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Ryan Lineham is last man standing in 1,021-entrant SBE Open Amateur at 2024 SBE

Ryan Lineham with sponsor Elvis Rodriguez

An AZ ‘tip of the hat’ to Cecilia (C.C.) Strain for logistical control of the SBE’s largest fields 

While a great deal of the pool community outside of The Greater Philadelphia Expo in Oaks, PA last weekend was focused on the 118-entrant Diamond Open Pro Players Championship, most of the activity in the Expo Center during that week centered on the activity of nearly 2,000 amateurs who gathered to participate in seven different events; 1,901, to be precise. 

Just a little over half of those 1,901 were engaged in a single tournament, The Open Amateur Tournament, which drew 1,021 entrants, requiring utilization of 16, 64-player brackets. And every last one of those competitors, right from the start, were competing in what was the equivalent of the loss side in a double-elimination tournament; in another words, one loss and you’re out. Another set of words for that is single-elimination, which is fine if you’re playing in a group of between 16 and 32 players because you know when you start that you only have to win three matches (with 16) or four matches (with 32). Each individual listed in the 16, 64-player brackets knew that just for starters, they’d have to win five matches in a row, just to win the single bracket and then, win four more matches to become the 30th Annual Super Billiard Expo’s Open Amateur Champion.

That title went to Ryan Lineham of Coventry, RI but with so much to cover, we better get started with Bracket #1 of the 16. Maybe not . . .

There were six other Amateur Player events; A Seniors event (50+) which drew 381 players, a Super Senior event (65+) with 251, a Women’s Division with 184, two juniors event; one for 17 & under (56 entrants) and one for 12 & Under (47 entrants). There was also a 32-entrant, Pro Am event, open to one and all.

There were very few moments throughout the entire weekend (April 11-14), when there weren’t 100s and 100s of pool matches going on at any given moment. This is a regular, commonplace part of the annual Super Billiards Expo. All of the above does not take into account the activities of the TAP League’s Rally in the Valley, an annual team event open only to TAP League members, who form teams on-site at the SBE or have won in TAP League Nationals. 

Rachel Walters with sponsor Steve Dunkel

So, on to (some of) the details. Ryan Lineham, the SBE’s 2024 Open Amateur Champion, has been competing in cash tournaments in the New England area for about a dozen years. His best (recorded) earnings year was in 2018, when he won The Perfect Spot Open Men’s Amateur event in Nanuet, NY and finished third in that year’s Ocean State 9-Ball Championships in Rhode Island. Among the Final 16 in the Open Amateur event at the SBE (in races to 5, best of three sets), he got by mid-Atlantic pool veteran Chris Bruner, Bob Madenjian, local player Derek Schwager in the semifinals and downed another mid-Atlantic veteran in the finals, Danny Mastermaker 5-1, 5-4.

The Seniors event crowned Maryland’s Pat McNally as its champion. McNally chalked up a few wins on a local circuit back in the early ‘aughts;’ ’02, ’03 and ’04, winning two events on the New England Players Tour back then. In the last of those three years, he finished third at a Northeast 9-Ball Open XVI that was won by (now) Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour director, Mike Zuglan. McNally entered the event’s quarterfinals (final eight) and downed Gary Kiersey, took down John Vitale in the semifinals and finished with a 5-3, 5-3 win over Pennsylvania’s Tim Tanana to claim the title.

The Super Seniors contingent of 251 consisted of four, 64-player brackets whittle down to two players each, who advanced to the event semifinals. Ace Aughtry took out James Edwards, as James Sanders ended Tom Waters bid in the other semifinal. Aughtry claimed the title, taking the best-of-three-set final 4-3, 1-4, 4-0.

Pennsylvania’s Rachel Walters, who was Delaware State’s Ladies Bar Box 8-Ball Champion in 2023, in addition to cashing in a few stops on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) that year, took the top prize in the SBE’s Women’s Division. From that division’s four, 64-entrant brackets, Walters advanced to down another JPNEWT veteran, Tina Malm, as Marie France Blanchette eliminated Harley King in the other winners’ side semifinal. Walters claimed the Women’s title 4-1, 3-4, 4-0 over Blanchette.

Niko Konkel with Mom Shannon

Winston-Salem, NC’s Niko Konkel, who’s been making a name for himself as a junior competitor over the past few years, worked his way through the 56-entrant, all-gender field, that included the Tate sisters, Bethany and Noelle, and a host of his fellow competitors on the Junior International Championship series of events, to include Eddie Vondereau and Grayson Vaughn. He met and defeated a JIC veteran, D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain in the event semifinal, as Tanner King was busy eliminating Noelle Tate in the other semifinal. Konkel claimed the title 5-1, 5-3 over King in the final.

The younger set (12 & Under) saw Hayden Ernst, another veteran of the JIC series, take the title from 46 others who competed. Ernst downed Roman Boone in one of the semifinals as Johnny Hammontree eliminated Gavin Matthew. Ernst gave up only one rack over two sets in the final. He gave that one up in the opening set and closed the door with a 5-0 win in the second set to claim the title.

The combination amateur/pro event (ProAm), which, in a way, invites a kind of ‘wannabe’ crowd to take on the more experienced, ‘been there, done that’ crowd. The event drew 64 entrants and saw Nicholas Tofoya claim the title over Jonathan “Hennessee from Tennessee” Pinegar. Tofoya worked his way through the field to meet and defeat Ricky Evans in one of the semifinals, as Pinegar was working on the elimination of New England competitor Kevin Guimond in the other semifinal. In two, races to 6, double-hill matches Tofoya claimed the ProAm title.

Hayden Ernst

Finally, a word here about the folks who put this monumental series of amateur events together and keeps it motoring forward through who knows what kind of aggravation can and probably does occur. We here at AZ tend to hear more regional tournament director gripes than normal because we hear about them more often. And these are folks that are generally dealing with numbers between 32 and 64 (usually). The bigger events, with and without pros, might, on a good day, get 128 pool players in a room (as the Diamond Open Pro Players Championship did at this SBE), but that is just a little more than 1/10th of the multiple events that C.C. Strain has to deal with for the entire weekend of the SBE. And she does it with style, grace and a staff of folks around her that draws its energy and unflappable demeanor from her. They are quite well aided by a central arrangement of desks that is placed on platforms, high enough to keep the crowd at a distance while allowing it to step up and ask the hundreds of hundreds of questions that it brings to that table in a given 15-minute span. There are those who would contend that the SBE Amateur events could not happen without her. There are very few who would argue the point, nor as of this writing, anyone who is making any attempt to challenge her for the job.    

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Shaw wins final battle versus Appleton in Open NineBall Pro Players Championship

Jayson Shaw

Nearly 2,000 entrants, with some event crossovers, compete in Amateur events

As of March 31, three weeks before the Super Billiards Expo opened its doors, the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship was designated as an Official Nineball World Ranking event, and while it did not literally draw its entrance field from everywhere, there was a very evident sense of international competition. The final 16 featured representation from the US (five) and 11 competitors from seven foreign countries – Austria, Germany (2), Russia, the UK (2), Canada (2), the Philippines and Hong Kong (2). The international ‘feel’ of the event was most evident in what was easily among (if not “the”) most anticipated matchup of the four-day event, between the UK’s Jayson Shaw and Russia’s Fedor Gorst. The matchup, which occurred in the single-elimination quarterfinals, lived up to its billing, as the two battled to double hill before Shaw advanced. More on this later, along with the final matchup between Shaw and Darren Appleton, which waited until the 17th of its potential 21 games before Shaw pulled away to win the next two and claim the title. 

There were quite a few “wish I coulda been there” matches throughout the event’s four days, up to and including matches among the final 16, which were, for obvious reasons, witnessed by the SBE’s largest crowds in the Pro arena. Pre-single-elimination, there was the double hill battle between Shaw and Billy Thorpe, which moved Shaw into the final 16, the Fedor Gorst and Ralf Souquet (new school/old school) match that sent Gorst to the final 16, and Appleton’s two straight double hill matches; one win (Jeff Beckley) and one loss (Mhet Vergara), which sent “Dynamite” to the loss side, where a single win, over Bucky Souvanthong, sent him (Appleton) to the final 16. And, as always, any match featuring Earl Strickland as a competitor is always entertaining, whether because of exuberant antics or just plain rock-solid shooting.

The Shaw/Gorst match followed a Shaw “Sweet 16” victory over John Morra 11-6 and a Gorst win over Thorsten Hohmann 11-8. Gorst opened with two straight racks and kept that as a minimum lead until rack #17. By the 12th rack, Gorst was leading by four. Two straight racks that featured Shaw dropping a combination shot that dropped the 9-ball cut that lead in half. Gorst went three-up at 9-6, but Shaw came right back with a break and run that reduced it to two again.

Off a Gorst break, Shaw narrowed the lead to one until that 17th rack, when Shaw came within one. Shaw broke the 18th, but turned the table over briefly, before, with a second chance, he dropped a 3-9 combination that yielded the match’s first tie. Gorst dropped two balls on his break, but Shaw came through to get on the hill with his first lead of the match. Gorst, with a scratch-on-the-break assist from Shaw, made it interesting by winning the 20th, double hill rack.

Gorst broke dry in the deciding rack, but Shaw turned the table back over to Gorst, who promptly scratched shooting at the 2-ball. Shaw ran to the 8-ball and Gorst conceded the game and match. 

Moving into the semifinals, Shaw drew Mario He, who’d earlier defeated Jonathan Pinegar 11-7 and Oscar Dominguez 11-9. Appleton’s path to the finals from the final 16 started out against Earl Strickland. He got by him 11-6 and then downed Joseph Spence 11-3. In the semifinals, Appleton drew Billy Thorpe, who’d recently eliminated Robbie Capito 11-9 and Souquet 11-8. 

Shaw downed He 11-7, as Appleton was busy dispatching Thorpe 11-4. The all-UK battle was on.

In the early going of the finals, it appeared as though neither of them was going to win a rack off their own break. Appleton won the lag, broke dry and Shaw ran the table to take a 1-0 lead. Shaw broke, dropping two balls and scratching. Appleton set up a 1-9 combination to tie it up. They went back and forth like this, winning the other’s break to a single game lead for Shaw at 4-3.

Shaw broke the 8th rack, dropped one, and after giving the table back to Appleton briefly, won the rack, his first off his own break, to take the game’s first two-game lead. He made it a three-game lead (his first of two), before Appleton chalked up two in a row to make it 6-5. Shaw used a terrific jump shot at the 2-ball to maintain his run of rack #12. On Appleton’s break of rack #13, he dropped one ball, but almost immediately gave the table to Shaw, who missed hitting the 1-ball, completely. Shaw saw an obvious 1-9 combination awaiting Appleton’s arrival at the table, so, gentleman that he was, he picked up the cue ball and placed it in the position it needed to be for Appleton to make the combination. He did so without handling the cue ball Shaw had set for him.

Shaw dropped two balls on the break of rack #14 and used another terrific jump shot to jumpstart his third win off his own break and then, off Darren’s break, established his second three-rack lead at 9-6. Appleton fought right back, winning the next two and including his own terrific jump shot at the 1-ball that started his 8th game win.

Ahead by a single rack at 9-8, Shaw broke and ran the 18th (his fourth win off his own break) to reach the hill first. Darren broke the 19th rack, sinking one ball, but couldn’t see the 1-ball. He pushed (the one and only time that happened all match) and Shaw finished the game to claim the event title. 

Amateur events draw 35 shy of 2,000 entrants

Not including the two junior events for ages 17/Under and 12/under, the total entrants for which were not recorded, the nine amateur events of the 2022 SBE drew a total of 1,965 entrants (with some crossover between events). This brought the total number of participating pool players to 2,101. The two Pro events (73 Open and 63 Women) thus represented just 6% of the total number of players who competed this year. Trying to detail 9 events, especially the 996-entrant Open Amateur would be unwieldy, so we offer some information about and congratulations to the 94% percent who were the largest participating contingent of pool players at the 2022 SBE.

6-Ball Amateur Players Championship (200) – 1st Danny Mastermaker, 2nd Fred Goodman III, 3rd Jared Demalia/Daniel Dagotdot

Early Bird Super Seniors (58) – 1st Ike Runnels, 2nd Martin Ciccia, 3rd Al Muccilli/Flaco Rodriguez

Open Amateur (996) – 1st Chris Bruner, 2nd Pat McNally, 3rd Jomax Garcia/Derick Daya

Senior Amateur (364) – 1st Raymond McNamara, 2nd Chris Sutzer, 3rd Javier Perez/Efrain Morales

Super Seniors (149) – 1st Gene Rossi, 2nd Ed Matushonek, 3rd Frank Sorriento/Ace Aughty

Women’s Amateur (166) – 1st Tina Malm, 2nd Ashley Benoit, 3rd Nicole Nester/Bethany Tate

Junior (12 & Under) – 1st Jim Powell, 2nd D’Angelo (“Jaws”) Spain, 3rd Noah Majersky, 4th Evan Demelo

Junior (18 & Under) – 1st Brent Worth, 2nd Payne McBride, 3rd Landon Hollingsworth, 4th Yan Pena

ProAm BarBox (32) – 1st Joe Dupuis, 2nd Alan Rolan Rosado, 3rd Bart Czapla/Joey Tate

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Shaw and Kelly take Pro Championship titles on closing night of the SBE

Jayson Shaw and Kelly Fisher

Bruner and Malm capture Amateur titles

The Annual Super Billiards Expo (SBE), like other tournaments of similar size and length, has a way of building momentum and speed as the week of it goes by. This varies slightly, depending on whether you’re a spectator or a player. As an example, Kelly Fisher, who emerged from a 63-entrant field and went on to become the undefeated WPBA Women’s Pro Players Champion on Sunday, played a single match on Thursday (she’d been awarded an opening round bye) and didn’t play again until Saturday, when she played twice. On Sunday, already among the event’s 16 players to enter the single-elimination phase, she played three times in a row to claim the title. Jayson Shaw, who went on to become the undefeated, 73-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event winner had the same experience. In both cases, the Thursday and Friday experience was a little slower. The Saturday and Sunday experience seemed to flash by like proverbial greased lighting.

The Amateur Players Championship, which featured four short of 1,000 entrants (by far, the most heavily attended event) began on Wednesday and like the Pro events, ended on Sunday. That single-elimination process began with a lot of layover time for the competitors; time which narrowed and eventually, went flying by. Its champion, Chris Bruner, though, was used to it. As a participant at the SBE for about 20 years, he’d finished third at the last one and over the years, had five or so finishes of 5th or better. But playing in the APA, he’d also been a veteran of similar, large-entrant fields, requiring days and days of non-stop pool, or in the early going of such competition, waiting for the non-stop pool to begin.

“It’s tough,” he said, “but with things like the APA Nationals in Vegas, you get used to those long days. You get accustomed to it; the mindset that you have to chill out, relax and go play your game.”

“I’ve been doing it for so long that in the last five or six years, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do,” he added. “Get as much rest as you can, get enough sleep, and just take it day by day.”

Bruner ended up winning 10 matches and only lost two sets. Only once did he compete against someone he knew; Brent Hensley, with whom he has been friends for a long time. To him, the reward had less to do with the $5,000 in cash that he received as the Amateur Champion, than it was about, after all of the years he’d been attending, finally winning it. 

“I’m still on Cloud Nine,” he said, about three hours after the event had ended, around 6:30 on Sunday night. “I’ve been so close for so many years.”

A field of 166 entrants competed in the Women’s Amateur Players Championship. Tina Malm went undefeated through that field to claim the title, downing Ashley Benoit in the finals.

By Saturday night, the WPBA’s 63-entrant Women’s 9-Ball Professional Championship had whittled down to its 16-entrant single elimination phase. The 16 women advancing (in fact, the entire field of the event) featured many of the most highly recognizable names in women’s pool and with the exception of two from the UK (the Fishers, Kelly and Allison), all were from the North American continent; two, being Canadians (Brittany Bryant and Veronique Menard). Among the 47 who did not make the cut were a few junior competitors – Skylar Hess, Savannah Easton and Hayleigh Marion – along with Jeri Engh, who, in her 80s, was the event’s oldest participant. Women of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were well-represented, along with the presence of, though not participation on the part of the tournament’s director, Linda Shea. Along with Kia Burwell and Caroline Pao, who did become two of the final 16, and C.C. Strain, who acted as the tournament director for all of the SBE’s Amateur events, tour members Ada Lio, Kathy Friend, Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Judie Wilson and Shanna Lewis competed.

On Sunday morning, the final eight paired up in four quarterfinal matches. The marquee pairing among them featured the Fishers, who’d last met in the finals of the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic last month. Joann Mason-Parker took on Caroline Pao, Jennifer Baretta faced Kim Newsome and Canada’s Veronique Menard matched up with Teruko Cucculelli.

In races to 11, Kelly Fisher defeated Allison Fisher 11-8 and Joann Mason Parker downed Caroline Pao 11-2. “9mm” Baretta shot down Kim Newsome 11-6 and Cucculelli eliminated Menard 11-9. In the semifinals that followed, Kelly Fisher defeated Mason-Parker 11-4 and in the finals, met Baretta, who’d defeated Cucculelli 11-4.

Fisher and Baretta traded racks through the first five games, after which Kelly was ahead 3-2. She added a rack, off Baretta’s break for a two-rack lead before Baretta came back with two to tie things for the third time at 4-4. Fisher won seven of the next eight games to claim the title.

Look for a report on the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship and the top finishers from the eight Amateur events in a separate report on these pages. 

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Ussery comes from the loss side to take VA State 10-Ball Championships

Manny Chau and BJ Ussery

Junior competitor Precilia Kinsley takes Ladies title

There were times, as the 2022 VA State 10-Ball Championships, held under the auspices of the Action Pool Tour, were playing out, that one might have thought they’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at an event on the Junior International Championships (JIC). In both the concurrently-run Open and Ladies tournament, held this past weekend (April 9-10), there was strong representation from the up-and-coming crowd of junior competitors.

Precilia Kinsley (15) won the Ladies event and though the Open event was won by BJ Ussery, Jr., it was a different kind of junior (Nathan Childress) who sent him to the loss side. Three of the five matches he played after that to get to the finals put him up against Childress a second time and two other prominent male juniors on the JIC roster, Joey Tate and Landon Hollingsworth. All four and Brent Worth, another player on the JIC, competed in the Open event. Kinsley went two-and-out, while Worth went three-and-out in that division. The event drew 46 Open competitors and 20 Ladies to Diamond Billiards in Midlothian, VA.

Ussery’s path to the Open finals was rolling along smoothly through his first three matches, in which he’d given up only one rack, against Luther Pickeral (0), Shane Buchanan (1) and Larry Kressel (0). Then, he ran into Childress, who defeated him 8-5. Childress advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Manny Chau. Hollingsworth became the second junior competitor in the winners’ side semifinals, having, on his way, given up only three racks, once, and two racks twice before facing Danny Mastermaker, who’d given up that many racks in his previous winners’ side quarterfinal win over Mac Harrell.

Mastermaker advanced to the hot seat match, sending Hollingsworth to the loss side 8-6. Chau joined him after downing Childress 8-4. Chau claimed the hot seat 8-1 over Mastermaker and waited on what he, with good reason, might have assumed was one of the three junior competitors still at work on the loss side.

On that loss side of the bracket, Childress drew Scott Roberts, who’d lost his opening match to Larry Kressel and was working on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to come to an end. He’d recently survived two straight double-hill matches against Mac Harrell and Chris Bruner. Hollingsworth drew Ussery, who was working on his own loss-side streak and had recently defeated Reggie Jackson 7-1 and JIC competitor Joey Tate 7-3.

Ussery defeated Hollingsworth 7-3 and advanced to his quarterfinal rematch against Childress, who joined him after putting a stop to Roberts’ loss-side streak 7-1. A little older by a matter of hours and presumably a little wiser, Ussery, Jr. stepped to the proverbial ‘plate’ and battled Childress to a deciding 13th game, his only double hill match of the tournament, before eliminating him.

Ussery then defeated Mastermaker 7-3 in the semifinals and claimed the VA State 10-Ball Championship title with a 9-6 victory Chau in the finals.

Precilia Kinsley and Liz Taylor

Six from JIC (30% of the field) compete, Kinsley comes from the loss side to take the title

Like Ussery, Precilia Kinsley had to come from the loss side to win the Ladies division of the VA State 10-Ball Championships. The winners’ side semifinals in the Ladies tournament featured two juniors against each other in one and two veterans in the other.

Kinsley was one of the juniors. She’d gotten by Cheryl Pritchard and Buffy Jolie to face fellow junior competitor, Bethany Tate in their winners’ side semifinal. Liz Taylor, who, at the same venue, won last October’s VA State Ladies 9-Ball Championship, ran a sort of JIC young ladies’ gauntlet. Four of her five total opponents in the event were JIC competitors. She opened with a victory over Courtney Hairfield (who’d finished 5th/6th in the last JIC 18U Girls division event, two weeks ago) and Hayleigh Marion (double hill) before stepping into her winners’ side semifinal against someone much closer to her in age, Lisa Cossette.

Tate downed Kinsley 6-4, as Taylor was working on a 6-2 win over Cossette. Taylor claimed the hot seat 6-2 over Tate and waited on the return of her last junior competitor.

On the loss side, that competitor, Kinsley, drew fellow JIC competitor Hayleigh Marion, who’d recently eliminated Britt Faries 5-2 and yet another JIC competitor, Savanna Wolford, double hill. Cossette picked up Buffy Jolie, who’d survived a double hill fight versus Courtney Hairfield and defeated Bethany Sykes 5-2 to reach her.

Cossette downed Jolie 5-3 and in the quarterfinals, faced Kinsley, who’d survived a double hill match against Marion. Kinsley defeated Cossette 5-3 and in their semifinal rematch, eliminated Tate 5-3, as well. Kinsley and Taylor came within a game of double hill, but in the end, the youngster edged out in front of the woman who owns a number of VA State titles. Kinsley downed Taylor 7-5 to claim her first. 

A five-entrant Second Chance tournament was won by Chris Bruner, who took home $80 for the effort. Brian Sewell ($20) was runner-up

Tour directors Kris Wylie and Tiger Baker thanked the ownership and staff at Diamond Billiards, as well as sponsors George Hammerbacher and Haselman & Hunt, D.D.S., P.C. Family Dentistry (Haselman & As the Action Pool Tour works on adding two more events to their 2022 calendar, the next scheduled event, to be held on the weekend of November 19-20, will bring the tour back to Diamond Billiards for the VA State 8-Ball Championships. 

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BJ Ussery goes undefeated on first Action Pool Tour stop since February

BJ Ussery and Chris Bruner

“Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that’d been away
Haven’t changed, had much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy”  – Thin Lizzy “The Boys are Back in Town”

They were joined, it should be noted immediately, by a crew of “wild-eyed girls” who’d been away, too. Dorothy Strater, Cheryl Pritchard, Tina Malm, Bethany Sykes, Reene Driskill, Soo Emmett and Sheri Bruner (mother of the tour’s 2019 Champion, Chris Bruner), who, along with 46 other entrants, signed on to last weekend’s (July 17-18) stop on the Action Pool Tour, hosted by Diamond Billiards in Midlothian, VA. It was the first stop on the 2021 tour since the VA State 10-Ball Championships in February, and according to co-tour director Kris Wylie, it will be the last until sometime in September. A previously scheduled event, slated for August 14-15 at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA had to be changed to accommodate amateur league events, scheduled for Las Vegas at the same time. Wylie and room owners, the Wolfords, are still working on details that will determine when, in September, the tour will visit the room.

“We were a little concerned,” noted Wiley of the tour’s return to activity, “what with falling out of the public eye, but we were very happy with the turnout and now, it’s just a matter of sorting out the rest of this year’s schedule.”

Visitors to the Action Pool Tour Web site will note that there’s no tour rankings list as there has been in previous years. That list, normally used to determine who earns entry into a year-end event for the tour, was deemed impractical, given the unexpected cancellation of stops and the ongoing plans for future events.

“We determined that there was no real value to have ‘points leaders’ at this point,” Wylie explained, adding that there will be a year-end event for the tour, but that a means of determining some way to get participants invited is still in the planning stages. “We just couldn’t come up with a way of having a tour leader right now.”

BJ Ussery would likely have been a candidate for top spot on this year’s tour rankings list on the basis of his undefeated run at this past weekend’s event. He came out of the gate real fast, giving up only four racks through his first 36 games to Jamie Bess (0), Graham Swinson (2), Kelly Farrar (0) and James Coleman (2). He drew Collin Hall in one of the winners’ side semifinals.

Ussery’s eventual hot seat opponent, Mac Harrell, had a little different experience with his trip to a winners’ side semifinal matchup versus Scott Roberts. Harrell chalked up the same 32 games-won as Ussery, but he gave up 16 racks to Enrique Barrios (4), Jason Trigo (3), David Parker (4) and David Hunt (5).

Ussery and Harrell downed Hall and Roberts, both 8-5. Ussery claimed the hot seat 8-3 over Harrell, though over his last two matches, he’d dropped his game-winning average from 88% down to 80%. 

On the loss side, Scott Roberts drew Graham Swinson, who followed his 2nd round loss to Ussery with a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that had begun when he eliminated Sheri Bruner, thereby eliminating any hope of a mother-son matchup somewhere down the loss-side line. He had most recently eliminated Thomas Dorsey 7-5 and shut out James Coleman. Collin Hall picked up Chris Bruner, who’d lost a double hill fight to Scott Roberts in one of the winners’ side quarterfinals and realizing that he was not going to have to face his mother in a loss-side match, went on to defeat Shane Buchanan and David Hunt, both 7-4. 

Bruner advanced to the quarterfinals 7-3 over Hall. Roberts joined him for their rematch after ending Swinson’s loss-side streak 7-4. As had happened on the winners’ side, Bruner and Roberts locked up in a double hill fight. The ending was different, with Bruner advancing to face and defeat Mac Harrell 7-5 in the semifinals.

Two very familiar faces in the mid-Atlantic pool scene and to each other squared off in the finals; one, thus far undefeated and the other, having won five on the loss side for the right to play the final match. Ussery prevailed 9-6 to claim his first event title of 2021.

As for the aforementioned ladies who signed on to compete (Sheri Bruner, Dorothy Strater, Cheryl Pritchard, Bethany Sykes, Reene Driskill, Soo Emmet & Tina Malm), Tina Malm advanced the furthest, finishing in the money in the four-way tie for 9th place. 

Tour directors Kris Wylie and Tiger Baker thanked the ownership and staff at Diamond Billiards for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Haselman & Hunt Family Dentistry, George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor) and CSI. As noted, the August 14-15 stop on the Action Pool Tour has been postponed to a date-to-be-determined in September. Visit the tour’s Web site,, for a future announcement.

Bruner wins two-match battle with Haas to claim On the Hill Productions’ Summer Slam

Loye Bolyard, Scott Haas, Chris Bruner and Rick Scarlato, Jr

As with most pool players, not to mention good folks everywhere, 2020 was a bit of an ‘off’ year for Chris Bruner. Having recorded his best earnings year in 2019 (of 14 years on record), when, in eight of the 10 tournaments in which he cashed, he finished among the top five and won four of those eight, he finished ‘in the money’ only twice in 2020; 3rd and 13th in stops on the Action Pool Tour. Before last Saturday’s (June 12) Summer Slam, held under the auspices of On the Hill Productions at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD, he’d already cashed in two events, finishing 3rd at the VA 10-Ball Championships in February and 4th at a stop on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour a couple of weeks ago (May 29-30). Scott Haas sent Bruner to the semifinals in the Summer Slam, but Bruner came back to down him in the finals to claim the title. The event drew 39 entrants to Brews & Cues. 

Bruner won his first three matches, versus Rick Wilson, Garrett Vaughan and fellow ‘2020-was- an-off-year’ competitor, Steve Fleming by an aggregate score of 21-4. This set him up to face Jimmy Varias in a winners’ side semifinal. Scott Haas, in the meantime, ran into some tough competition in his opening three. He opened against Brett Stottlemyer and after sending him to the loss side 7-4, ran into co-tour director Rick Scarlato, Jr., who gave him a double-hill run for his money, before joining Stottlemyer on the loss side. Haas then defeated Joshua McCauley 7-3 to draw Dylan Spohr in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Two double hill matches determined the competitors for the hot seat match; Bruner over Varias and Haas over Spohr. A third double hill battle left Haas in the hot seat and Bruner on his way to the semifinals.

On the loss side, Spohr picked up a by-now very determined Brett Stottlemyer, who’d followed his loss against Scott Haas with six straight loss-side victories that included wins over Scott Haas’ son, Thomas and the other co-tour director, Loye Bolyard. Stottlemyer had more recently eliminated Bryan Jones 7-4 and in the only double-hill match he played, Russ Redhead. Spohr, in the meantime, picked up Steve Fleming, who’d been sent to the loss side by Bruner in a winners’ side quarterfinal and then, defeated Scarlato, Jr. 7-4 and Trey Frank 7-2.

Spohr sent Fleming home 7-4. He was joined in the quarterfinals by Varias, who’d ended Stottlemyer’s loss-side run 7-5. Spohr then ended Varias’ day 7-4.

Spohr had his brief, loss-side run stopped at two by Bruner, who defeated him 7-3 in the semifinals for a second shot at Scott Haas in the hot seat, waiting for him. They almost repeated their double hill hot seat match, but in the end, Bruner pulled out ahead to win it by two 7-5.

Tour directors Loye Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. of On the Hill Productions thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues for their hospitality, as well as sponsors AlleyKat Cue Sports,, Aramith Balls, Lucid Ballsports (Predator Arena Light), Mezz Cues, Turtle Racks, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region and Safe Harbor Retirement Planners. The next On the Hill Productions event, scheduled for July 24-25, will be the MD State 8-Ball Championships, to be hosted by Champion Billiards in Frederick, MD. 

Wolford goes undefeated at Memorial Day weekend stop on Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour

Shane Wolford

Next tour stop to benefit tour veteran, Anthony Mabe, who passed away this past weekend 

In the midst of his best earnings year to date at the tables, former junior competitor, Shane Wolford, added a victory on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour to his resume this past weekend (May 29-30). He recorded that win at the site where he recorded his first cash payout, four years ago. Wolford joined the AZBilliards database in April, 2017, when he finished 4th at a stop on the tour, hosted by The Clubhouse in Lynchburg, VA. He’s cashed in six events so far this year, including a victory at the Maryland State Bar Table 9-Ball Championships in April and went undefeated at the $1,000-added event that drew 66 entrants to The Clubhouse. 

Wolford and Jody Musselman would battle twice for the title, in the usual-suspect places, hot seat and finals. Wolford advanced through the field to face Josh Shultz in one of the winners’ side semifinals, as Musselman faced Anthony Johnson in the other one. 

Wolford downed Shultz 10-4 to get into the hot seat match. Musselman joined him after dispatching Johnson to the loss side 6-1. Wolford claimed the hot seat 10-3 over Musselman and waited on his return.

On the loss side, Shultz ran into Chris Bruner, a mid-Atlantic pool veteran, who’d lost his opening match, double hill, to Scott Roberts and embarked on a nine-match, loss-side winning streak, destined to take him as far as the quarterfinals. He chalked up wins #7 & #8 against The Clubhouse owner Chris England (10-1) and Daniel Guill (10-3). Johnson drew Cameron Lawhorne, who’d recently defeated Brian Crist 7-1 and Chris Funk 7-5 to reach him.

Lawhorne defeated Johnson 7-3 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Bruner, who’d dispatched Shultz 10-4. Bruner and Lawhorne battled to double hill for the right to advance. It was Lawhorne who did so, ending Bruner’s loss-side streak.

Lawhorne followed Bruner to the figurative ‘showers,’ when Musselman defeated him 6-5 in the semifinals (Lawhorne racing to 7). Wolford completed his undefeated run with a 10-3 victory in the finals. 

Tour director Herman Parker thanked Chris England and his Clubhouse staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues,, Dirty South Grind Apparel Co., AZBilliards, Federal Savings Bank mortgage division and Diamond Brat.

The next stop on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for this coming weekend (June 5-6) will be an unexpected benefit for the family of Anthony Mabe, who passed away from injuries related to an automobile accident, which occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 30. A long-time member of the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour and close friend of tour director Herman Parker, the tour stop, which will be hosted by Gate City Billiards Club in Greensboro, NC, will raise funds to help defer the cost of funeral arrangements, at a date to be determined.

Ussery comes from the loss side to win win VA State 10-Ball Championships

(l to r): Reymart Lim, TD Tiger Baker & BJ Ussery

Taylor becomes only 4th woman since 2013 to win VA State Women’s 10-Ball title
It’s a little early to start making predictions or get too much of a ‘read’ on a tour’s point standings (at least those that run on a calendar year schedule), but the Action Pool Tour’s second stop provided some intriguing information. It wasn’t so much about who’s in the top spots at this point, but who, among last year’s top players are apparently starting out a little slow. Stop #2 on the Action Pool Tour – the 2020 VA State 10-Ball Open Championships – drew 73 entrants to Diamond Billiards in Midlothian, VA on the weekend of February 15-16. Six of last year’s top 10 players in the tour’s final standings competed in this event. Two finished out of the money, including the event’s defending champion, RJ Carmona. Three, including last year’s tour champion, Chris Bruner, finished in the first money round. Reymart Lim, who finished in 4th place overall last year and won this year’s season opener was this event’s runner-up. In his first appearance on the tour in seven years, BJ Ussery came from the loss side to earn a finals rematch against Lim, which he won to claim the event title.
Meanwhile, the 2020 VA State Women’s 10-Ball Championships drew 16 women to the same location. As they did last year, Liz Taylor and Janet Atwell battled twice to claim this title. The results of those two battles were a reverse of last year’s; Atwell, winning the first and Taylor, winning the final (more on this a bit later).
Ussery’s appearance on the Action Pool Tour is a reflection of his desire to play generally stronger opponents than those he tends to face on regional handicapped tours. The last time he’d appeared on the APT, he’d finished 7th in the inaugural (2013) VA State 10-Ball Championships.
“I’m hoping to play in more of these (APT events) this year,” said Ussery. “I want to play against better players and compete in the some of the bigger events, like the US Open or the Super Billiards Expo.”
Any time at table, ultimately, is good time at table, but playing in a handicap system, no matter which one it is, carries a downside. According to Ussery, it’s less about the game and more about human nature.
“I get so used to giving up a handicap,” Ussery explained, “that when I get into a non-handicap game, it’s hard for me to bear down.”
His opening matches tended to demonstrate this. Ussery opened with an 8-6 win over Reggie Jackson, had a strong 8-1 victory over Jonathan Syphanthavong, and then gave up five against Shorty Davis. He had to win a deciding, 15th game in his fourth match, against Justin Martin. Nathan Childress chalked up six against him next, but Ussery prevailed and advanced to his first meeting against Reymart Lim, in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Lim had downed Barry Mashburn, RJ Carmona, Larry Kressel and shut out Greg Sabins (last year’s #12 in the point standings) to reach Ussery. Shane Wolford and Eric Moore (the APT’s 2016 Tour Champion) squared off in the other one.
By identical 8-1 scores, Lim and Wolford advanced to the hot seat match over Ussery and Moore. Lim and Wolford then locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Wolford to the semifinals and left Lim in the hot seat.
Ussery opened up on the loss side against Mike Davis, who was working on a five-match winning streak that was about to end and had included recent wins over Kelly Farrar 7-3 and Justin Martin 7-2. Moore picked up Scott Roberts, who’d been shut out by Greg Sabins in the second round and was working on his own seven-match, loss-side streak that included a successful 7-5 rematch against Sabins and a 7-5 victory over Nathan Childress, which led to Moore.
Ussery ended Davis’ streak 7-3 and in the quarterfinals, faced Roberts, who’d defeated Moore 7-4. Ussery ended Roberts’ streak and Wolford’s short visit to the loss side in the semifinals, both 7-5.
Going into the final match, Ussery was mindful not only of the earlier matchup, in which Lim had allowed him only a single rack, but previous matchups, as well. They’d faced each other on a number of occasions over the years, and playing against him, Ussery knew what the difference was.
“I knew he was a good player when we’d met before,” said Ussery, “but I knew then, that part of the reason he was beating me was that he’d been putting in the time.”
“These days,” Ussery added, “I’m as prepared as anybody.”
Ussery spoiled Lim’s bid for a second straight win on the APT. He defeated him 10-8 to claim his first APT title.
Taylor spoils Atwell’s bid for a third straight, sixth overall VA State 10-Ball Woman’s title.
[photo id=51605|align=right]Since 2013, there have been four women who’ve claimed the VA State Women’s 10-Ball title. Tracie Majors won it in 2014 and Meredith Lynch captured the title in 2017. Janet Atwell has claimed the title five times; once in its inaugural year (2013) and then, back-to-back, twice (’15,’16, ’18, ’19). Last year, Atwell was defeated by Liz Taylor, double hill, in the hot seat match and came back to down Taylor 8-2 in the finals to claim her second straight and fifth overall title.  This year, at the event that drew 16 entrants (one more than last year), they reversed things. Taylor was defeated in the hot seat match and came back to defeat Atwell in the finals and claim the 2020 women’s title.
It took them each three matches to meet for the first time in the hot seat match. Atwell got by Nicole King, Tina Nash and, in a winners’ side semifinal, shut out Hayleigh Marion. Taylor defeated Soo Emmett, Christy Norris and, in her winners’ side semifinal, survived a double hill match against Lisa Cossette. Atwell claimed the hot seat 6-1.
Taylor’s return faced a stiff challenge from Deeqa Nur, who’d been defeated in the opening round of play by Cheryl Sporleder and came back through five opponents to draw Taylor in the semifinals. Nur battled to double hill against two of those opponents. She picked up Hayleigh Marion, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal and defeated her, just ahead of downing Lisa Cossette in a double hill quarterfinal. Taylor spoiled the strong, loss-side bid 5-3 in the semifinals.
And so it was, that for the second year in a row, Liz Taylor and Janet Atwell battled for the State of Virginia’s Women’s 10-Ball title. In a reversal of fortunes, Taylor gave up only one rack to Atwell in claiming the event title 8-1.
Tour directors Kris Wylie and Tiger Baker thanked the ownership and staff at Diamond Billiards for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Full Stroke Billiards Apparel and Haselman & Hunt, D.D.S., P.C. Family Dentistry. The next stop on the Action Pool Tour, scheduled for March 28-29, will be a Double Points event – The East Coast Landscaping Bar Box Bash – to be hosted by Peninsula Billiards in Newport News, VA.

Wilkie goes undefeated to capture his third Maryland State title in eight years

Shaun Wilkie

Shaun Wilkie has chalked up his fair share of tournament victories over the years, dating back to our first recorded awareness of his presence 20 years ago, when he finished 9th at a stop on the Planet Pool Tour in Pikesville, MD. His first recorded victory in an event came two years later on that same tour. Since that time, he’s gone on to win events on the Action Pool Tour (APT; lots of them), the Blaze Tour, the Mezz Pro Am Tour, the Predator Pro Am Tour, the Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour and various State of Virginia championships. With two exceptions, however, he’s had a difficult time securing a victory at a tournament with “Maryland” in its official title. He came close four times last year, finishing as runner-up in the MD State 10-Ball, 9-Ball Bar Table, and 9-Ball Championships and third in the MD State 8-Ball Championships. The two exceptions in this ‘drought’ was a victory in the Maryland State 8-Ball, two years ago and a victory in the Maryland Open, eight years ago.
Wilkie ended his extended Maryland State drought with a victory at the 2020 Mezz Cues Maryland State Bar Table 8-Ball Championships on the weekend of February 8-9. He went undefeated through the field of 105 entrants, at the event, hosted by Brews & Cues on the Blvd. in Glen Burnie, MD.
Wilkie and long-time opponent Rick Molineiro battled twice for this title. Molineiro’s career, while not as illustrious or as successful as Wilkie’s, began, in our records, with a 5th place finish on the Planet Pool Tour in 2001. Like Wilkie, Molineiro’s a regular competitor on the Action  Pool Tour and also like Wilkie, has found limited success in Maryland, although he did finish third at this event last year.
They met first in the hot seat, once Wilkie had disposed of his winners’ side semifinal opponent, Tom D’Alfonso 6-2 and Molineiro had defeated another APT veteran, Steve Fleming, 6-4 in the other one. In their first of two, they battle to double hill before Wilkie prevailed to claim the hot seat.
On the loss side, Fleming ran right into Kristina Tkach, the young Russian woman, who’s a strong competitor in the ‘stable’ of Roy’s Basement. Tkach had lost her third-round match to Wilkie and was in the midst of an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that would take her as far as the semifinals. She had recently eliminated Del Sim, double hill, and Roger Haldar 6-4 to draw Fleming. D’Alfonso drew Eddie Abraham, who’d recently defeated Tom Zippler and Shane Wolford, both 6-4.
Tkach eliminated the Action Pool Tour’s 2018 Tour Champion and last year’s runner-up, Steve Fleming 6-1. She was joined in the quarterfinals by Abraham, who’d defeated D’Alfonso 6-3. In a double hill quarterfinal, Tkach prevailed and advanced to meet Molineiro in the semifinals.
Molineiro was arguably playing ‘above his weight’ in the semifinals; up against an opponent with four event victories last year alone, to include a win on the APT, downing Chris Bruner, the tour’s #1 competitor at the time, in the hot seat and finals. Had Chris not won the semifinals, Tkach would have faced Wilkie in the finals of that event. Molineiro pulled it off, though, downing Tkach in this event’s semifinals 6-4 to earn himself a second shot at Wilkie in the hot seat.
Momentum may have been on Molineiro’s side, but Wilkie wasn’t interested. He took command of the only set that proved necessary, downing Molineiro 6-2 to complete his first Maryland State title run in two years.
Event directors at On the Hill Productions, Loye Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues on the Blvd., as well as title sponsor Mezz Cues, Lights Out Billiards Apparel, TAP Pool League (Chesapeake Bay Region), Billiard Sports Network for their stream of the event throughout the weekend, AZBilliards, Aramith Balls, Simonis Cloth, and Turtle Racks. On the Hill Productions will return to Brews & Cues on the Blvd. for their next scheduled event, the MD State Bar Table 9-Ball Championships, to be held on the weekend of April 4-5.

Reymart Lim comes back from hot seat loss to claim Action Pool Tour season opener

(l to r): Reymart Lim & Nathan Childress

It marked the second year in a row that Reymart Lim had won the Action Pool Tour’s (APT) season opener at Q Master Billiards in Virginia Beach, VA. Last year at this time, he went undefeated through a field of 49 to win his first of two APT events; the second came in March. This year, there was just a little hitch in his get-along, as he succumbed to Nathan Childress in the battle for the hot seat and had to come back from a semifinal versus 2019’s Tour Champion, Chris Bruner, for a second shot at Childress. He took that second shot and won the match to claim his first 2020 title. In the past four years, Lim has finished, in order, 29th, 13th, 5th and 4th in the APT’s final tour standings. If he’s looking to improve (and why wouldn’t he be?), this could be the year he secures that APT Tour Champion title. Winning this event that drew 53 entrants to Q Master Billiards on the weekend of January 18-19 was a good start.
Lim got a bye out of a preliminary round and started his march to the winners’ circle with an 8-1 victory over Graham Swinson. He then defeated Bill Duggan 8-4 and Johnathan Syphanthavong 8-3 to draw a winners’ side semifinal match against Scott Roberts, who finished two spots below him on last year’s tour standings list. Childress, in the meantime, who was the Billiards Education Foundation’s 14-and-under Junior National Champion two years in a row (’15 & ’16) and was looking to secure what would be (according to our records) his first major regional tour title, opened with an 8-5 victory over RJ Carmona, who finished one step above Lim last year. After Carmona, Childress sent Jason Trigo (double hill), Reggie Jackson (8-4) and another junior player, Shane Wolford (8-4) to the loss side to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against Bruner.
Childress sent Bruner west 8-6 and in the hot seat match, faced Lim, who’d defeated Roberts, double hill. Childress claimed the hot seat 8-4 and waited in it for Lim to get back from the semifinals.
On the loss side, Bruner picked up Nilbert Lim (no relation to Reymart, although a close friend), who’d lost a double hill match to Scott Roberts in the second winners’ side round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had most recently included two victories in which he’d allowed his opponents only a single rack, combined; none to Syphanthavong and one to Mac Harrell. Roberts drew David Hunt (5th in the 2019 standings), who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal match to Bruner and gone on to defeat David Givens, double hill and Shane Wolford 7-4.
Roberts moved on to the quarterfinals with a 7-2 win over Hunt. Bruner, flexing his muscles a bit, shut Nilbert Lim out to join him. Bruner then defeated Roberts 7-5 in those quarterfinals.
Reymart Lim stepped into the semifinal ‘frame,’ flexing a few muscles of his own. He gave up only a single rack to Bruner, to earn himself a second shot at Childress.
Childress didn’t give up his shot at his first major ‘pro’ title easily. He fought tooth and nail to double hill before Lim sealed his first 2020 victory 10-9.
A Second Chance event drew eight entrants. It was won by Graham Swinson, who came back from a 5-2 hot seat loss to shut Johnathan Syphanthavong out 6-0.
Tour directors Kris Wylie and Tiger Baker thanked the ownership and staff at Q Master Billiards, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, Aramith Balls, Simonis Cloth. Viking Cues, Brown’s Mechanical LLC, Kamui, Diamond Billiard Products, Ozone Billiards, CSI, Grant Wylie Photography and George Hammerbacher, Advanced Pool Instructor. The next stop on the 2020 APT, scheduled for February 15-16, will be the VA State 10-Ball Championships, hosted by Diamond Billiards in Midlothian, VA.