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Kennedy and Meglino split the top two prizes on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Tommy Kennedy, Anthony Meglino and Justin Gilsinan

They were the last two standing at the season finale of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour in December, 2019 and this past weekend (March 5-6), they were the last two standing at the $1,000-added, second stop on the 2022 Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, which drew 38 entrants to Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café at Winter Park, FL. Neither of the events featured a final match because at the end, reported as 3 a.m. in both cases, Tommy Kennedy in the hot seat and Anthony Meglino, coming back from a few matches on the loss side (both times), opted out of a final and split the top two prizes. Kennedy, in the hot seat, was the official winner both times.

It was, thanks in part to the pandemic, Kennedy’s first win since that 2019 event on the same tour. He’d won an event on his own Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour in August of that year. Meglino, on the other hand, had chalked up six event victories in that time frame, four of them on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, and three of them in 2021, which turned into his best recorded earnings year, to date. Meglino is well on his way to making 2022 better than last year at the tables.

Kennedy opened his campaign with wins over Michael Anderson, David Nguyen and Raymond Linares, advancing to a winners’ side semifinal against former tour director of the New York City area’s Predator Pro Am Tour and now, transplanted Floridian competitor, Tony Robles, who, in the preceding winners’ side quarterfinal, had sent Meglino to the loss side, double hill. In the meantime, Justin Gilsinan, winner of this past January’s Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championship, had defeated Michael McGuire, Brent Mireles and KC Donahey to meet up with Justin Toye in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kennedy sent Robles to the loss side 7-5 and in the hot seat match, was joined by Gilsinan, who’d survived a double hill battle over Toye. Kennedy claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Gilsinan.

On the loss side, Robles picked up a rematch against co-tour director of the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, Bobby Garza, who, after that 7-1 loss had embarked on a five-match, loss-side streak that had recently eliminated Donahey 5-3 and Monthep Hongsyok, double hill. It was Toye who picked up the battling-back-to-the-finals Meglino, who’d followed his loss to Robles with wins over Orlando Dixon 5-1 and Raymond Linares 7-3.

Garza and Robles locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Garza to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Meglino, who’d defeated Toye 7-3. Meglino allowed Garza just a single rack in those quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals against Gilsinan.

Gilsinan didn’t give up his potential second shot against Kennedy in the hot seat easily. He fought for it right down to the 13th deciding game, but Meglino closed out what proved to be the last match of the event. He and Kennedy agreed on the split as the sun was painting thin, early colors in the horizon skies over Winter Park, FL.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Faheem Zia and the staff at Cue-Phoria Billiards and Cafe for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiards Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZ Billiards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, Eastern Billiards and Andy Cloth. Phillips went on to thank her co-tour director Garza for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing and Andy Cleary for his graphics. She also noted and thanked Brent Mireles, Jimmy Antonietta and Tony Robles for their commentary on the stream.

The next event on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of April 9-10, will be a $1,500-added event hosted by Brewlands North in Lakeland, FL.

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Linares and Mills go head-to-head in season opener of Sunshine State Predator Pro-Am Tour

Raymond Linares, Donny Mills and Rich Schau

Raymond Linares recorded his best earnings year at the tables in 2021. His second-best occurred 10 years ago, one year before he won the American College Unions International Collegiate Men’s Championship in 2013. He’s started 2022 by chalking up his first tour victory this past weekend (Feb. 5-6) on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour’s season opener. Opposing him in both the hot seat and finals was Donnie Mills, who also had a good 2021 at the tables, although not even close to his best earnings year, which happened in the same year (2009) that Linares first started showing up on payout lists of Florida tournaments like the Seminole Tour. They’re familiar combatants on the Florida felt (to others and each other) and graced spectators at their most recent battles for a regional tour title with a good show. The $2,300-added event drew 63 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL.

Linares opened his bid for the title by giving up only seven racks to his first four opponents;  Ronnie Mercer (1), Manuel Montas (0), Rich Schau (4) and Michael McGuire (2). He advanced to a winners’ side semifinal versus Konner McFayden. Mills, in the meantime, gave up just a single rack to three of his first four opponents; one each to James Green, Nathan Rose and Marcus Murillo. In the second round, though, Mike Delawder had given him the proverbial ‘run for his money,’ chalking up six racks against him and forcing a deciding game that did eventually advance Mills to a winners’ side semifinal against Jerry Arvelaez. 

Linares advanced to the hot seat match 7-3 over McFayden and was joined by Mills, who sent Arvelaez to the loss side 7-4. Mills claimed the hot seat with a surprising (to a few) 7-3 win over Linares and waited for him to come back from the semifinals.

On the loss side, McFayden picked up Rich Schau, who’d followed his third-round loss to Linares with three loss-side wins that had recently eliminated Marcus Murillo 7-2 and Robert Batson 7-1. Arvelaez drew a rematch versus Trenton White, whom he’d sent to the loss side in the third round 7-4 and who’d just chalked up loss-side wins #3 and #4 against Bobby Garza and Han Berber, both 7-3, to earn the rematch.

Schau downed McFayen 7-1, as White was wreaking his vengeance on Arvelaez with his sixth in a row, 7-2. Schau stopped White’s loss-side streak at that sixth win, defeating him 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Schau and Linares battled to double hill in the semifinals before Linares prevailed for a second shot at Mills.

In the finals that followed, Linares jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, which, after watching Mills chalk up the rack that made it 5-2, prompted stream commentator and event competitor, Bobby Garza to note that Mills seems to have a preference to starting out slow.

“I think (Mills) likes to start out from behind,” Garza said. “He finds his stroke midway, catches up and then destroys his opponent.”

Just after the midway mark of the two-hour match, Mills chalked up his first two-in-a-row and seemed to be making Garza’s point, as he pulled within two at 6-4. Mills made it three-in-a-row to draw within one at 6-5, they traded racks to 7-6 and then began a wild rack #14 that featured Mills’ attempt at a 5-9 combination, resting near a corner pocket. The 9-ball didn’t drop, but the 5-ball went three rails and did. Shortly afterwards, Mills shot at the 7-ball and watched it rattle in the hole. He then watched Linares step to the table and take aim at the same 7-ball and a clear opportunity to finish the rack and reach the hill first. The 7-ball didn’t drop, but the cue ball took a ‘cross country’ trip to the opposite end of the table and did. Mills didn’t miss the three balls left and it was tied at 7-7.

Mills took his first lead in the match, winning rack #15, but Linares roared back to chalk up rack #16 with a 5-9 combination. Linares had the break and took full advantage of the opportunity. He dropped three balls on the break and ran the table to claim his first 2022 title on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour.

In the event that featured three junior competitors, seven ladies, and six USAPL players that attended at a reduced entry fee, the top junior finisher, Trenton White and the top lady finisher, Jeannie Seaver, took home $50 each. 

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Westbrook-Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, and Eastern Billiards. Janene thanked Bobby for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing USA and Andrew Cleary for his graphics. The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 5-6, will be the $1,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Classic, hosted by Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café in Winter Park, FL.

Garza goes undefeated to take first return stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Obbie Cirilo, Bobby Garza and Michael Delawder

While much of what we know about success in the pool world is associated with skill, experience and attitude, there is evidence that a player’s general health can be an important factor. Take the case of Florida’s Bobby Garza, for example. He’s co-director, with Janene Phillips, of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour and has been competing on the tour since it was formed in 2015. It’s where and how he and Phillips first met. Garza’s record at the tables, as recorded here on AZBilliards, began in 2008, when he finished in the tie for 9th place at a stop on Tommy Kennedy’s J. Pechauer Southeast 9-Ball Tour. In all that time, from those days to these days, he failed to record a single major victory anywhere, although he did win events on Tony Crosby’s Florida Tour, which went unreported.

In February of this year, just ahead of the pandemic’s arrival, Garza went under the knife for a second hernia operation (the hernia had returned after the initial operation in 2018) and in the process of preparation, the doctors informed him that he should get his Type II diabetes under control. He was unaware that he had the disease. Checking back through medical records for results of blood work over the years revealed, as he’d been told, that it wasn’t something that had developed overnight; that it had been going on for a few years and that he just hadn’t been told. He took the advice about getting it under control, consulted with a new doctor and after a successful operation began a regimen of medication which assisted him in losing 40 pounds. Almost immediately, he began kicking butt at the tables.

“It made a tremendous difference in my game,” he said.

He went out to Las Vegas in March to compete in the eventually aborted-by-the-pandemic BCAPL World Championships and finished in the tie for 5th among 90 entrants in the singles event. He came home to Florida, won two local (unrecorded) tournaments and on the weekend of August 1-2 went undefeated to win his first Sunshine State Pro Am Tour event in 23 recorded tries (he may have competed on the tour more times, but if he failed to cash, his efforts would have gone unrecorded). And to punctuate his first tour win, he won his last two matches, hot seat and finals, double hill. The $1,330-added event ($580 of it from a Predator raffle) drew 64 entrants to Racks in Sanford, FL.

In the Coincidence department, Garza would face long-time friend Obbie Cirilo in the finals of this event. Cirilo had won the last, pre-pandemic stop on the tour (Feb. 1-2). At that event, Garza shared the 5th place tie with Nicolle Cuellar, who, on this weekend, would become the winner of the tour’s first Ladies event; a $350-added (plus Acme case to winner) event that drew 25 entrants (see separate report). Cuellar assisted Janene Phillips in running the ladies’ event, so this tour stop was actually won by two of its co-tour directors.

Garza not only finished with two double hill wins, he started with two, as well, against Christopher Campos and Manuel Montas. Subsequent victories over Evan Huynh 7-3 and Steve Wiggam 7-5 put him into a winners’ side semifinal against Mike Kohn. His eventual hot seat opponent, Mike Delawder, started with a double hill win over Anthony Meglino and then downed Jason Sheerman 7-2, Robert Batson 7-5 and Julio Burgos 7-3 to draw Ameet Kukadia in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Garza got into the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Kohn. Delawder survived a double hill battle against Kukadia to join him. The battle for the hot seat went double hill, and as Garza recalled, it was more of a mentai challenge than the eventual finals turned out to be.

“To go undefeated in any event is spectacular,” he said, “but I think I was more excited winning that hot seat match; getting over that ‘hot seat’ match hurdle, and figure ‘Hey, I’m guaranteed at least 2nd place.”

In the deciding game, Delawder broke and was running to the 4-ball, when he encountered a planning problem for position on the 5-ball. He opted for a bank shot in the hopes of improving his position for the 5-ball and missed the 4-ball.

“You have no idea how relieved I was to see him miss that bank,” said Garza. “He’s one of the best (at that) in the country.”

Garza stepped to the table and ran it to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Kukadia picked up Justin Hall, who’d lost a double hill battle to Justin Toye in the third winners’ side round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him as far as the semifinals. He’d most recently eliminated Vic Zaman 8-1 and Robert Batson 8-3. Kohn drew a rematch against Obbie Cirilo, who’d been sent over by Kohn in the third round and was in the midst of his own loss-side winning streak of seven matches that would put him into the finals. He had most recently eliminated Justin Toye 7-3 and survived a double hill battle versus Greg Pugh, Jr.

Hall shut Kukadia out for his slot in the quarterfinals. Cirilo joined him following a 7-2 win over Kohn. Cirilo and Hall battled to double hill in those quarterfinals, before Cirilo advanced to meet and eventually defeat Delawder in the semifinals 7-5.

Though it’s clear from the double hill battle that followed, that Cirilo was invested in winning it, it is also true that Cirilo couldn’t have been happier for his friend Garza when he dropped the 9-ball that sealed the 9-8 win and Garza’s first tour victory. According to Phillips, who has actually known Cirilo longer than she’s known Garza, Garza has a nickname by which he’s known to a majority of the pool players in his Florida backyard. It’s not a nickname we’ll spell out for you here, but Phillips noted that Garza’s health-related improvement at the tables has not gone unnoticed.

“He’s back,” said Phillips, “to being Bobby ‘MFG.”

“I see a tremendous difference in my game because of the (resolution) of health issues I was unaware I had,” said Garza, adding that one major difference he noted was his re-found ability to maintain focus, both at the game and shot level. “I can hold my focus now until I actually make contact. The healthier you are, the better focused you are.”

Phillips and Garza thanked Pedro Botta and his staff at Rack’s for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Group, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Billiard Products, Central Florida USA Pool League, X-treme Pool (which streamed selected matches of the event) and AZBilliards. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour is to be determined. Phillips and Garza are discussing safety protocols and other issues with the potential host to clarify procedures and solidify the date. Check the tour’s Facebook page for further information.

Pool Under Isolation

As we sit around at a hypothetical AZBilliards Central and ponder how, in the absence of industry activity, especially tournaments, we should proceed, it’s easy to be reminded of Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Rick famously talked about the significance of his specific problems at the time by saying to one of them, Ilsa, “that I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
 
It’s obvious in what follows – interviews with a small handful of individuals, a fraction of the number of people associated with the sport of pool who are being affected – that we’re speaking to the pool world equivalent of Rick’s “three little people.” These select few may not “amount to a hill of beans in this crazy (corona virus) world,” but they reflect thoughts and actions that are likely common to the relatively small world of people who love and participate in the sport of pool.
 
“Vegas was a ghost town,” said Janene Phillips, tour director of Florida’s Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, who, along with co-director Bobby Garza, had travelled to Las Vegas to participate in the BCAPL World Championships and the Cue Sports International Expo, only to find themselves returning home early, when CSI cancelled the events’ final four days, ending it on Tuesday (March 17). She was speaking just outside her boarding gate at McCarran International Airport.
 
“They shut down the casinos and restaurants,” Phillips went on to say. “It was unreal. It only took us 20 minutes to get to our gate here at the airport and most of that time was walking to the gate.”
 
Phillips was sympathetic with the powers-that-be that opted to continue with plans to hold the event at all. 
 
“You couldn’t have predicted something like this,” she said, “and it would have meant that everybody would have been out thousands of dollars in plane flights.”
 
“The (venues) did the best with what they had to work with,” she added. “The hotels were sanitizing everything and there were hand-sanitizer stations everywhere.”
 
As she prepared to board her flight, headed home, she was also reflecting on what lay ahead for her. Tour directing the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour is her job, and there’s a great deal of uncertainty about what lies ahead, and not only just for her.
 
“This is impacting the whole world,” she said. “It’s going to mean a changed schedule for the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. We’re still scheduled for a stop in April (25th), and as long as they’re (Brewlands in Tampa) back up and running, we’re still having it.”
 
The likelihood of that shifted dramatically in a matter of days and while we haven’t communicated with Brewlands directly, it’s probably a safe bet that the April 25 event will be cancelled.
 
[photo id=51646|align=right]“We’ve cancelled all Tri-State Tour stops through the end of March,” said tour representative Todd Fleitman, “and we’ll be letting people know as we hear of further developments. I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t go much further than that.”
 
“And there are lot of things that will probably have to be delayed,” he added, “like our June (end of 2019-2020 season) Invitational.”
 
Fleitman also noted that going forward, this crisis is likely to affect the industry overall, to include tour sponsors and companies that offer merchandise and prizes. It is also likely to impact Fleitman’s ability to earn money as an instructor.
 
“All lessons have ceased,” he noted. “People are just not playing.”
 
As a tournament director, he’s hearing from players from all sides of the political spectrum, regarding the virus and its impact on the community, including conspiracy theorists, and those, like Fleitman himself, who believe that it would be difficult for anyone in a position of authority to do well under these circumstances.
 
“I’ve spoken to some pool players who are stockpiling food for two months,” he said.
 
“We’re hanging in there,” said Monica Savedra, one of a group of people who tour-direct the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) 9-Ball Tour. “We had a tour stop scheduled in late March (28-29) in Frisco, TX that they closed on us and we found out by a Facebook post.
 
“We’re just going to have to regroup and rethink,” she added. “We had a ladies-only event, scheduled for April 11, that we’re probably going to have to cancel, as well. We’re just going to have to rethink the schedule. Dallas has announced shutdowns and the Dallas City Council has been meeting to extend the closure plan. 
 
Savedra has been fielding phone calls, text and Facebook messages – about two dozen a day – requesting information and in some cases, refunds of money already submitted for tour stop payments. Those calls and texts are likely to continue.
 
[photo id=51649|align=left]
Stephanie Mitchell’s Corner Pocket room in Largo, FL was still open last week, although she fully expected that a total shutdown was going to be mandated soon. A lot of her regular business emanates from pool league activity and a lot of that has already been shut down; cancelled, as of March 16. She’s making an effort to keep her employees working and is considering room renovations to do that.
 
“Just trying to keep us all afloat,” she said, “and figure that the place will be better when I do re-open.”
 
Mitchell is, of course, not alone in deriving a majority of her business from pool league activity and the American Poolplayers Association (APA) leagues are the largest. According to Jason Bowman, APA’s Marketing Manager, decisions about cancelling league activities are made at the local level. 
 
“Leagues are shut down across the board,” he said, “but the leagues themselves are franchise operations, so while we can advise, we can’t make the decision. They’re following the directives of local, state and federal officials.”
 
The APA issued a press release on Monday, March 16 (published on our site that day), announcing the postponement of its annual Poolplayer Championships, which were scheduled for April 29-May 3 at the Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. President Greg Fletcher indicated that he’s in communication with the Westgate and that information about a future date would be passed on to members as soon as that information is available.
 
In the meantime, said Bowman, the organization is reaching out to its franchises and alerting them to the plight of the venues in which the league’s teams operate. There is a financial and personal side to the equation. The bars and pool rooms will be in search of ways to keep their business operating, including, as an example, developing means of offering pick-up and delivery of food at establishments where such a thing is possible.
 
“We’re encouraging league operators to help rooms by curating that information,” said Bowman.
 
In addition, he noted, there is a social component to the weekly league nights and there is some concern about the members who will lose that interaction; for some, a more serious loss than others.
 
“A lot of people play in the APA,” Bowman noted, “and social distancing can mean social isolation. We’re encouraging people to reach out to each other, maybe not in the pool hall, but to stay in touch, while we try to provide some of that through social media.
 
“We’re trying to encourage league operators to be leaders in their community,” he added. 
 
[photo id=51648|align=right]Among others in the industry being keenly affected by this global issue are the professional players, like Thorsten Hohmann, who, when we reached him, was staying with friends in the Houston area, “until they throw me out on the street,” he said. The friend has a table in his home, so Thorsten will be able to practice, but the interruption of events has a long-range impact on his day-to-day livelihood. Like others at his level of professionalism in the field, making their money entails scheduling for world-wide events, well ahead of time to assure flights and accommodations.
 
“So many cancellations,” he said. “Flights, entry fees, hotels.”
 
“Some flights are easy to cancel and you can get an immediate refund,” he added, “but it’s really on a case by case basis. It’s just the way it is.”
 
Hohmann will spend part of his time, working on his new pool App, called CueLab (more on this in Mike Howerton’s interview with Hohmann, which can be found here.). The future, however, is a little cloudy.
 
“Everything has been cancelled,” he said, “so it doesn’t make sense to talk about the future events.”
 
“But other people are more affected,” he added. “It’s going to cost me actual money and moving forward, the ability to make more, but I just hope everybody stays safe. I have a Mom in Germany and I just hope everybody follows the rules and stays home.” 
 
They were personal and professional calls that we made to these people, prompted by a desire for comment, but more importantly, by relationships that had been established with these industry professionals, over many years. We wanted to know what was going on in their lives in regards to the corona virus, but we also just wanted to check in with these friends of long standing. Obviously, there are a lot of people we were unable to or just did not reach, all functioning under the same set of circumstances and likely experiencing the same set of concerns, differentiated by their particular industry perspective. 
 
Of the many things all of those interviewed and the multitude of US citizens not interviewed here have in common is an inability to predict the immediate future. Asked what the future holds for their individual personal and professional lives, they (we), at this stage, are forced to answer, “I don’t know.” It highlights something that all of us can agree upon, regardless of recently-apparent differences when it comes to the politics of the situation.
 
We are all in this together.
 
Stay safe and in touch.
 

Davis, Jr. comes from loss side & behind in finals to win Sunshine State Pro Am One Pocket

Montas wins concurrently-run, 600-and-under Fargo Rate 9-ball event 

(l to r): Mike Davis, Mike Delawder, Anthony Meglino & Pedro Botta

Fresh off his fourth victory at the 7th Annual NC State Open 9-Ball Championships (March 1-2) in Hickory, NC, Mike Davis, Jr. traveled about 555 miles southwest, to sign on to the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s second 2020 stop; the $500-added One Pocket part of it, that drew 16 entrants to Racks Billiards in Sanford, FL. Sent to the loss side in a winners’ side semifinal, Davis returned to meet the man who’d sent him over (Mike Delawder) and defeat him in an exciting, double hill final match.

In a concurrently-run, $1,000-added ($500 from Racks Billiards & $500 from Predator Cues) event for Fargo Rates of 600 and below that drew 56 entrants, Manuel Montas went undefeated to claim that title.

It was a four-match march to the One Pocket hot seat for Delawder and a seven-match march to the title for Davis. Delawder got by Justin Gilsinan and Pedro Botta, before sending Davis to the loss side 3-1 in a winners’ side semifinal. Anthony Meglino, in the meantime, downed George Saunders and Adam Wheeler to face Kyle Bova in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Delawder beat Davis 3-1 and in the hot seat match, faced Meglino, who’d shut Bova out. Delawder claimed the hot seat by shutout and waited for Davis to finish his three-match, loss-side trip.

Davis began his trip back to the finals with a shutout over James Sandaler, who’d eliminated Bobby Garza and Adam Wheeler to reach him. Bova was defeated double hill by Pedro Botta, who’d previously eliminated George Saunders and Nathan Rose.

Davis dropped Botta into 4th place with a 3-1 quarterfinal victory and got his second shot at Delawder, following a shutout over Meglino in the semifinals.

The race was extended to 4 in the finals and early on, things weren’t looking to good for Davis, Jr. Delawder reached the hill at 3-0 before Davis was able to respond, but when he did, he came back strong, winning four in a row to claim game, set and match.

Montas and Kukadia split top prizes, with undefeated Montas claiming 9-ball title 

Ameet Kukadia, Manuel Montas and Cody Ingle

With a Fargo Rate differential of two points, Manuel Montas (596) and Ameet Kukadia (598) played against each other once in a straight-up race to 7 in the 9-ball tournament. Montas won that single matchup and as the undefeated occupant of the hot seat claimed the event title, when he and Kukudia agreed to a split of the top two prizes.

Montas’ path to the hot seat went through Muhammand Ali, Jeffrey McDonald, Francisco Gika and Brent Mireles to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal versus Guy Skehan Jackson; a 596 (Montas)/531 (Jackson) matchup. Three of the four matches that Kukudia (598) played to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Cody Ingle (546) went double hill and the fourth one was an ‘almost.’ He won his second round match against Lenny Reid 7-5, but he had to play a 13th deciding match against Evan Huynh, Katie Bowse and Kristian Dimitrov to reach Ingle.

Montas and Jackson battled to double hill before Montas advanced to the hot seat match. Kukadia gave up only a single rack to Ingle and joined Montas in what would prove to be the title match, battling for the hot seat. Montas won it 7-3.

On the loss side, Jackson picked up Stan Delonjay, who was working on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had included recent wins over Kristian Dimitrov 5-1 and Vernet Lasrado 5-3. Ingle drew Evan Huynh, who, after his double hill defeat at the hands of Kukadia, was working on a six-match, loss-side streak that was also about to end and had recently included victories over Larry English 5-2 and Brent Mireles 5-1.

Jackson and Ingle ended the loss-side streaks of their respective opponents by the same 5-2 score; Jackson over Delonjay and Ingle over Huynh. Jackson and Ingle then battled to double hill in the quarterfinals. Ingle prevailed and had his modest, loss-side streak ended by Kukadia 5-2 in the semifinals.

The decision to split the cash involved with the top two prizes was negotiated and reached. As the undefeated occupant of the hot seat, Montas became the official winner.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the ownership and staff at Racks Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Products, Kamui, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch it To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, and the live streaming of the events by Xtreme Pool. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for April 25-26, will be hosted by Brewlands in Tampa, FL.

Cirilo downs veteran Richko in finals to win Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s season opener

(l to r): Jason Richko, Nick Applebee & Obbie Cirilo

Rose, White and Mitchell announced as 2019 Player of the Year, Top Junior and Top Female
 
By all accounts, Obbie Cirilo doesn’t get out on the tables much. As of this past weekend, February 1-2, he’s chalked up exactly two cash finishes in his (recorded) pool career, which began, as far as we know in January, 2018. Both cash finishes were event victories and both, including this past weekend, were on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. His opponent in the hot seat and finals of this Sunshine State Pro Am season opener, Jason Richko, hasn’t been at the tables much recently either. He entered the tournament with only five cash finishes in the same amount of time; no event wins, but all on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. Richko, however, has a history that dates back 20 years to what’s been recorded in our database as his first cash finish anywhere; 13th at the Planet 9-Ball Intergalactic Open in Tampa that year (2000).
 
So. .  the newcomer and seasoned veteran battled twice in the $1,450-added event which drew 64 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL. Richko won the first of the two, but Cirilo came back from a semifinal win to defeat him in the finals and claim the title.
 
Victories over Hayleigh Scarberry, Mark Nowicki, Joe Scarborough and Mitch Keiser brought Cirilo up to a winners’ side semifinal match against Nick Applebee. Richko, in the meantime, got by Gregory English, Marvin Llamas, Joselito Martinez and Raymond Linares to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal match versus Justin McNulty.
 
Cirilo downed Applebee 7-2 to earn his spot in the hot seat match. Richko earned his with a 7-1 victory over McNulty. In their first of two, Cirilo and Richko battled to double hill before Richko prevailed to claim the hot seat.
 
Applebee moved to the loss side and picked up Bobby Garza, who’d been sent over in the event’s second round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had most recently included back-to-back, double hill victories over Linares and Llamas. McNulty drew Nicholle Cuellar, who’d been defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal by Applebee and gone on to defeat Dave Stern 5-2 and Trenton White, double hill, in a match that featured the event’s top female finisher (Cuellar) and top junior (White).
 
McNulty downed Cuellar 6-3, and was joined in the quarterfinals by Applebee, who’d ended Garza’s streak 5-2. Applebee and McNulty locked up in a double hill fight that eventually did send Applebee to a semifinal matchup against Cirilo. Cirilo put a stop to Applebee’s short, loss-side run 5-3 and turned his attention to a rematch against Richko in the hot seat.
 
Cirilo was battling for his second victory on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, and only his second cash finish in two years. He completed the task, downing Richko 9-6 in the finals to claim the season opening title.
 
Tour awards 2019 Player of the Year, Top Junior and Top Female Player
 
[photo id=51590|align=right]The event also featured awards for the tour’s 2019 best players. Nathan Rose, who finished at the top of the 2019 tour standings was named Player of the Year. Trenton White, who finished second in the standings was the tour’s Top Junior player, while Stephanie Mitchell finished as the tour’s top female, 6th in the overall standings.
 
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, who donated the cue, the raffle of which – won by Ethan Tinsley – added $450 to the prize fund, and $300 worth of gloves. They also thanked sponsors Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Central Florida USA Pool League, Diamond Products, Kamui, AZBilliards and Kodi Allen “for always helping to sell the tickets.”
 
The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 7-8 at Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL, will feature two non-point events. There will be an Open One Pocket event and a 9-Ball Amateur event for competitors with Fargo Rates of 600 or under.  

Two veteran opponents – Kennedy and Meglino – split top prizes on Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

(l to r): Tommy Kennedy, Scott Rohleder & Anthony Meglino

Though Tommy Kennedy and Anthony Meglino were the last two left standing during the season finale of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour on December 7-8, they were far from being the only veteran Southeast USA pool players among the 42 entrants. Many of these players sport resumes that date back to the early years of the century. Kennedy, of course, has a resume that began, more or less (not including his life as a road warrior) with his victory over Johnny Archer (twice) in the 1992 US Open 9-Ball Championships and was updated this past weekend with his undefeated run through the Sunshine State Pro Am’s season finale field. Meglino, who finished as runner-up in this event has a history that dates (through AZBilliards) back to 2007, when he finished 5th at a stop on Kennedy’s Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour; Kennedy finished 7th at that event, which was won by Nathan Rose, who finished in the tie for 5th place at this most recent event and concluded the 2019 Sunshine State Pro Am season as its Player of the Year.
 
This inter-connected, one-big-happy-family, $500-added event drew its 42 entrants to Park Ave. Billiards in Orange Park, FL. Though Kennedy and Meglino were the finalists, at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, they opted out of a final match, leaving Kennedy, the undefeated occupant of the hot seat, as the official winner.
 
They did meet in the event, once, in a winners’ side quarterfinal. They battled to double hill before Kennedy prevailed and moved on to face Andrew Pettenger in one of the two winners’ side semifinals. Meanwhile, Scott Rohleder (a relatively new member of this family) survived a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal fight against Nick Applebee to draw the aforementioned Nathan Rose in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Two double hill matches sent Rose and Pettenger to the loss side, advancing Kennedy and Rohleder to the hot seat match. Kennedy claimed the hot seat 7-3 over Rohleder in what proved to be his last match of the weekend.
 
On the loss side, Rose ran into another marquee matchup against Meglino, who, after his defeat at the hands of Kennedy had defeated the tour’s top junior player Trenton White 7-5 and David Singleton 7-1. Pettenger drew David Grossman, who, after a second-round loss to Rohleder, set out on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had most recently included victories over Clint Nichols 7-3 and a double hill win over James Sandaler.
 
Pettenger put an end to Grossman’s loss-side streak 7-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Meglino, but not before he and Rose had battled to double hill. Meglino then eliminated Pettenger 7-4 in those quarterfinals.
 
Meglino appeared to be picking up some speed, after his successful match against Rose. His victory over Pettenger was followed by a 7-2 victory over Rohleder in the semifinals.
 
He and Kennedy then opted out of the final match. Kennedy went into ‘the books’ as the event’s official winner.
 
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Carl Watt and his Park Ave. Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch it to me Embroidery, Diamond Products & Cyclop Balls, AZ Billiards & Cue Sports Studios for streaming. The Sunshine State Pro Am Tour will return on February 1, 2020 with a season opener at Stroker’s in Palm Harbor, FL. At that event, they will present the 2019 Player Awards, to include recognition of Nathan Rose as its Player of the Year, Trenton White as its Top Junior and Stephanie Mitchell as Lady of the Year.

Singleton downs Fitch in finals to capture Sunshine State Pro Am Bar Box Championship

(l to r): Andrew Pettenger, David Singleton & Shannon Fitch

David Singleton’s victory at the Sunshine State Pro Am’s Amateur Bar Box Championships on the weekend of November 16-17, was not only his first victory on the tour, it officially made 2019 his best earnings year to date. At two previous stops on the tour, back in January and July, he’d finished in both in the tie for 9th place. He and Brian McBride finished in the tie for 5th place in September at the tour’s 2nd Annual Big Dawg Scotch Doubles Tournament. According to available records, Singleton has only cashed in five events in the past three years; the extent of his known activity at the tables. Shannon Fitch, on the other hand, while also in the midst of his best earnings year to date, has cash-winning records dating back over 20 years, was also looking to chalk up his first victory on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. The $2,200-added event drew 84 players to Racks Billiards in Sandford, FL.
 
It was a five-match march to their first meeting in the hot seat. Singleton followed an opening round bye with victories over Randall McLuckie, Jose Guerro Baez, Christopher Anderson and Bobby Garza (double hill) to draw Jon Gore in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Fitch, also opening with a bye, advanced through Thomas White, Hector Ortiz, Robert Noon and the tour’s #1-ranked competitor going into this event, Nathan Rose, to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup against David Jacobs.
 
Fitch downed Jacobs 9-5, as Singleton was busy sending Gore to the loss side 9-7. In their first of two, Fitch claimed the hot seat 9-3 and waited for Singleton’s return from the semifinals.
 
On the loss side, Gore drew Andrew Pettenger, who, after an opening round bye, had lost to Mike Delawder in the second round, and embarked on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him as far as the semifinals. He’d most recently defeated Nathan Rose 7-6 and Jai Smith 7-5. Jacobs drew Garza, who after his loss to Singleton had eliminated Racks’ owner Pedro Botta 7-2 and Jose Guerro Baez 7-5.
 
Garza and Jacobs locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Jacobs to the quarterfinals. Pettenger joined him after defeating Gore 7-5. Pettenger chalked up the last match of his loss-side streak 7-5 over Jacobs, before Singleton defeated him 6-2 in the semifinals.
 
For the finals, the race was extended to 11 games. Singleton won it 11-7 to claim the event title and move up significantly, to within the top 10, of the tour’s highest-ranked players.
 
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Pedro Botta and his Rack’s staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Cue Sports Studios (for streaming), Leah Nusbaum Photography, Stitch-It-To-Me Embroidery, Diamond Products, Cyclop Balls, Central Florida USA Pool League and AZBilliards. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for Saturday, December 7, will be hosted by Park Ave. Billiards in Orange Park, FL.

Rodriguez goes undefeated to win his first 2019 Sunshine State Pro Am title

Bill Bloom, Shannon Fitch and Ricardo Joel Rodriguez

Looking to better his 2018 earnings, the year in which he tallied a win on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour in March and won the Florida 10-Ball Bar Box Championships in November, Ricardo Joel Rodriguez went undefeated through a field of 64 entrants to win the October 5-6 stop (#8) on the 2019 Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s $1,500-added event ($1,000 by Brewlands and $500 from Predator Cues) at Brewlands Bar & Billiards in North Lakeland, FL . He stopped a seven-match, loss-side winning streak by Bill Bloom, defeating him in the finals to claim the title. Rodriguez’ $1,000 first-place prize doesn’t put his 2019 earnings over his 2018 threshold, but does put him a step closer with a full two months-plus to go.
 
In addition to the event itself, the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour held a mystery auction to raise money for junior competitors Kodi Allen and Trenton White (who was the main event’s top-finishing (9th place) junior) to help offset their expenses for an upcoming trip to Cypress in November, when they will represent the USA in the Jr. World Championships. In addition to the money raised by the auction ($600), the tour donated 5% of the player’s auction to the junior players ($215). An additional $215 was raised by a $50 challenge donation from Jen Radkte, bringing the total to $1,030. Each of the junior competitors will receive half of that total. In addition to the support provided by the tour itself, tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza gave a ‘shout out’ to the sponsors of this mystery auction event – Michael Zingale of Zingale’s Billiards, Carl Watt of Park Ave. Billiards, Pedro Botta of Racks Billiards, Larry Walthal of the host Brewlands, The Central Florida USA Pool League, Don and Jennifer Berzinski of the People’s Tournament, Stitch it to Me Embroidery, Cyclop Balls, Predator Products and Jeannette Lee with the Tampa APA.
 
Congratulations were extended to the Scarberry family as winners of the mystery auction. Some of the items in the bags included a Sneaky Pete rage cue, a signed-by-Jeanette Lee cue and cue ball, free entries to an event at Zingales and on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, gift cards (including Dunkin’), scratch-off lottery tickets, Predator glove and chalk, Cyclops cue ball, Tip tool, T-Shirts, Polos, UFC backpack with ‘extras,’ Tiger Chalk, and if that weren’t enough, two bottles of tequila.
 
The main event tournament saw Ricardo Joel Rodriguez start out with a ‘shutout’ bang over Michael McGuire and then settle into victories over Nataniel Acosta, George McLanahan and Jeremy Bell to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match versus Jordan Burden. Shannon Fitch, in the meantime, downed Anthony Fisher, Thomas White, Francisco Diaz and Justin McNulty (who’d just sent Bill Bloom to the loss side) to face Robert Batson in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Rodriguez’ trip to the winners’ circle was almost rerouted as he and Burden went double hill before Rodriguez prevailed. Fitch joined him in the hot seat match with a 7-4 win over Batson. Rodriguez gave up only a single rack to Fitch and sat in the hot seat, waiting for Bloom to conclude his loss-side run.
 
It was Batson who picked up Bloom, four matches into his loss-side streak, that had included recent wins over Jeremy Bell, double hill and, Anthony Cruz. Burden drew Justin McNulty, who’d defeated Trenton White 5-3 and Jeff Brown 5-1 to reach him.
 
Bloom survived a double hill fight against Batson to advance to the quarterfinals, where he was joined by Burden, who’d spoiled any hopes of a Bloom/McNulty rematch by eliminating McNulty 5-1. Bloom and Burden battled to double hill in those quarterfinals, before Bloom advanced.
 
Bloom downed Shannon Fitch in the subsequent semifinals and got a shot at Rodriguez in the finals. With Bloom racing to 8 and Rodriguez to 9, the two battled to a double hill final game, won by Rodriguez, who claimed the title.
 
Tour directors Phillips and Garza thanked Larry Walthal of Brewlands for hosting the event as well as sponsors Predator Cues, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch it to me Embroidery, Cyclops, Kamui and AZBilliards. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 16, will be a $1,500-added event, hosted by Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL. 

Bova and Linares win Big Dawg Scotch Doubles event on Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

(l to r): Bobby Garza, Mike Griffin, Kyle Bova and Raymond Linares

Event donates goods and money to Hurricane Relief effort for Bahamas
 
It was a previously scheduled event on the Sunshine State Pro Am calendar, which became an opportunity for the Del Rios, owners of Strokers Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL to contribute to the relief efforts organized for the victims of Hurricane Dorian’s wrath in the Bahamas. The $500-added Big Dawg Battle of the Billiards Scotch Doubles event, held on the weekend of September 7-8 drew 29 teams of two to Strokers.
 
“We had players from all over the state attend,” said co-tour director Janene Phillips. “From Miami to Jacksonville.”
 
Represented at the event were Stroker’s Bar & Grill, Boulevard Billiards, Uncle Waldo’s, Fat Cats, Rack’s Billiards and Sports Bar, Brewlands and Park Ave Billiards, among others. All responded to a campaign organized by Lyshia Westbrook-Del Rio. A flyer was produced that announced a “Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Disaster Relief” effort, soliciting a variety of non-perishable items, like canned goods, pre-packaged dry goods, toiletries, batteries and flashlights to name just a few. Donations were accepted for a week, and all those who donated were offered a free drink.
 
“We just happened to have a stop during her crusade,” Phillips explained, “so we wanted to be a part of it.”
 
“Between the 50/50 and player auction, we were able to donate $321,” she added, “plus all the donations that everyone brought in.”
 
There was, of course, a pool tournament that went along with all of this activity and it was won by the team of Kyle Bova and Raymond Linares, who went undefeated through the field. They advanced to the hot seat match, defeating Justin McNulty and Rolando Aravena 7 -3.
 
McNulty and Aravena had sent Bobby Garza and “Iron” Mike Griffin to the loss side in the third round of this event. Garza and Griffin won five on the loss side, that included wins over Sam Kantar and Dave Kennedy, as well as Trey Jankowski and Steve Knoll, both 5-1. They also had a successful 5-3 rematch against McNulty and Aravena in the semifinals that gave them a shot at Bova and Linares in the hot seat.
 
Bova and Linares, though, completed their undefeated run. They downed Garza and Griffin 7-2 to claim the Big Dawg Battle of the Billiards Scotch Doubles event and contributed to relief efforts for the Bahamas.
 
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the Del Rios “for their continuous support and generosity, not only for the pool scene, but for the community, as well.” They also thanked sponsors Predator Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Kamui, Stitch it to Me Embroidery and Cyclop Pool Balls. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for October 5-6, will be a $1,000-added Amateur event, hosted by Brewlands North in Lakeland, FL.