wasn’t because I wasn’t in stroke.” she said. 
 
On the one loss side, Ogg continued her improbable run. A 7-3 win over group 4 winner Marian Poole was followed up by a 7-5 win over Store. Ogg’s next match was a true example of how brutal the pool gods can be. Ogg led Suzanne Smith 6-5, but left herself a tough 9-ball in the twelfth, that required the mechanical bridge. She missed that shot, allowing Smith to tie things at 6-6. Smith quickly took control of the final rack and ran to the 9 with textbook pattern play. She took her timeout and gathered herself to make the final 9-ball. That might have taken her out of her rhythm though, as she missed the 9-ball and left the match for Ogg to cleanup. Ogg had a much easier time with Callejas in the semi-final match, breaking a 3-3 tie to win 7-3.
 
The final match looked to be “advantage Hefner” on paper, as she eclipsed Ogg’s 508 Fargo rating by nearly 50 points, and Ogg would have to beat Hefner twice. Ogg had momentum though, and obviously wasn’t going to just give up. The turning point of the match appeared to happen with Hefner leading 4-2. Both players were caught up in a safety battle on the 8-ball, when Hefner took on a bank shot that would have made a one pocket player proud. She banked in the 8 and then banked the 9-ball into the same hole … left handed. “I almost played the same safe back, but I thought it was two way. Even if I rattled the eight, she might not get back for the nine so I just decided ‘screw it’ and went for it. I was a little less confident taking the shot left handed, but sometimes when I’m in it, the banks just happen and I don’t think about it.“ Ogg would fight back to get within one at 5-4, but it was Hefner who then won the last two racks for the 7-4 win. 
 
Hefner took the trophy, and $1400 in prize money, back to Oregon. Ogg settled for $1000 in prize money and the knowledge that her Fargo ratings is due for a major increase. 

Callado wins four to capture NAPT Desert Challenge in Las Vegas

(l to r): Tara Williams, Gigi Callejas, Veronique Menard & Eleanor Callado

In a short field of 23 entrants, some of whom competed last year at the same event, Eleanor Callado won four straight matches to capture the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) 4th Desert Challenge title on the weekend of September 19-22 at Griff’s in Las Vegas, NV. Callado faced separate challengers in the hot seat and finals of this 10-ball competition – Gigi Callejas (hot seat) and Canada’s Veronique Menard (finals) – to complete her undefeated run.
 
Granted an opening round bye, as eight of the event’s 12 competitors squared off in a play-in round, Callado drew Kim Pierce off that play-in round and defeated her 7-5 to open her four-match march to the winners’ circle. She then faced Melissa Herndon in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Gigi Callejas, in the meantime, who’d defeated Christina Gonzalez 7-5 in the play-in round, went on to get by Tara Williams 7-5 and draw Veronique Menard in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Callado and Callejas advanced to the hot seat match with identical 7-4 wins over Herndon and Menard, respectively. Callado grabbed the hot seat with a 7-2 win over Callejas and waited on the return of Menard.
 
Over on the loss side, Menard picked up Nicole King, who’d defeated Laura Bendikas 7-3 and Kim Pierce 7-5 to reach her. Herndon drew Tara Williams, who’d eliminated Debra Aarens 7-3 and shut out Bernie Store.
 
Menard downed King 7-5 and in the quarterfinals, faced Williams, who’d survived a double hill battle versus Herndon. Menard took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Williams to earn a rematch against Callejas in the semifinals.
 
Menard earned her slot in the finals with a 7-3 rematch win over Callejas in the semifinals. Callado, though, punctuated her brief, but successful run on the Desert Challenge by giving up only a single rack to Menard in the event finals.
 
NAPT President Adrienne Beach thanked Mark Griffin and his staff for their hospitality, as well as Rail2Rail Productions for their live streaming of selected matches throughout the weekend. The next NAPT event, scheduled for October 24-27 will be the Division I Pro Coupe Du Quebec, hosted by Dooly’s in Quebec, Canada.

Herndon hangs on to win NAPT West Coast Challenge

Melissa Herndon, Eleanor Collado, Khanh Ngo and Veronique Menard

It’s the kind of match that spectator fans love to see. A player sends an opponent to the loss side in an early round and that opponent treks all the way back through the loss side to face that opponent in the finals. And then, it’s a double elimination final and the loss side opponent wins the first set, double hill. They battle a second time to double hill and the hot seat occupant finally wins it. So went the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) Division I West Coast Challenge, a 10-ball tournament, held on the long weekend of June 20-23 at Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento, CA. It was Melissa Herndon who sent Veronique Menard to the loss side in the event. Menard won seven on the loss side and defeated Herndon double hill in the opening set of the double elimination final. Herndon returned the favor, defeating Menard in the second set, double hill to claim the title. The event drew 33 entrants to Hard Time Billiards.
 
Herndon and Menard clashed first in the second round of play. Herndon had opened with a 7-1 victory over Samantha Hill, while Menard was busy downing Sher Ahola 7-3. Herndon took the first of their three matches 7- 4 and moved on past Bernie Store (7-3) to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Rachel Lang. Eleanor Callado, in the meantime, who’d almost been sent to the loss side in the opening round, survived that double hill match against Laura Bendikas and advanced to defeat Amani Ali 7-1, and shut out Kelly Nickl to arrive at the other winners’ side semifinal against Khanh Ngo.
 
On the loss side, it was Lang who ran into Menard, four matches into her loss side streak, which had most recently eliminated Stephanie Hefner 7-3 and Nickl 7-5. Ngo picked up Bernie Store, who, following her defeat at the hands of Herndon, had survived two straight double hill fights against Janna Sue Nelson and Sher Ahola. 
 
Bernie Store’s third straight double hill match was not the proverbial ‘charm’ she’d hoped it would be. Ngo hung on to win the match and advance to the quarterfinals, where she was met by Menard, who’d chalked up loss-side win #5 against Lang 7-1. Menard then put an end to Ngo’s weekend with a 7-3 win in the quarterfinals and followed up with a 7-5 win over Callado in the semifinals. 
 
It was clear from the opening set of the final that neither of these women was going to go quietly. Menard had the usual momentum boost from seven matches on the loss side and Herndon knew she only had to win one more set to go home with the top prize. Herndon arguably had more at stake than Menard did. They’d both been around competing since the turn of the century, but in recent years, Herndon had been taking time off for a job and a husband routine. For her, standing on the brink of her first major title in years, there was an “I’m back” feel to the whole process, which would have felt good no matter how the finals turned out, but winning it was clearly on her mind and in her game.
Menard took an early, short lead in the opening set, but Herndon caught up to tie things at 4-4. The ninth rack turned into a back-and-forth safety battle as they both worked at dropping the 5-ball. Menard broke through, but jumped up, shooting at the 8-ball and turned the table over to Herndon. Herndon dropped it, but scratched shooting at the 9-ball, giving Menard a ball-in-hand shot at the 10-ball and immediately thereafter, the lead.
 
Herndon took the 10th rack to tie things at 5-5. Menard took game 11 to reach the hill first. With a connect-the-dots finish to rack #12, Menard missed the 9-ball, allowing Herndon to finish and force a deciding rack. Menard broke and ran rack #13, claiming the first set and forcing a second.
 
Tension mounts in the second set of a true double elimination final like an old-fashioned Jack in the Box. Especially when it goes back and forth as this one did. The crank keeps turning, ratcheting up the tension, as you brace for that damn clown to jump out at you.
 
Two things were evident right from the start of the second set. No one was going to jump out to any kind of substantial lead. They were both tight and cautious, one game at a time. And they were getting a bit tired. Making mistakes; missing shots, rattling them in holes, putting each other in tough situations and alternately shooting right out of them.
 
They established a lead/tie pattern right from the start, with Menard taking the first rack, Herndon, the second. Back and forth to a 2-2 tie, until Herndon threatened to go out in front for the first time as she aimed at the 10-ball. She missed it, tapping the 10-ball to concede the rack and the pattern resumed, all the way to a 4-4 tie.
 
Herndon broke the pattern, and took her first lead, 5-4, in game #9, and with nothing byt the 9 and 10-ball to go in rack #10, she threatened to go up by two. She left herself in an awkward position shooting at the 9-ball and missed it, allowing Menard to knot things at 5-5.
 
Herndon misjudged a position shot in game #11 that left a 5-ball hanging in the pocket and allowed Menard to recapture the lead and reach the hill first at 6-5. 
 
At this point, Menard was probably the only person in the room, or the extended chat world that didn’t want Herndon to tie things up at 6-6 to force a deciding game. Herndon being the strongest proponent for forcing a game #13, tried to accomplish it a little early, going for a 5-10 combo, which she rushed and missed. Menard dropped the 5-ball and with five balls down and five to go, things looked grim for Herndon.
 
Menard made it to a shot at the 8-ball, which she attempted to put into a side pocket. But she over-anxiously hit it way too hard and when it caromed off the rail next to the side pocket, it looked as though it had enough speed on it to reach a table in New York City. Herndon stepped to the table and promptly tied the match at 6-6.
 
Herndon broke the final rack, sinking the 8-ball and giving herself a decent look at the 1-ball. But like Menard, she got a little over-anxious and bounced the 1-ball off the side rail. Subsequent ball action dropped two other balls. Since the ball at which Herndon was shooting didn’t drop, 10-ball rules dictated that Menard had the option of taking over or allowing Herndon to keep shooting. Menard chose to shoot, ran to the 5-ball and rattled it in and out of the side pocket. 
 
Herndon played safe and Menard safed her right back, but not quite good enough. Herndon made a terrific, long-table, oblique angle shot on that 5-ball that drifted it within less than an inch or two of two other balls on its way into the corner pocket. Herndon dropped the last three balls and claimed the NAPT’s West Coast Challenge title.
 
NAPT President Adrianne Beach thanked the ownership and staff at Hard Time Billiards, as well as Cue Sports Live and the players who made it out to play. The next Division I NAPT event, scheduled for August 15-18 will be the 4th Annual NAPT Summer Classic, to be hosted by Shooter’s Sports Bar and Billiards in Grayslake, IL.

Sykes from the JPNEWT wins first major at NAPT Division II Championships in Phoenix

Bethany Sykes (photo courtesy of NAPT – Playnapt.com)

Prior to her start and victory at the $5,000-added North American Pool Tour’s 3rd Annual Division II Championships, held from February 21-24 at Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ, Bethany Sykes had only one major victory on her brief, two-year, four-event, cash payout resume; two of those payouts were earned on the J. Pechauer Northeast Womens’ Tour (JPNEWT) and two, including the only victory, came on the Action Pool Tour (APT), where, this past November, she won the Virginia State Ladies 8-Ball Championships. It should be noted that the Ladies’ VA State 8-Ball event featured a field of only five entrants, although as they say, a win is a win is a win. For Sykes, though, the NAPT Div. II Championships were her “first big tournament” and the win was like gravy on a main meal of just being thrilled to be there and the four-day joy of participation.
 
“It was an incredible feeling,” she said of her first impressions, “just to be there with that many women in the room (64 entrants).”
 
“It was an awesome experience,” she went on to say, noting that it was her first time playing in a round robin event, and the first time she’d ever had to deal with a shot clock. “I found that the 30 seconds gave me no time for indecision about what could go wrong. There was no thinking about anything but the shot.”
 
As her resume indicates, she’s only been playing the sport competitively for the past couple of years, although she says she’s been in love with the game since she was about nine years old. She got her first cue when she was 16 and now, at 31, she’s crossed a big threshold and won her first major tournament. Her appearances on the JPNEWT and APT over the last year or two helped her to identify and improve some of the basics to which she had not been exposed previously.
 
“I never knew where to put my feet,” she said of her early attempts to develop a stance. “I got a lesson from Karen Corr about five months ago, and she told me where to put my feet.”
 
With her feet sorted out, Sykes joined 63 other women from seven regional ladies pool tours at these Division II Championships; six from the United States and four women from a ladies tour out of Quebec. The most heavily represented tour among the seven was the Texas-based Jerry Olivier Pool Tour (JO), with 14 entrants, about 22% of the field. The Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) was next with 12, followed by the ‘hometown’ Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour (AWBT), which had 11. The West Coast Women’s Tour (WCWT) sent 9. The JPNEWT contributed 8 (including Sykes), the North Central Pool Tour (NCPT) checked in with 6, while  four women represented the ‘Circuit de Billard Feminine du Quebec.’
 
They broke up into eight round robin flights of eight players each, beginning on Thursday, February 21. Sykes, in Group Two, representing the JPNEWT, was paired with a primarily West Coast field; Cassie Francois and Elaine Eberly from the NWPA, Ginger Bowen from the WCWT, Jaye Succo and Leandra Gaff from the AWBT, Tam Trinh from the JO and Marilou Therrien from the Canadian league.
 
Sykes opened her campaign at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning with a 5-2 win over Francois. In round two, she got by Eberly 4-2 and then, in the final match of the opening day, she survived a double hill fight (4-3) against Trinh, which would prove to be highly significant later. As measured by total games won, she was the ‘flight’ leader at the end of that first day, with 13 games won. Gaff, Trinh and Therrien were second with 12 each.
 
Day two didn’t start out as well. Succo defeated her 5-2. Though Gaff and Therrien had been defeated, as well in the fourth round, Trinh downed Bowen 5-2, putting her out in front (by game points) 17-15.
 
“In that morning match (on the second day),” said Sykes, “(Succo) came out on fire. And from being ahead by one, I was all of a sudden behind by two games.”
 
Sykes survived a double hill (4-3) battle against Therrien in round 5, as Trinh lengthened her game lead by one more, with a 5-2 defeat of Eberly. With the game score between them now at 22-19, in favor of Trinh, they both chalked up 5-2 wins; Sykes over Bowen and Trinh over Succo. The game score between Sykes and Trinh was now at 27-24, with a single match to play.
 
Since the top four in each flight would advance to a 32-player, double elimination bracket, Sykes’ advancement at that point, short of being shut out or winning only a single game in the final match, was pretty much assured. Sykes sealed the deal with a 6-1 victory over Gaff that left her with 30 total wins. When Trinh fell to Francois 5-2 in that final round, she ended up with 29 total wins, allowing Sykes, by a single win (reflected in their earlier match), to enter the double elimination phase as the winner of her individual flight.
 
Heather Cortez, from the AWBT, with 37 total wins in her round robin flight was the top winner in her flight as well as the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event. Other top winners from the individual round robin flights were Michelle Cortez, from the Jerry Olivier Tour, in second place overall with 36 total wins. Susan Williams, with 35, from the AWBT was third. Suzanne Smith, from the NWPA, was fourth with 34, Natalie Chabot (from Canada) and Sykes’ eventual opponent in the hot seat and finals, Kim Pierce from the JO, were tied for fifth with 33 wins each. Yang Liu from the West Coast Women’s Tour was sixth with 31 total wins. Though she’d enter the double elimination phase of the event as the winner of her flight, Sykes was last among the individual flight winners advancing to the final two days of the event. Advancement to the double elimination rounds guaranteed all 32 participants at least of the share of the total $11,400 prize package.
 
“The Round Robin was so scary,” she said. “Every single game mattered. I grew from the experience, though. That Round Robin hardened me.”
 
Seven down, seven to go.
 
Over the next two days, Sykes played seven more matches; four on the winners’ side, one on the loss side, and two in the double elimination final. None were against the opponents she’d faced in her own round robin flight, one was against the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event (Heather Cortez) and three were against Pierce.
 
To get into their first match together, Sykes and Pierce would eventually, in the two winners’ side semifinals, have to get by two AWBT opponents. Sykes opened her winners’ side campaign on Saturday morning, February 23, against Gigi Callejas from the West Coast Women’s Tour, downing her 7-3. She followed that with victories over Jennifer Kraber (JO) 7-3 and then, defeated the overall round robin winner, AWBT’s Heather Cortez 7-4, to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against a formidably more experienced opponent, another AWBT entrant, Bernie Store. Pierce, in the meantime, had defeated Nicole Donisi from the NWPA 7-3, both Janna Nelson (7-5) and Khanh Ngo (7-3) from the West Coast Women’s Tour and arrived at her winners’ side semifinal match against yet another AWBT entrant, Susan Williams.
 
Sykes and Pierce got into the hot seat match with identical 7-5 wins over Store and Williams. In their first of three, Pierce claimed the hot seat in a double hill match.
 
“I got on the hill and things just fell apart,” said Sykes of that hot seat match, “and I couldn’t get it back together.”
 
On the loss side, Store picked up Ngo, who, following her defeat at the hands of Pierce, had defeated Stephanie Hefner 7-2, and survived a double hill match against Michelle Cortez. Williams drew Heather Cortez, who, following her defeat at the hands of Sykes, had shut out Kelly Jones and eliminated Tam Trinh 7-5.
 
Heather Cortez and Williams locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Cortez to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Ngo, who’d defeated Store 7-4. Cortez and Ngo had faced each other on the opening day of the round robin matches, with Cortez winning that battle 5-2. This time, in the quarterfinals, it was Ngo who came out on top, winning it 7-5.
 
Sykes, though, having so unexpectedly, but joyfully arrived at this spot in her “first big tournament” was in no mood to let it go. She downed Ngo 7-2 in those semifinals and turned for a second and, necessary in a double elimination format, third shot at Pierce in the hot seat. They locked up in their second straight double hill battle in the opening set, but this time, it was Sykes coming out of it with the win. She completed her 12-2 run with a decisive 7-2 win over Pierce in the second set.
 
“People tell me I have no sense of tension,” said Sykes. “I always feel as though I’m in the right place at the right time. That was what made the whole thing exciting.”
 
“I went out there to get into the top four,” she added. “That was my goal as soon as I read about the tour. This was my first opportunity to get to that level and I spent the week before, imagining what it would be like; thinking of how I’d be telling my Dad about it afterwards.”
 
Exactly one week later, on the first weekend in March, Sykes rejoined her JPNEWT comrades, competing on the tour’s season opener at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. In a field of 22, Sykes had the misfortune of running into tour director Linda Shea, who defeated her in the opening round. She’d win two on the loss side before finishing in the tie for 9th place when she was defeated by Sharon O’Hanlon.
 
And so it goes, in the world of the emerging amateur into the world of the best in pool. Up one day, down the next. She remains somewhat in awe of her “first big tournament” win and is looking ahead at better things to come. She expects, looking ahead to competing at the Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Pro 9-Ball event, her first shot at the Pro level, to continue improving. She is also keenly aware that pool careers, like the tournaments along the way, can be a relentless series of hills and valleys.
 
“My goal,” she said, “is to make the gaps between them smaller and smaller.”
 
“I expect to be playing with the best of them,” she said of her hopes for the next five years. “I have no aspirations of anything in particular, just to be playing at that level.”

NAPT Desert Challenge Underway

The North American Pool Tour (NAPT) Desert Challenge is underway at Griff's Bar and Billiards in Las Vegas, Nevada with a field of 34 ladies competing for $5000 in added prize money. 

 

Notable players in the field include Brittany Bryant, Jia Li, Melissa Little, Caroline Pao, Tina Malm, Eleanor Collado, Liz Cole, Mary Coffman and Arizona's Bernie Store

 

Fans can follow all of the action with the NAPT's online brackets, as well as free streaming coverage all weekend long. 

Tagley Returns To AWBT Winner’s Circle

Nina Tagley and Heather Cortez

She had knocked on the door all season, but Nina Tagley finally broke through into the winner’s circle at the AWBT’s 3rd stop of the season at Kolby’s on June 2nd – 3rd.

 

The field of thirty-two players held it’s usual assortment of monsters, but an unusually large number of those monsters found themselves on the one loss side early as four former tour stop winners (Susan Williams, Jaye Succo, Amanda Pulley and Bernie Store) dropped their first-round matches. Of those monsters, Succo was out in two rounds while Store would only make it one more round as she lost in three rounds.
 
Back on the winner’s side, Tagley had her work cut out for her as she scored wins over April runner-up Justine Bishop, Windy “Five Rounds Deep” Breck, Pearl Ortiz and Rae Evans. As if that wasn’t a tough enough draw, Tagley then had to face “The Torpedo” Heather Cortez. Tagley would drop the match to Cortez 7-3.
 
The left side of the board came down to Evans and Ortiz, who were both looking to avenge their early losses to Tagley and then take on Cortez. Evans got past Ortiz 6-5, but Tagley then made quick work of Rae Evans, beating her by the same 7-2 score that she beat her on the right side of the board.
 
The extended final set between Cortez and Tagley saw Tagley score a hard-fought 9-6 win for her first tour stop win in well over 10 years.
 
Tagley credited home field advantage with helping her get back to the winner’s circle in this one. “I’ve played at Kolbys for nearly 30 years, and last year it was Heather and I 1st and 2nd at this event at Kolbys” Tagley remembered. She also pointed out how close she has been in recent stops. “If you look at the last six events, I’ve scored 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes. I think my focus level has changed a bit recently, I’m a bit more disciplined now than I used to be.” she said.
 
Eleven players came back on Sunday to compete in the second chance tournament, with Mary Walczak defeating Justine Bishop for the hot-seat, and then Sandi Wilson in the finals, for first place.

Pulley Wins Freezers’ AWBT Tour Stop

Amanda Pulley and Justine Bishop

They came out in droves at the 2nd stop of the Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour, with a field of 56 players at Freezer’s Ice House on April 28th – 29th.

 

Surprisingly in a field of that size, early rounds held their fair share of marquee matchups with #3 ranked Amanda Pulley starting her tournament off with a 6-3 win over #1 ranked Bernie Store and Las Vegas’ Mary Coffman scoring a first round 7-2 win over Sara Miller. While those matches were not necessarily upsets, junior player Tory Conley’s 5-5 win over Jaye Succo was an eye opener and just went to show how much the junior player’s games are improving.
 
The top half of the board saw Pulley score wins over Windy Breck, Pearl Ortiz and #2 ranked Heather Cortez to earn her place in the hot-seat match on Sunday. The bottom half of the bracket was all about Justine Bishop as she dominated her matches, not allowing an opponent more than three games against her. As if that performance wasn’t strong enough already, Bishop then went on to beat Pulley 6-1 for the hot-seat.
 
On the one loss side, Susan Williams was on a run. After a first-round loss to Store, Williams won seven straight matches on the left side of the board, including over such notable opponents as Cathy Kelley, Conley, Tracie Hamman and Cortez. Williams’ run was finally brought to an end by Pearl Ortiz who had put together a four-match winning streak after the earlier loss to Pulley. The win over Williams earned Ortiz another shot at Pulley, but she wouldn’t fare any better with a 6-3 loss.
 
Bishop won the first two games in her first AWBT finals appearance in more than a decade. Pulley pulled the brakes on her and won the next 8 games in a row to clinch the match
 
When asked about this tournament – her 4th tour win – Pulley commented on the tough field. “In this tournament, each time I discovered my next opponent, I was like, “Awww, man, another monster?” And each time with luck and skill, I found a way to work through the match. I was calm after the initial anxiety, and without expectation; that helped a lot.”
 
Twenty-two players came back for Sunday’s second chance tournament, where Veronica Poore defeated Jaye Succo in the finals for first place.
 
The AWBT will next be in action on June 2nd and 3rd at Pockets in Tucson.

Corr recaptures SBE Diamond Women’s Open 9-Ball Pro Championship title

Karen Corr – Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio

Ireland’s Karen Corr went undefeated through a field of 56 women who competed in the $8,350-added Diamond Women’s Open 9-Ball Pro Championships, held as part of the Super Billiards Expo on the long weekend of April 12-15, and sanctioned by the North American Pool Tour. It was her third SBE Women’s Pro Championship title, which she won, as well, in 2016, and 2014. It was her first win in 2018.
 
In the field that was vying for $26K in prize money and included anyone’s list of the top women in the sport, the top 16 were seeded at the beginning of the initial, double elimination bracket. When that bracket came down to the final eight on each side, those 16 women entered a single elimination phase that was not seeded. Corr, after defeating Sonya Chbeeb, Rachel Lang and Veronique Menard to secure her spot on the winners’ side Final Eight bracket, got by Janet Atwell 11-8, and Vivian Villareal 11-9 to face Allison Fisher in the semifinals of that winners’ side Final Eight.
 
Brittany Bryant, in the meantime, who’d lost an opening round match to Kim Whitman, won four on the loss side, against Krista Walsh, Ada Lio, Stephanie Goens, and Dawn Hopkins to claim a spot on the losers’ side Final Eight. In the single elimination phase, Bryant downed Bernie Store 11-7, and April Larson 11-9 to face Jia Li in the semifinals of the losers’ side Final Eight.
 
Long-time adversaries at the table (and friends, off the table), Corr and Fisher battled in what arguably should have been the event final (a seeded single elimination phase might have kept them apart until the finals). Corr won it, 11-8, and advanced to the finals. Byrant joined her, after downing Li 11-9. Corr took the final 11-6 to chalk up her third SBE title.

Tina Malm Wins NAPT Division II Championship

Tina Malm

With pool players, you never know what will motivate them at different moments in their pool playing career. With Tina Malm (formerly Pawloski), it was an off night of APA league play in 2016 that lit the fire she needed to get back into serious competitive pool. After multiple state championships and top finishes in major events, Malm had basically stepped away from serious competition for roughly six years to focus on her family, but that wouldn’t be the end of her days under tournament pressure. “I went to On Cue Billiards one night and was just hitting some balls to warm up before league, and it hit me that my game was completely unacceptable to me. That made me want to practice and then I caught the bug to play again”.
 
That bug was on full display on February 22nd – 25th at the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) Division II Championships at Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento. This event featured 45 of the top players from various ladies regional tours across the country, competing for their share of $5,000 in added money. Competitors fought it out over two days of round-robin play, where they were split into six groups and played each player in their group a seven game match. With that format, every game mattered as players fought to be one of the top four ladies in each group to advance. 
 
Hailing from the J. Pechauer Northwest Women’s Tour, Malm looked dominant in her group. Losing only 9 racks over her 42 games was more than enough to make her the top player to in her group. With one bye in her group (and therefore 7 fewer racks to play), Malm was tied with Shannon Dunn for second most wins overall, only trailing the Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour’s Susan Williams’ 38 wins. 
 
“I love the format. It’s 4 days of playing pool and with all of that time at the table, you hope that by day three you can catch a gear.” said Malm. “Catch a gear” she did, as she started double elimination play with an Arizona trifecta, facing Leandrea Gaff, Susan Williams and Bernie Store – all from Arizona – in her first three matches. Her 7-3 win over last year’s runner-up, Williams, was especially telling for the day. Williams, a good friend of Malm’s, commented “I played bad and she played well. She played confident and determined. Obviously a winning combination.”
 
After sending Team Arizona to the one loss side, Malm only had to deal with Leslie Bernardi from the Tiger West Coast Women’s Tour in the hot-seat match, and that quickly went her way 7-4. Bernardi found a familiar opponent waiting on the one loss side in fellow West Coast Women’s Tour player Janna Sue Nelson. Bernardi had sent Nelson to the one loss side and finished sending her to the stands with a hill-hill win in the semi-final match. 
 
Sometimes sitting in the hot-seat can get a player out of stroke, but that wasn’t the case with Malm. “I consider myself the hardest working player in any tournament. From Wednesday night, I spent every minute that I could on a table practicing” said Malm. That practice showed as she finished her week with a 7-3 win over Bernardi in the finals for a first-place finish. 
 
Reminiscing about the tournament, Malm still didn’t sound happy with her game though. “I really felt I had to work all day on Sunday. The outs just didn’t show themselves and I know I am capable of a lot more” she sad. When asked about any goals she has set for herself, Malm had a big one in mind. “I’ve noticed my Fargo dropping lately, and I want to work on that. I think I can break into the top ten US ladies list if I really put my mind to it”.