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The Bar Box Classic is in the Books

Robert Frost and Roberto Gomez

Dwaine Bowman’s Leisure Time Billiards & Sports Bar in East Moline, IL hosted its 2nd Annual Bar Box Classic over the past several days.  Featuring three divisions – Eight Ball, One Pocket and Ten Ball – a total of $16,000 was added by local sponsors. They included Jacoby Cues, Behnke Trailers, Bull Carbon, Diveney Cues, Andy Billiard Cloth, Comfort Inn, PoolActionTV.com and Anytime Billiards of Clive, IA.

Plenty of recognizable faces and names roamed the building! They included BCA and One Pocket Hall of Famer Alex Pagulayan, current International Open One Pocket champ Roberto Gomez, current US Open 10 Ball champ Fedor Gorst, current Big Tyme Classic One Pocket champ Robert Frost, current Midwest Billiards Nine Ball champ Kristina Tkach, Wisconsin Billiards Hall of Famers Jeff Carter and Gene Albrecht and former speed pool champ Bobby McGrath. Jesse Bowman, Warren Kiamco, Brian Groce, Ricky Evans, Chris Lawson, Houston Rodriguez, Whitey Walker, Benny Conway Jr as well as young guns Joey Tate and Kash Keaton were among the other players.

The $4,000 added Eight Ball division began on Wednesday evening with a players auction followed by players meeting and the draw. Forty eight players paid a $300 entry – the format was double elimination, winner breaks and races to nine.

Last year’s third place finisher, Jesse Bowman, shot straight out of the chute after drawing a bye and sent Benny Conway Jr, Gordy Vanderveer Fedor Gorst and Alex Pagulayan to the one loss side before arriving at the hot seat match.

Brian Groce also went undefeated in his march to the hot seat. After drawing a first round bye, his victims included Will Thomsen, Gene Albrecht and Blake Baker before he went  to the wire with Corey Deuel. After surviving that match, Brian beat Jesse Bowman and locked up his berth in the finals. Jesse headed west to await an opponent.

Roberto Gomez won his first two matches over Tony Ehlers and Chris Lawson before being felled by compadre Alex Pagulayan. Once on the one loss side, he defeated Marty Heldenbrand, Ray Skendore, Blake Baker, Brandon Heldenbrand and exacted his revenge on Alex 9-8. He then defeated Gene Albrecht to finally play Jesse Bowman for the remaining spot in the finals. 

It was a battle but Roberto eked out a win – 9-8. Jesse, again, finished in third place.

As this was true double elimination, Gomez had to defeat Groce twice to claim the title. In dead punch after winning seven matches in a row to arrive at the finals, Roberto won the first set 9-6 and then the second 9-3. Congratulations, Roberto for a hard fought win! Good tournament, Brian!

The $2,000 added One Pocket Division began on Thursday evening after the players auction, meeting & draw. Played on nine footers, twelve players paid a $500 entry fee into this single elimination, race to four, winner break event.

With his one pocket game on the improve, Fedor Gorst arrived at the finals after defeating Randy Jordan, Robert Frost and Alex Pagulayan. His opponent, Jesse Bowman drew a first round bye and then beat Roberto Gomez and Corey Deuel. Due to time constraints, Jesse and Fedor decided to split the purse. Congratulations to both players!

The $10,000 added Ten Ball Division began on Friday night. Ninety six players paid a $150 entry fee into this double elimination event. Racing to nine with alternate breaks, there were no jump cues allowed. This old schooler really enjoyed watching the safety battles!

Following the players auction, meeting and draw, the matches began.

 Houston Rodriguez began his journey to the final four on the winner’s side with victories over Bob Smith, Donny Thompson, Ricky Evans, Alex Pagulayan and Gene Albrecht.

Roberto Gomez caught a bye and then worked his way past Jeff Berger, David Kelly, Warren Kiamco and Benny Conway Jr. He then defeated Rodriguez and advanced to the hot seat match.

In the lower portion of the bracket, Robert Frost defeated Kash Keaton, Greg Pitts, Tom Tan, Bobby McGrath and Mike Banks Jr to arrive in the final four.

Home court hero Jesse Bowman also drew a first round bye and then sent Joey Dyer, Adam Thomas, Ryan Ponton and Jimmy Nosavan west before he was defeated by Frost who moved into the other spot in the hot seat match. 

Frost was then defeated by Gomez 9-6 and was sent to the one loss side while Gomez cooled his heels awaiting an opponent for the final match.

After losing his third round match to Ryan Ponton, Fedor Gorst clawed his way past Josh Ray, Kristina Tkach, Warren Kiamco, Kash Keaton, Mike Banks Jr, Randy Jordan, Houston Rodriguez and Jesse Bowman before encountering Robert Frost. 

Fighting for the remaining seat in the finals, the match was neck and neck until Robert pulled away at the end. Final score 9-6. Fedor finished in third place.

Moving into the finals, Frost had to defeat  Gomez twice to claim the title. An early miss by Frost resulted in Gomez claiming an early four game lead – score 5-1. They traded games with Robert closing the gap – now 6-4. Roberto dug in and reached the hill – 8-5. He made a ball on the break and ran out for the win! 

Congratulations to Roberto for not only snapping off this one but also the Eight Ball! Good tournament, Robert!

PoolActionTV.com would like to thank Dwaine Bowman and his fantastic staff for taking such good care of all the players and fans. We’d also like to thank Tournament Director Eric Gardner for doing a great job. 

We’d like to thank Larry Schwartz, Corey Deuel, Alex Pagulayan, Mary Kenniston, Jerry Johnson and Ray Hansen for their topnotch commentary.

And, last not but least, we’d like to thank our sponsors and fans. Our sponsors include JB Cases, Diveney Cues, Aramith, Hanshew Jump Cues, EnviroAssessments, Lomax Custom Cues, Simonis, Durbin Custom Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Fort Worth Billiards Superstore and CR’s Sports Bar of Minneapolis, MN.

Our next stop is Big Dog Billiards in Des Moines, IA for the 7th Annual $18,000 added Midwest Billiards & Cue Expo. The dates are July 13th-17th – hope to see you there!

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Foldes wins his third straight Andy Mercer Memorial Tournament at Rum Runner in Vegas

Run Runner Owner Geno Hill and Vilmos Foldes

About eight years ago, when Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes shifted his pool-competition activity to these United States, settling in Las Vegas, he started to make appearances on the Mezz West Tour, chalking up two wins in four cash-payout performances on that tour in 2014. The following year, he cashed in 11 appearances on that tour, including one victory. He also began a string of appearances on the Jay “Swanee” Swanson Memorial Tournament, finishing as runner-up to Rodrigo Geronimo that year. He has cashed in every “Swanee” Memorial since then, winning it finally in 2019.

In 2016, Foldes appeared in six memorial tournaments, winning the Chuck Markulis and Bob Stocks Memorial, and cashing in the “Swanee” (4th), the Don Coates (9th), the Cole Dickson (5th), and in his first cash finish on the Las Vegas-based Andy Mercer Memorial, he finished 7th. 

In 2017, Foldes added attendance at the Cole Dickson and Brendan Crockett Memorials, at which he finished as runner-up to Beau Runningen. In the same year that he chalked up his first, and so far, his only win on the “Swanee,” Foldes won his first of three straight titles at the Andy Mercer Memorial Tournament, downing Shane Van Boening in the finals. In 2020, he defended that title, winning nine on the loss side to down Chad Vilmont in the finals, leaving such pool luminaries as Dennis Orcollo, Warren Kiamco and Van Boening in the dust, so to speak.

In all, since 2015, he’s cashed in 17 memorial tournaments, winning six of them. He won the 6th this past weekend (March 18-20), going undefeated at the $3,750-added, 31st Annual Andy Mercer Memorial, hosted by Rum Runner in Las Vegas, NV. He may not be the only person to have appeared in all of the mentioned memorial tournaments (the actual number of them, being hard to determine), but he is certainly doing his part to keep the memories of eight esteemed members of the US pool community alive. 

Foldes’ path to the winners’ circle that saw him win 24 of the first 34 games he played, went through Goran Mladenovic, Sal Butera, Donnie Branson and Max Eberle to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal versus Sam Cordova. Dave Datillo, in the meantime got by Gary Onomura, Tommy Baker, Jeff Gray and, in a winners’ side quarterfinal, Gary Lutman, who’d return to challenge Foldes in the finals. This set Datillo up to face Blake Baker in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Datillo moved into the hot seat match with a double hill win over Baker. Foldes downed Cordova 6-1 to join him. Foldes checked in with another 6-1 victory, this time over Datillo, to claim the hot seat, sporting a ‘three out of every four,’ game-winning percentage (75%).

On the loss side, Baker picked up Ian Costello, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal to Cordova and then defeated John Farris 6-3 and Max Eberle 6-4. Cordova ran into Lutman, who’d followed his loss to Datillo with a double hill win over Mladenovic and a shutout over Donnie Branson, who’d just knocked Shane Van Boening out of the tournament 6-4.

Lutman chalked up his second loss-side double hill win, against Cordova and advanced to the quarterfinals. Baker joined him after knocking Costello out 6-4.

In his third double hill match of four played on the loss side, Lutman downed Baker in those quarterfinals and then, gave up only one to Datillo in the semifinals. Foldes completed his undefeated run with a 6-4 victory over Lutman in the finals to claim his third straight Andy Mercer Memorial title.

Tournament director Jack Murray thanked Geno Hill and his Rum Runner staff for their hospitality, as well as all of the players who have in the past and did, this year, gather to pay homage to Andy Mercer, who passed away in 1990.

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Baker and Larsen Win U.S. Amateur Championship Titles

Blake Baker

For some, the very best, it’s an annual pilgrimage of sorts.  For others, it’s an opportunity to truly showcase their arrival on the amateur pool scene.  For all of them, the U.S. Amateur Championship is something unique that appeals to the most passionate player. Whether they come to cement a legacy, or just to test their skill against some of the best amateur players in North America, there is no denying that to experience the U.S. Amateur Championship is to experience something truly special. Pool tournaments come and go, but securing the title of U.S. Amateur Champion is something you carry with you forever, literally, when your name is forever added to the Trophy of Champions for generations to come.

That’s what drove more than 2,100 of North America’s top amateur players to try and qualify for the 26th Annual event.  That’s what brought 128 men and 42 women to Stroker’s in Palm Harbor, Fla., in early November to compete in this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship.

Of course, there are worse places to be than the sun-soaked skies of the Tampa area, one of the premier vacation destinations in the world, at a time when most of the country is getting its first taste of winter.

Winners of each division also receive an all-expenses paid trip to a pro event next year courtesy of the APA.

And, of course, the championship trophy – a combination of marble and bronze that more closely resembles a piece of art than something won in a pool tournament.

Baker Wins Title in First Appearance
Over the first quarter-century of the U.S. Amateur Championship, the event, in many ways, came to be defined by a list of seasoned veterans, who, year after year, left their mark on the event.  Certain names you came to expect to see on the qualifier list each year, names like Brisbon, Brodt and Parks. Now in its 26th year, a youth movement seems to have taken hold at the U.S. Amateur Championship, with a new crop of young amateur players looking to leave their mark on the event and the sport, much like their predecessors.  It began in 2018, when a previously unknown 26-year-old from Peoria, Ill., named Abe Schaad took home the title.  This year, it was another 24-year-old newcomer making his mark after being inspired by the defending champion.

Blake Baker of Las Vegas went undefeated in his first U.S. Amateur Championship appearance and secured his place in amateur pool history. Baker defeated 65-year-old Bobby Stovall of Cumming, Ga., 11-5 in the championship match.

Baker controlled the finale from the get-go, taking a 4-0 lead in the 9-Ball set before Stovall finally got on the board.  The players traded wins the next two games, making it a 5-2 match.  Baker would win five of the final six games in the 9-Ball set and held a commanding 10-3 lead as the players began the 8-Ball set with the newcomer on-the-hill needing one final game.

Stovall managed to stave off elimination in the first two games of the 8-Ball set, making the score 10-5, but Baker’s bid for the title would not be denied.  In the 16th and final game, he pocketed the 8-ball and the win.

Baker will move on to compete in a 2020 pro event courtesy of APA, and more importantly, his name will be added to the Larry Hubbart Trophy.

Stovall finishes as the Runner-up, his highest finish in the U.S. Amateur Championship.

Defending champion Abe Schaad finished in 3rd, dropping matches to only Baker and Stovall in the process.

One hundred and twenty-eight players competed in this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship.

Tina LarsenLarsen Wins Record Third Women’s U.S. Amateur Championship

Tina Larsen of Westwell, Ind., defeated Nathalie Jacob of Montreal, Quebec in a seesaw battle by a score of 9-7.  The victory earned Larsen her third Women’s U.S. Amateur Championship victory, and her first since 2007.  She surpassed Tammie Jones and Amy Chen, both two-time champions, for most Women’s U.S. Amateur Championship career titles.

Before securing her third title, Larsen had to go through a strong newcomer in Jacob, whose previous playing career consisted primarily of 9-Ball, with little experience playing 8-Ball.  Despite her lack of proficiency in 8-Ball, Jacob gave Larsen all she could handle in the final.

Jacob got on the board first in the 9-Ball set, with Larsen taking the next two games and a 3-2 lead.  Jacob took the next rack, before Larsen secured the next two, one by way of a 9-on-the snap.  With Larsen leading 4-2, Jacob showed some fight, battling back to win the next two games and even the match at 4-4.  Larsen regained the lead, before Jacob again evened things up at 5-5.  Larsen took the final game of 9-Ball as the match moved to the 8-Ball set.

Larsen took the first game of the 8-Ball set and the players traded wins over the next three games.  In the fifteenth game of the match, the ladies engaged in a showdown of defensive shots.  It was here that Jacob’s lack of experience in 8-Ball hindered her, as Larsen won the safety battle and eventually the match, 9-7.

Jacob finished as the Runner-up, the highest finish ever for a Canadian in the Women’s U.S. Amateur Championship.

Stacie Bourbeau of Orange, Mass., finished in 3rd Place.

Forty-two ladies competed in this year’s Women’s U.S. Amateur Championship.

Larsen moves on to compete in a Pro Event in 2020, courtesy of APA.

Both championship matches can now be viewed for free the APA YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/apaleagues in addition to dozens of other matches that were lived streamed from this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship.  Streaming for the U.S. Amateur Championship was sponsored by www.pooldawg.com.

The entry window for the 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship is now open with the Preliminary Rounds scheduled across North America in mid-September.

The U.S. Amateur Championship is conducted by the APA, and is the only tournament produced by the APA open to both members and non-members.  Preliminary qualifying rounds were held throughout the country in mid-September.

As Champions, both Baker and Larsen will return next year to defend their coveted titles.

The U.S. Amateur Championship is a double elimination tournament that offers the nation’s top amateur players the opportunity to showcase their skills through a combination of 8-Ball and 9-Ball matches, in the only APA event that does not use The Equalizer® handicap system.

The APA, based in Lake Saint Louis, Mo., sanctions the world’s largest amateur pool league, with leagues throughout the United States, Canada and Japan.  Nearly 250,000 members compete in weekly 8-Ball and 9-Ball League play.  The APA is generally recognized as the Governing Body of Amateur Pool, having established the official rules, championships, formats and handicap systems for the sport of amateur billiards.

The APA produces four major tournaments each year—the APA World Pool Championships, the APA Poolplayer Championships, the APA Junior Championships and the U.S. Amateur Championship—that, together, pay out more than $2 Million in cash and prizes annually!

The APA and its championships are sponsored by Aramith, Action Cues, Pool Dawg and Valley-Dynamo.

To register for next year’s U.S. Amateur Championship, visit https://usam.poolplayers.com/.  For more information on the American Poolplayers Association, visit https://poolplayers.com/.