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Lai Li goes undefeated to win her first JPNEWT stop since 2019

Kia Sidbury, Shanna Lewis, Colleen Shoop, Lai Li, Linda Shea, Caroline Pao

Lai Li may not have intended for the Dynaspheres Cup 8-Ball Championships, held in Bowie, MD a little over a week ago (June 4-6) to be a warmup for this past weekend’s stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT), but it seemed to be just what the pool doctors ordered. Li was among only a handful of women who competed in the 8-ball event that drew 108 entrants to Center Pocket in Bowie, and though she finished out of the money (49th), she won over half of the games she played (16-14). A week later (June 12-13) and about half an hour north of Bowie, she signed on for her third appearance on the 2021 JPNEWT and went undefeated to claim her first title on the tour since November, 2019. Both of Li’s wins were hosted by Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD, which drew 23 entrants to this most recent stop (#4) on the tour.

Also noteworthy of this most recent JPNEWT stop was a 3rd place finish for Caroline Pao, who’d won two of the season’s first three stops and was runner-up in the other one, was looking for her eighth win on the tour since 2019. She was sent to the loss side early by Kia Burwell, and though she’d win six on the loss side to appear in the semifinals, Shanna Lewis stopped her loss side streak to earn a second shot at Li, waiting for her in the hot seat.

Awarded a bye in the opening round, Li got by Melissa Mason 7-4 and Judie Wilson 7-2 to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Colleen Shoop. Shanna Lewis, in the meantime, had also been awarded an opening round bye, after which she defeated Teri Thomas 7-5 and Cecilia Strain 7-3 to draw tour director Linda Shea in the other winners’ side semifinal.

It came within a game of being two double hill matches for the right to battle for the hot seat. Shea and Lewis battled to double hill before Lewis prevailed. Li downed Shoop 7-5 to join Lewis in the hot seat match. Li and Lewis battled to double hill to claim the hot seat and it was Lewis who moved west to face Pao in the semifinals. 

On the loss side, Shea walked right into a rematch versus Kia Burwell, who’d followed her victory over Caroline Pao in the opening round with a defeat at the hands of Shea in the second round. Burwell won four straight on the loss side, including a 7-5 win over Sharon O’Hanlon and a 7-4 victory over Teri Thomas to draw the rematch versus Shea. Shoop drew Pao, four matches into her loss-side streak that had most recently included eliminating Cecilia Strain 7-1 and Kelly Wyatt 7-5.

Pao advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Shoop and was joined by Shea, who defeated Burwell a second time 7-4. Pao then defeated Shea 7-4 in those quarterfinals before herself being eliminated by Lewis 7-5 in the semifinals.

The final match, unlike the one they’d fought for the hot seat, did not require a 13th deciding game. It did, however, require 12 of them. Li completed her undefeated run 7-5 and claimed the event title. 

The top four in the tour standings remained the same, with Pao at the top, Liz Taylor in 2nd place, Nicole Nester in 3rd and Linda Shea in 4th. Lai Li, though, jumped from 13th to 5th, edging Judie Wilson out of that slot into 6th. Rounding out the top 10 were Kia Burwell, Carol V. Clark, Shelah Joner and Christine Pross.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their ongoing hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Bitzel and Associates PTPA Physical Therapy, George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor), and Britanya E Rapp of angle aim Art (for the live stream). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for June 26-27, will be hosted by Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. 

Pao goes undefeated to chalk up her seventh win on the JPNEWT since 2019

Caroline Pao and Nicole Nester

Last month (April 10-11), Caroline Pao joined 18 other competitors at stop #2 on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour, looking for her seventh straight win on the tour, dating back to 2019. Liz Taylor defeated her twice; once, in a winners’ side semifinal and again, in the finals. This past weekend, as 24 women gathered to compete at stop #3, hosted by First Break Sports Bar in Sterling, VA, there was some speculation that Taylor v. Pao might go at it again, in search of the event title. It didn’t happen. In fact, they didn’t meet in this one at all. Pao, though, went undefeated through the field to claim that seventh, though not ‘seventh straight’ JPNEWT title.

Pao faced separate opponents in the hot seat and finals. She was awarded an opening round bye and opened her campaign with a 7-3 win over Kia Burwell. She then shut out Judie Wilson and drew Kelly Wyatt in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Carol V. Clark, in the meantime, also with an opening round bye, survived a double hill fight against Ashley Burrows and defeated Lai Li 7-5 to draw Nicole Nester in the other winners’ side semifinal. Nester, who would go on to face Pao in the finals, had just survived her own double hill challenge versus Liz Taylor, sending her to the loss side in their winners’ side quarterfinal match. 

Clark sent Nester to the loss side 7-4 and in the hot seat match, faced Pao, who’d defeated Wyatt 7-3. Pao gave up just a single rack to claim the hot seat over Clark.

Tour director Linda Shea, who’d started out in a promising direction on the winners’ side with two straight shutouts over Calaia Jackson and Kimberly Smith-Martin, ran into Kelly Wyatt in one of the winners’ side quarterfinals. When Wyatt sent her to the loss side 7-3, she downed Melissa Jenkins 7-4 and then, survived a double hill battle versus Ashley Burrows to draw Nester. Wyatt, in the meantime, picked up Liz Taylor, who’d followed her defeat at the hands of Nester with victories over Cecilia Strain 7-2 and Kia Burwell 7-1.

There were, at this point, six competitors left. Five of the six were among the top 10 in the tour standings going into this third stop. Pao, Taylor, Nester and Shea were, in order, #1 through #4, while Carol V. Clark was #6.  There were two rematch possibilities in the quarterfinals. It was Taylor and Nester who advanced to meet a second time. Taylor eliminated Wyatt 7-3, as Nester was busy in a double hill fight that she eventually won over Shea.

Any hopes for a second straight tour stop with Pao and Taylor in the finals was eliminated in the quarterfinals, when Nester downed Taylor 7-2. Nester earned her spot in the finals with a 7-5 win over Clark in the semifinals. 

Pao completed her undefeated run with a 7-5 win in the finals, which allowed her to maintain her top spot in the tour standings. In fact, the tour’s top five in the standings maintained their positions with the points they earned at this event. Pao, Taylor, Nester, Shea and Wilson (who finished in tie for 9th place) remained as the top five. Kia Burwell moved up a single spot to #6, while Carol V. Clark’s third-place finish moved her up from #9 to a tie with Burwell.

Tour director Shea thanked the ownership and staff at First Break Sports Bar for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Bitzel and Associates PTPA (Physical Therapists), George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor/stream commentator) and for the live stream, Britanya E. Rapp of angle aim Art. The next stop on the JPNEWT (#4), scheduled for June 12-13, will be hosted by Triple Nines Bar & Billiards in Elkridge, MD.

 

Taylor comes back from down-by-four in finals to defeat Pao on JPNEWT

Liz Taylor (Jay Chiu)

There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Caroline Pao signed on to the April 10-11 stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT), looking for her seventh straight win on the tour, dating back to 2019. Of course, everyone else who signed on was looking for a win as well, including Liz Taylor, who’d finished in 3rd place, behind Pao and Nicole Nester in the tour’s season opener last month (March 6-7).

As she’d done in March, Pao was forced to seek this past weekend’s event title from the loss side. In fact, this time out, she was forced to win three on the loss side just to get into the finals. Liz Taylor had sent her over and though Pao would come back to challenge her in the finals, Taylor completed an undefeated run to claim her first event title since she’d gone back-to-back last November, winning the VA State Ladies 8-Ball Championship and a week, later, Stop #10 on the 2020 JPNEWT. The event this past weekend drew 19 entrants to Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA. 

Taylor and Pao were on something of a collision course from the start. Pao got by Suzzie Wong, Shelah Joner and Christine Pross (7-2, 7-3, 7-3), as Taylor, awarded an opening round bye, shut out April Hatcher and then downed Kia Burwell 7-5. This set them up to face each other in one of the winners’ side semifinals. In the other winners’ side semifinal, the tour director, Linda Shea, squared off against Judie Wilson, who, following a bye, had chalked up two 7-4 victories against Nicole Nester and Kelly Fox.

A third straight 7-4 win put Wilson into the hot seat match for the first time since 2018 (her best recorded earnings year, to date), when she fought for it twice; once, in April, against Burwell (then, Kia Sidbury) and then, versus Shea in December. Taylor and Pao, in the meantime, battled to double hill, before Taylor prevailed. Taylor put the hammer down in the hot seat match, giving up only a single rack to Wilson.

On the loss side, Pao picked up Kelly Fox, who, following her defeat at the hands of Wilson had eliminated Sharon O’Hanlon 7-3 and Kris Consalvo-Kemp 7-4. Shea drew Pross, who followed her loss to Pao with victories over Rachel Walters 7-5 and Carianne Merkle 7-3. 

Pao advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Cox and met up with Shea, who’d defeated Pross 7-5. Pao eliminated Shea 7-3 in those quarterfinals and then, Wilson 7-4 in the semifinals.

Taylor got off to a bit of a rocky start in the extended-race-to-9 final. If she reached 7 racks first, it’d be over. If Pao reached 7 first, the race extended to 9. With the momentum of her three loss-side matches, Pao jumped out to an early lead that was four racks by the end of the 6th game, 5-1.

Taylor chipped away at that lead, winning four of the next six (7-5), but couldn’t stop Pao’s extension of the match to nine games. She did, however, stop Pao from completing any more games. Taylor won four in a row to claim the event title.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked Russ Urffer and his Markley Billiards’ staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Bitzel and Associates PTPA (Physical Therapy), George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor), and, for the livestream, angle aim Art (Britanya E Rapp). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of May 15-16, will be hosted by First Break Bar & Grill in Sterling, VA.

Pao comes from the loss side to win sixth title on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour

Nicole Nester and Caroline Pao

Caroline Pao won twice on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) last year (2020). The two wins followed a somewhat brief, pandemic-inspired, competitive-play drought, before which she had finished in the tie for 9th place at the Ashton Twins Classic in January. She’d won all three times she competed on the tour in 2019, which proved to be, and remains, her best recorded earnings year to date.

On the weekend of March 6-7, 2021, at the JPNEWT season opener, she entered her sixth JPNEWT event in the past two years. She was looking for her sixth straight win on the tour and she found it. At Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD, where she met another long-time veteran of the tour, Nicole Nester, twice. Though knocked out of the hot seat match by Nester, Pao returned from a victory in the semifinals to defeat Nester in the finals. The event drew 26 entrants to Triple Nines.

Pao opened with a shutout over Melissa Mason, a 7-1 win over Lynn Richard and a 7-4 win against Teri Thomas, which set her (Pao) up in a winners’ side semifinal against Tour Director Linda Shea, with whom she’s had a battle or two over the years. Nicole Nester, in the meantime, got by KanKan Yu 7-4, and Deb Peterman 7-3, as a prelude to a double hill battle against Liz Taylor, fresh off a 3rd place finish at the VA State Ladies 10-Ball Championships a couple of weeks ago. Nester prevailed and advanced to her winners’ side semifinal matchup, against Kathy Friend.

Pao moved on to the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Shea and was joined by Nester, who’d defeated Friend 7-4. Nester claimed the hot seat 7-3.

On the loss side, Friend picked up Christine Pross, who’d suffered a winners’ side quarterfinal 7-5 loss to Shea. Pross went on to down Ceci Strain 7-3 and survive a double hill bout against Shanna Lewis. Liz Taylor, who’d followed her loss to Pao with a loss side victory over Judie Wilson 7-1, locked up in a double hill battle with the tour’s #2 competitor in the standings, Kia Burwell. Taylor jumped out of that frying pan and into the fire of the #1 player in the standings, TD Linda Shea.

Taylor dropped Shea 7-2 and in the quarterfinals, faced Friend, who’d defeated Pross 7-5. Taylor won that quarterfinal match 7-4 over Friend before having her modest four-match, loss-side streak ended by Pao in the semifinals 7-4. Pao completed her sixth straight win on the tour with a 9-3 victory in the finals.

Tour director Shea thanked Stan Nasiatka and his Triple Nines staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Bitzel and Associates Physical Therapy and Brit Rapp of angle aim Art for sponsoring the live stream. The next stop (#2) on the tour, scheduled for April 10-11, will be hosted by Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA.

Pao goes undefeated, downing Burrows twice to win second straight JPNEWT stop

Caroline Pao and Ashley Burrows

It’s rare that a pool player sneaks by the usual pattern of first appearing in a number of events, then cashing in one or two, then finishing among an event’s top five and after years (sometimes, many), chalks up an event victory on a tour somewhere. Caroline Pao’s second straight victory on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour this past weekend (Nov. 7-8) was not a surprise from the WPBA-ranked player (#12). To a certain extent, though, her competitor in the hot seat and finals of the event was a bit of a surprise. Ashley Burrows, who turned Pro in 2018, and is currently ranked as #30 with the WPBA, has four recorded cash finishes in the AZBilliards’ database. All but one of those was recorded last year; two 17th place finishes in WPBA events (the Masters in February/March of 2019 and the Aramith/Dr. Pool Classic, almost exactly a year ago; Nov. 21-24) and until this past weekend, only one recorded victory, a shared one on the Tri-State Tour in June of 2019. 

In her first (that we know of) appearance on the JPNEWT, Burrows got by the tour’s #12, #11, #3 and #4 players to arrive at the hot seat battle versus Pao. They played the last two matches of the $1,200-added event that drew 25 entrants to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. Triple Nines added $500 of that money, while Coins of the Realm contributed $700, $200 of which was added in memory of a recently-deceased area player, Danny Green. Pao went undefeated through the field to claim the event title.

Pao was awarded an opening round bye, after which she shut out Lynn Richard (#18 in tour rankings) and sent Melissa Jenkins (#5) to the loss side 7-1 to draw tour director Linda Shea (#1) in a winners’ side semifinal. Burrows, in the meantime, shut out Melissa Mason (#12), survived a double hill battle versus Carol V. Clark (#11) and sent Kathy Friend (#3) to the loss side 7-5, to draw Lai Li (#3) in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Pao moved into the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Shea, as Burrows got by Li 7-4 to join her. Pao gave up only a single rack in the hot seat match to be a single step away from winning her second straight stop on the tour.

On the loss side, Shea picked up Kathy Friend, who, after her defeat at the hands of Burrows, had survived a double hill battle against April Hatcher and eliminated Sharita Green 7-5. Li drew Kia Burwell, who was runner-up to Pao in her last JPNEWT win last month. Burwell had been sent to the loss side by Friend in the second round and was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that would end in the semifinals against Burrows. She’d most recently eliminated Melissa Jenkins 7-2 and Noel Rima 7-4.

Friend chalked up a 7-3 win versus Shea, who hadn’t finished that far back (5th/6th) since the JPNEWT season opened in March, when she finished in the tie for 7th. Burwell and Li locked up in a somewhat predictable double hill fight that eventually advanced Burwell to join Friend in the quarterfinals.

In what would prove to be her final victory, Burwell defeated Friend in the quarterfinal match that came within a game of double hill (7-5). Burrows ended Burwell’s loss-side winning streak at six with a 7-4 win in the semifinals.

In the finals that followed, Burrows was looking to reach 7 racks first, in which case the race would extend to 9. If Pao reached 7 first, it would be over. Though they were far from pretty or straight-forward runs, Pao opened the extended-race-to-9 finals with four straight racks. She almost made it five, but her shot at the 9-ball in that rack rattled in a corner pocket and Burrows got on the board at 4-1.

Pao rattled the 8-ball in the same corner pocket that she’d attempted with the 9-ball in the previous rack and Burrows finished the rack to double her production from the hot seat match and cut Pao’s lead in half. Then, it was Burrows’ turn. She rattled a ball in a corner pocket in rack #7 that allowed Pao to finish the rack and make it 5-2.

Pao chalked up the eighth rack to reach the hill. Burrows won what proved to be her last rack to make it 6-3 and after dropping two balls on the final rack, Pao used a subsequent, fortuitous cue-ball bounce off the tip of a side pocket, to close it all out 7-3.

Adjustments to the tour rankings after this event resulted in a single adjustment to the top five players. Pao’s second straight win in only her second appearance on the 2020 tour, allowed her to move in between Lai Li in 4th place and Melissa Jenkins in 5th place. Shea retained her spot at the top of the rankings, ahead of Kia Burwell, Kathy Friend and Lai Li 

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Coins of the Realm, angle aim Art (Britanya E Rapp) and Turtle Rack. The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of November 21-22, will be hosted by Cue Sports Bar & Grill in Front Royal, VA.  

Pao goes undefeated to win her 4th JPNEWT stop in as many tries

Final Eight Players

A few days shy of a year ago (Oct. 14, 2019), Caroline Pao and Linda Shea battled it out for an event title at Stop #7 of the 2019 J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour, hosted by Eagle Billiards in Dickson City, PA. They were also competing for the top spot in the tour rankings at the time. It was a short field of 12 entrants that day and they met, first, in a winners’ side semifinal and then later in the finals. Pao won both matches to claim the event title, her third of the season, but it wasn’t enough to move her into the tour’s top spot over Shea, who’d competed in all seven of the tour’s stops to that point.

This year (Oct. 10-11), things were a little different for the two frequent competitors on Shea’s tour. Though it was, this time, Stop #8 on the (2020) tour at the same location, and Shea was once again at the top of the tour rankings, there’d been a lot of proverbial water under the bridge of pool since that earlier matchup. It was Pao’s first cash payout since she’d finished 9th at the WPBA’s Ashton Twins Classic in January. Shea, on the other hand, was looking for her third win on this year’s interrupted tour, which had been forced to cancel stops #2 through #4. Shea won the first stop back (#5), was runner-up to Kathy Friend in #6 and then beat Friend in the finals of #7. 

Enter Caroline Pao with her first appearance on the tour since that win a year ago and Kia Burwell, who, like Shea, had competed in all four of the tour’s 2020 stops and arrived in Dickson City as the tour’s #3 competitor behind Shea and Friend.

It was Burwell who met up with Shea, twice, and eventually eliminated her in the event semifinals. She met Pao, twice, as well, but was defeated both times, as Pao went undefeated to pick up her fourth JPNEWT win in four tries. The event drew 29 entrants to Eagle Billiards.

Pao showed little sign of any prolonged absence from the tables and marched to a winners’ side semifinal against Ada Lio, having given up only three racks in 24 games; none to Carol V. Clark, one to April Hatcher and two to Chari Slater. Burwell, in the meantime, got by Linda Cheung, survived a double hill battle versus Shanna Lewis and defeated Karen Carter 7-2 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Shea.

Shea and Burwell got into something of a predictable double hill match at which Burwell prevailed to earn her spot in the hot seat match. Pao sent Lio to the loss side 7-1, giving her a winners’ side aggregate score, going into the hot seat match, of 32-4. Though Burwell put up a better fight than any of Pao’s previous opponents, Pao took the hot seat 7-3 and waited on Burwell’s return.

On the loss side, Shea picked up Shanna Lewis, who was working on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently sent Christie Hurdel (7-2) and Chari Slater (double hill) home. Lio drew Kassandra Bein, who was also working on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had sent Karen Carter (7-3) and Suzzie Wong (7-4) to the proverbial showers.

Shea advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Lewis and was joined by Bein, who’d extended her loss-side winning streak by ending Lio’s 7-2. Shea then put a stop to Bein’s winning streak 7-3 in those quarterfinals. Burwell, in turn, put a stop to Shea’s modest two-match, loss-side winning streak with a 7-3 win in the semifinals.

Pao showed no sign that waiting for the finals had affected her play. In fact, she gave up one less rack in the finals against Burwell than she had in their earlier hot seat match. Pao completed her undefeated run with the 7-2 win and in her first appearance on the 2020 tour, moved among the top 10 competitors on the tour. Burwell, in the absence of the tour’s #2-ranked player (Kathy Friend), moved into second place behind Shea.

Pao, who noted after the event, that she doesn’t play in as many tournaments as she used to, as a result of work commitments, did enjoy being back.

“It was actually fun competing again,” she said, “especially since I don’t get to compete as much.”

“Kia (Burwell) has been working on her game,” she added. “She’s always been a tough competitor, but is much tougher now. I really enjoy sparring with her.”

Though she and Shea did not meet in a match this time out, Pao remembers their past quite well. She’s aware, as well, that her own inability to compete as often has a way of keeping her out of contention for any of the top spots on the tour.

“Linda is a great player,” she said, “and I enjoy competing with her because she is such a strong competitor. I’d never be able to catch up to her in (tour) points since I would not be able to attend all of the events.”

“I only got lucky to be ranked as high (last year) because I was able to play in three events,” she said, “and was fortunate enough to win the three events I played in.”

She added her first in 2020 to make it four events.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Eagle Billiards, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Coins of the Realm, angle aim Art (Britanya E. Rapp) and the Turtle Rack. The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for Nov. 7-8, will be hosted by Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

WPBA Stars Continue Success at Turning Stone Classic XXXIII

Caroline Pao, Jennifer Barretta and Jia Li (Erwin Dionisio)

For three of the match winners from day one at the Turning Stone Classic XXXIII, it is just a continuation of the success they had a week earlier at the WPBA Ashton Twins Classic in Calgary.

Jennifer Barretta, Jia Li and Caroline Pao all turned in top 10 finishes in Canada and will enter day two of this week’s Turning Stone Classic on the winner’s side.

Barretta, currently ranked #1 on the WPBA tour, was in prime position to win the Canadian event after she took the hot-seat from Allison Fisher, but she would settle for second place after dropping the final match to Fisher. Barretta started out her Turning Stone campaign with a dominating 9-3 win over Eric Cloutier.

Jia Li survived a hill-hill battle with Randy Labonte on day one at Turning Stone, but the path won’t get any easier as she faces Johnny Archer in her first match of the day on Friday.

Caroline Pao scored a convincing 9-5 win over Devin Buttle on Thursday and will face Len Gianfrate in her first match of the day on Friday.

The Turning Stone Classic XXXIII takes place at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, NY with 128 players competing for over $40,000 in prize money. Fans can watch select matches as part of the online streaming coverage presented by Upstate Al, and AzBilliards is providing online brackets and real time scoring for the duration of the event.

Turning Stone Classic XXXIII Ready to Begin

The Turning Stone Classic XXXIII is ready to get underway at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, NY. 
 
While the usual suspects of Jayson Shaw, Shane Van Boening, Earl Strickland, Billy Thorpe, Jeremy Sossei, John Morra and Johnny Archer are in attendance, there is also a great field of new faces for the fans in Verona to watch. Such notables as James Aranas, Alex Kazakis, Mieszko Fortunski, Konrad Juszczyszyn and Daniel Schneider. As always, the ladies are represented with Jennifer Barretta looking to follow up her second place finish in Canada with a strong tournament here. Barretta is joined by such notables as Jia Li, Caroline Pao, Cristina Scheider, Veronique Menard, Amy Yu and Erin Bechner.
 
Brackets are drawn and matches are scheduled to kick off at 4pm Eastern Time. Upstate Al is streaming select matches for free all week, and we are again providing online brackets and real time scoring for the event. 

Fisher comes back from hot seat loss to down Barretta and claim Ashton Twins Classic in Alberta

Holem, Plowman, Osborn and Lane win four concurrently-run Amateur/Open events

 

Two of pool’s old-school professionals battled in the hot seat and finals of the WPBA’s 4th Annual Ashton Twins Classic over the weekend (Dec. 2-5). Allison Fisher, who entered the tournament as the WPBA's #1 competitor,, and Jennifer Barretta (#3) fought to double hill in the hot seat match, before Barretta prevailed. Fisher came back from the semifinals to meet and defeat her in the finals and claim the 4th Ashton Twins Classic title, her 82nd pro title. Since the event debuted in 2017, it’s been won by two ‘new-school’ professionals, Brittany Bryant (2017, currently #2) and April Larson (2018, currently #23) and in the past two years, by old-school professionals, Vivian Villareal (2019, currently #48) and Fisher this year. The $20,000-added event drew 50 entrants to the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary, Alberta.

 

The long weekend also featured four, concurrently-run Amateur and Open events; an Amateur Men’s 9-Ball (51 entrants), a Women’s Amateur 9-Ball (26), a Men’s 8-ball (71; the highest number of the weekend’s events) and a Women’s 8-Ball event (56). A summary of these four events, to include winners and runners-up will follow the Pro event details.

 

While the old-school professionals were represented in this year’s final, the new-school professionals were right there behind them, finishing 3rd (Russia’s Kristina Tkach, #22) and 4th (China’s Wei Tzu-Chien, #4). The tie for 5th place featured one each from the two categories; Janet Atwell (#11), who fell to Wei Tzu-Chien and the event’s 2017 winner, Brittany Bryant, who was eliminated by Tkach. The event’s 2018 champion, April Larson was on hand for this event, as well. She was sent to the loss side by Wei Tzu-Chien and was defeated in her first loss-side match by Kim Newsome (#24). Vivian Villareal did not make the trip to Canada.

 

Following an opening round bye, Fisher opened her six-match winning campaign with three victories in which she gave up a combined total of two racks; one each to (first) Stephanie Hefner and (third) Caroline Pao, with a shutout over Laura Smith in between. This set Fisher up to face Wei Tzu-Chien in one of the winners’ side semifinals (old-school/new-school). Barretta, in the meantime, had also been awarded a bye, and though not quite the domineering performance exhibited by Fisher, she did get by Stephanie Mitchell 9-2, June Maiers 9-3 and Monica Webb 9-2 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Brittany Bryant (another old-school/new-school matchup).

 

Bryant chalked up as many racks against Barretta as all three of Barretta’s previous opponents combined, but fell two short, advancing Barretta 9-7 to the hot seat match. Wei Tzu-Chien chalked up three times as many racks as Fisher’s first three opponents combined, but fell three short, advancing Fisher 9-6 to meet Barretta. As befitted their status, Barretta and Fisher locked up in a double hill fight that saw Barretta down 5-8, before mounting a four-match comeback that left her in the hot seat and Fisher headed for a semifinal matchup versus Kristina Tkach.

 

Going into the money rounds on the loss side (17-24), there were still more than just a handful of potential winners vying to get back to the finals. Among them were Janet Atwell, who’d been defeated, double hill, by Caroline Pao and dropped into the loss side’s first money round. She subsequently got by Emily Duddy 9-7, Laura Smith 9-3, Monica Webb 9-6, and Jia Li 9-6, to draw Wei Tzu-Chien, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal.

 

Also lurking on the loss side was Kristina Tkach, who’d lost her first winners' side match (after a bye) to Kyoko Sone, and then launched an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that would take her all the way to the semifinals. After eliminating Ada Lio and Ashley Burrows to make it into the money rounds, she defeated Gail Eaton 9-1, Dawn Hopkins, double hill, Caroline Pao 9-5 and the WPBA’s #1-ranked competitor going into the tournament, Line Kjorsvik 9-2, to draw Bryant.

 

Tkach dispatched Bryant 9-2 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Wei Tzu-Chien, who’d eliminated Atwell 9-7. Tkach finished up her loss-side winning streak with a 9-3 win over Chien.

 

The commentators on the Cue Sports Live stream employed a slightly different vocabulary for the semifinal match, opting to call it a match between the ‘old guard’ and the ‘new guard.’ Fisher won the opening game of the semifinal match, and though Tkach responded to tie it up, she only did that twice and never got out in front. After the tie at the end of game #2, Fisher won three straight. Tkach came back with two, Fisher got another and Tkach won another two to create the second tie at 5-5. Fisher got out in front by two again, before Tkach chalked up her sixth and final rack. Fisher closed it out 9-6 for a second shot against Barretta.

 

The assembled were expecting a second double hill fight between the two ladies left standing. The race to 11 didn’t pan out that way, although it came close. Fisher took advantage of her second opportunity and downed Barretta 11-8 to claim her first (recorded) event title since she defeated Ga Young-Kim in the finals of the WPBA’s Ho-Chunk Classic in September of 2018.

 

From her home in Charlotte, NC a couple of days later, Fisher commented about her win and the prospect of future wins for her and players like her, like Jennifer Barretta, who's eight months younger than she is.

 

"It's like your own personal battle," she said. "You're constantly wondering 'Can you do it again?' 'Is it ever going to happen?' All those things go through your mind."

 

"There's not as much (time) distance (from former major victories) with me," she added, "but I was a prolific winner and as time goes on, you question and doubt. You're competing with yourself in personal growth."

 

Fisher is also assigning value to other considerations in her life; specifically her time at home with her family, which she noted she had not had much of in her past. Now, she's finding herself elevating that time on a priority scale above shooting pool. She has found that this shift in priorities tends to elevate the significance of each accomplishment.

 

"I don't play a lot these days, because some things (events) are not worth the time to be away from my family," she said. "I don't expect to be competing in 10 years time, so any victory is very valuable to me."

 

Concurrent Amateur/Open events take center stage

 

Kudos to Brian Champayne, who coordinated this long and multi-faceted event, which, as noted at the outset, included four other tournaments, including two which drew more entrants than the main event.

 

Up first on Thursday, January 2 were the Amateur Men’s and Women’s 9-Ball events. In the Men’s event, Tyler Edey and Kevin Osborn battled twice to claim the title. Edey won the first 7-1 to claim the hot seat. Osborn came back after downing Joe Spence 6-4 in the semifinals to defeat Edey 9-7 in the final and claim the Amateur Men’s 9-Ball title. Regene Lane went undefeated to grab the Women’s Amateur 9-Ball title. She and Cindy Nana fought a double hill hot seat match that eventually sent Nana to the semifinals, where she defeated Jenny Lucas 5-2. Lane defeated Nana a second time, this time 7-3 in the final to claim that 9-ball title.

 

On Friday, January 3, Tyler Edey was also in the finals of the most heavily-attended event of the long weekend, the Men’s 8-Ball, which drew 73 players. Edey was sent to the loss side in a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal, as Stephen Holem advanced to the hot seat, downing Mike Robinson 6-1 in the winners’ side final. Edey worked his way back through five loss-side opponents, including a double hill win over Robinson in the semifinals to face Holem in the finals. Holem completed his undefeated run with a 7-4 victory over Edey.

 

In the Women’s 8-Ball event, which drew 56 entrants, Bonnie Plowman and Tasha Thomas battled twice, hot seat and finals, to determine the winner. Plowman, who finished undefeated, took the hot seat match 5-3, and when Thomas returned from a 4-2 victory over Jana Montour in the semifinals, defeated her a second time 6-4 to claim the event title.

Kelly Fisher comes from the loss side to down Tzu-Chien Wei at WPBA’s Aramith/DR Classic

Kelly Fisher

Kelly Fisher came to Rothschild, WI on the long weekend of November 20-24 in search of her first 2019 win and knew almost immediately that she might need to defeat some adversaries she’d faced before. There were, at the WPBA’s Aramith/DR Pool Classic, the usual array of suspects in that regard; Allison Fisher, Jasmine Ouschan, Jennifer Baretta, LoreeJon Hasson, Janet Atwell and Line Kjorsvik, to name just a few. And though she wouldn’t have to face China’s Siming Chen, who did not compete and who’d defeated her in the finals of the WPBA Masters last February in Michigan, she knew she might have to face Chinese Taipei’s Tzu-Chien Wei, whom she’d defeated in the semifinals of that WPBA Masters and then, been defeated by in the semifinals of August’s Sondheim Diamond Invitational in Iowa. She did face Wei this time around, twice as it turned out, losing the first, but coming back from the loss side to win the second and claim the event title. The $20,000-added event drew 48 entrants to the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center in Rothschild.

The importance of chalking up her first win of the year at this event was not lost on Fisher. As a professional, she’s not inclined to dwell on a given event’s individual importance, lest it interfere with the game(s) at hand, but having been on the mend since surgeries sidelined her for a few years, she was getting a little antsy.

“I was getting a worried for a moment there,” she said. “I’d had numerous semifinal wins (since last May; 3, to be exact), so I’m very pleased to have gotten this title.”

“I’m finally feeling that my game is back to where it was a few years ago,” she added.

Fisher was one of 16 seeded competitors who were awarded opening round byes, as the other 32 squared off against each other. Fisher drew Shanelle Loraine out of that original 32, defeated her and joined 12 other players who’d been awarded opening round byes in advancement to the third round. Only Gerda Gregerson, Melissa Little, Line Kjorsvik and Jenna Bishoff from that group of 16 seeded, went to the loss side, sent by (in order) Jeannie Seaver, Dawn Hopkins, Jasmin Ouschan and Teruko Cucculleli.

Fisher went on to defeat Monica Webb 8-1and then survived a double hill battle versus Jennifer Baretta to draw Tzu-Chien Wei in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Jasmin Oushchan, in the meantime, got by Joanne Ashton 8-1, survived her own double hill battle versus Kjorsvik, and downed Dawn Hopkins 8-2 to pick up Jia Li.

Wei defeated Fisher 8-5 and in the hot seat, faced Ouschan, who’d sent Li to the loss side 8-4. A double hill battle ensued for possession of the hot seat. Wei prevailed, sending Ouschan off to a second straight, double hill semifinal matchup against Fisher.

Over on the loss side, there were some top-notch matches brewing as the tournament’s elites moved toward picking up Fisher and Jia Li, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. After losing to Jeannie Seaver in the second round, Gerda Gregerson embarked on a six-match, loss-side streak that saw her eliminate Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Catherine Tschumper and, moving into the early money rounds, Caroline Pao and Emily Duddy. She went on to down Brittany Bryant 8-5 and young Atlantic Cup Challenge competitor, April Larson 8-4 to draw Li.

Fisher drew Tamara Peeters, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak of her own and fresh off something of an 8-1 upset over Teruko Cucculleli. Cucculleli had defeated Allison Fisher on the winners’ side, before being sent over by Jia Li in a winners’ side quarterfinal. She proceeded to eliminate Jessica Barnes, Beth Fondell and jumped into the money pool with an 8-4 win over Loree Jon Hasson. She downed Gail Eaton and Dawn Hopkins, both 8-6 and then, eliminated Cucculleli to reach Fisher.

Fisher gave up only a single rack to Peeters in advancing to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Jia Li, who’d sent Gregerson home 8-6. Fisher won a second straight 8-1 match, eliminating Li 8-1.

That little 16-2 run wasn’t destined to last, as Fisher squared off against Jasmin Ouschan in the semifinals. It was Ouschan’s second straight double hill match, and proved to be the second one in a row that she lost.

With lingering echoes of previous matchups and a nagging little voice that kept telling her that since she’d earned herself a second chance against Tzu-Chien Wei, she’d damn well better take advantage of it, Fisher launched into the finals, in search of her first 2019 win. There are, she noted, generalities about such endeavors, and specifics, related to particular opponents. You have to play ‘your game,’ regardless of opponent, while awareness of specific opponents can inform decisions about approach.

“My main thing,” said Fisher, “is to come out of the gate strong, to keep control of the table.”

“Looking back at previous matches against Wei,” she added, “it was about not allowing her to come back. She’s capable of coming back from behind, so I knew once I had (the lead), I had to keep it.”

As noted in a Biblical proverb – “The heart of Man (Woman) plans his/her way, but the Lord establishes his/her steps.” Fisher lost the opening four racks and immediately switched roles to become the person “capable of coming back from behind.” She allowed Wei only one more rack, before she chalked up 10 to claim that first 2019 title.

“I’ve been practicing quite hard,” she said a few days later from her home in Scotland. “It came down to being patient. I knew I was close (to getting back into previous form), and that there was room to grow.

“I want to win the big ones,” she added, “and it really is just a matter of practice.”

She’ll spend a few days at home, more than likely find time to do some of that practice and then head for China and competition in the 2019 Women’s World 9-Ball Championships, to be held from December 13-20.

WPBA representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Diamond Billiards Products, Aramith, Outsville and Simonis Cloth.