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Toye goes undefeated to win Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour Championship

David Uwate, Justin Toye and Pedro Botta

By almost any measure, Justin Toye’s title-winning run through a field of 77 entrants on hand for the season finale of the Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour (the Tour Championship) was a fight from start to finish. Of his seven opponents, only one of Toye’s opponents chalked up less than five racks against him. And in almost any race to 9, when opponents are closer than four or five racks, almost anything can happen. Runner-up Pedro Botta’s path to the final was even more fraught with ‘close match’ challenges, at least until he got to the loss side, where he won seven matches and only two of his opponents chalked up more than four against him. The 77 entrants who signed on to compete, joined an event that added $3,500 to the purse; $1,000 from the host location, Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL, $2,000 from title sponsor Predator, $300 from the Central Florida USA Pool League and $200 from Skills for Rent, LLC.

After a bye, Toye opened up with three straight 9-6 wins over Mike McPhilomy, Tony Whitman and Randall Mcluckie. He then sent Michael Xiarhos, Sr. to the loss side 9-5 to draw Serafin Serrano in a winners’ side semifinal. Botta, who’d won three on the winners’ side versus George Saunders (9-7), Jose Baez (9-7) and Bret Agler (9-5), got sent to the loss side 9-6 by Justin Gilsinan, who followed him over when he was defeated by Serrano in the following round 9-5. David Uwate, in the meantime, got by Ash Chewkaskie 9-6, Norm Klinkosh 9-2, Malcolm Dodson 9-5 and Marcos Bielostozky 9-7 to pick up Derek Laprairie in the other winners’ side semfinal. 

Toye downed Serrano 9-7 and in the hot seat match, met up with Uwate, who’d sent Laprairie west 9-6. Toye claimed the hot seat over Uwate 9-2 and waited for Botta to complete his seven-match, loss-side winning streak.

It was Serrano who drew Botta on the loss side, four matches into his loss-side run that had included recent wins over Ameet Kukadia 7-4 and Jerry Alverez, double hill. Laprairie picked up Andrew Cleary, who’d lost his opening round match to Tom Decker 9-7 and was working on an impressive eight-match, loss-side winning streak of his own that had recently included three straight double hill wins over Malcomb Dodson, Xiarhos, Sr. and Nate Beal.

Laprairie ended Cleary’s run 7-2, while Botta was taking his next step toward the finals 7-3 over Serrano. Botta downed Laprairie, double hill in the quarterfinals, and then spoiled Uwate’s bid for a second shot against Toye 7-2.

As befitted their separate seven (Toye) and 12-match (Botta) struggles to reach the finals, those finals were, for quite a while, too close to call. Toye pulled out ahead and won by two 11-9.

In their subsequent press release, tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza were enthusiastic about the players who’d played and the sponsors who’d assisted in a myriad of ways, to the success of the 2021 tour and the Tour Championship itself. 

“What a great weekend for our finale of the year,” they noted.

They went on to thank the ownership and staff of Rack’s Billiards for their hospitality and title sponsor Predator Cues “for everything they do, not just for us, but players and events everywhere.” They also thanked Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Skills for Rent, LLC, Central Florida USA Pool League, Diamond Billiard Products and AZ Billiards. They noted contributions from stream commentators Jimmy Antonietta, Kristian Dimitrov and Garza, as well as the assistance of Niki Cuellar and Katie Bowse.

The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour will be the 2022 season opener. Scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 5-6, the event will be hosted by Stroker’s Bar & Grill in Palm Harbor, FL. 

Donny Mills fights loss-side challenge from Linares to win Predator Sunshine State Pro Am stop

Raymond Linares, Donny Mills and Derek Laprairie

They are two of the more recognizeable names in the Florida pool community. Donny Mills and Raymond Linares have been ‘butting heads,’ figuratively speaking, since they both made their first appearances in our database; Mills, in 2003 and Linares, in 2009. They are both veterans of the Seminole Pro Tour, the KF Cues Tour, the Viking Tour, Tommy Kennedy’s Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour, the US Open 9-Ball Championships and lately, the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, where this past weekend (May 1-2), they met in the finals of a $1,500-added event ($500 from a Predator raffle) that drew 52 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL. They missed meeting in the hot seat battle by one match, with Linares having to come from the loss side to challenge Mills in the final. Mills won it to claim his first (recorded) event title since winning Capone’s Labor Day Classic last September.

Mills, who never gave up more than three racks in any match until the final, got by Michael Xiahros, Jr. (3), Han Berber (another Florida veteran; 1), Bobby Garza (3), and Chuck White (3) to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup versus New Jersey’s Desi Derado. Derek Laprairie, in the meantime, who, after an opening round bye, only gave up more than three racks once on his way to the hot seat match, got by Robert Batson (5), Trenton White (3) and Les Duffy (3) to draw Linares in his winners’ side semifinal.

Mills gave up only one rack versus Derado to get into the hot seat match. Laprairie gave up three to Linares to join him. Mills got into the hot seat by a very-popular-at-this-event 7-3 score over Laprairie.

Linares went to work on the loss side against Han Berber, who’d followed his second-round loss with six straight loss-side wins, including a double hill victory over Marcus Murillo and just before meeting up with Linares, a shutout over Chuck White. Derado drew Jerry Arvelaez, who’d followed his winners’ side quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Linares with victories over Lee Heuwagen 7-4 and Les Duffy 7-1.

Derado chalked up another one of those 7-3 wins, over Arvelaez, to earn himself a rematch against Linares, who’d demonstrated to Berber what a shutout felt like. Linares defeated Derado a second time 7-2 and then, got his shot against Mills with a 7-3 win over Laprairie. 

There’d been a baker’s dozen worth of double hill matches at this event and the extended-race-to-9 finals was the last of them. Mills closed out his undefeated run 9-8 to claim the event title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose Del Rio and his Stroker’s staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator, Kamui, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Products, AZBilliards, Central Florida USA Pool League and Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. The next stop on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of June 26-27, will be hosted by Brewlands Carrollwood in Tampa, FL.

Richko goes undefeated in Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour season opener

Jose Del Rio, Kyle Bova, Jason Richko and Joselito Martinez

Cirilo, Cuellar and White awarded Player of the Year honors and prizes

Before this past weekend, the last (reported) time that Jason Richko cashed in a pool tournament was almost exactly one year ago. It was the 2020 season opener for the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour on the weekend of February 1-2 and though he would go undefeated to the hot seat, he was defeated in the finals by the competitor who would go on to become the tour’s 2020 Player of the Year, Obbie Cirilo. On Super Bowl weekend (Feb. 6-7), Richko joined 59 competitors for the tour’s 2021 season opener and once again, he made it to the hot seat. This time, though, he did not get to compete against Cirilo, who lost his second round match and chalked up two on the loss side before being eliminated. Instead, Richko squared off against separate opponents in the hot seat (Kyle Bova) and finals (Joselito Martinez) and finished undefeated. The $1,500-added event drew its 60 entrants to Stroker’s in Palm Harbor, FL.

In addition to the scheduled tournament, the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour took time out to celebrate its annual Players of the Year. As noted above, Cirilo took home the Player of the Year honor, which earned him $300, a plaque, Predator jacket and a variety of Kamui products (bridge, chalk, etc.). As the tour’s top Lady of the Year, Nicolle Cuellar got the same package, except for her cash prize of $75. For the second year in a row, Trenton White picked up cash as the tour’s top Junior Player.

“We want to thank Predator and Kamui for their product donations to our players of the year,” said tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza.

Jason Richko’s path to the title had its share of ups and downs, but among the ‘ups’ were three shutouts out of seven total matches; his opener versus Nick Lewis, and two in a row that put him in the hot seat. After Lewis, he gave up one rack to Derrick Santos and three to Anthony Rotenberry before facing what proved to be his toughest opponent all weekend, Majkell Pacuka, who chalked up more racks against him than all three of his previous opponents combined (5). The victory put Richko into a winners’ side semifinal match against Derrek Laprarie. Kyle Bova, in the meantime, arrived at his winners’ side semifinal match against Alec Saputo, having recorded an equally impressive set of four matches. He had an aggregate score over those four matches of 28-6, including a shutout over Randall McLuckie. 

Bova sent Saputo to the loss side 7-4, as Richko was busy recording his second shutout, over Laprarie. Richko then added a third shutout, over Bova, and claimed the hot seat.

On the loss side, Laprarie picked up Monthep Hongsyok, who’d been responsible, earlier, for knocking out the tour’s Player of the Year (Obbie Cirilo) and had most recently eliminated Michael Xiarhos 7-2 and survived a double hill battle versus the 2020/2021 Junior of the Year, Trenton White. Saputo had the misfortune of drawing the event’s eventual runner up, Joselito Martinez, who’d been sent over by Xiarhos and was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him all the way to the finals. He’d most recently defeated Majkell Pacuka and co-tour director Bobby Garza, both 7-4.

Laprarie and Hongsyok locked up in a double hill fight that did, eventually, send Laprarie to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Martinez, who gave up only a single rack in sending Saputo to the figurative ‘showers.’ 

Both of his next two opponents put up double hill fights against him – first, Laprarie in the quarterfinals and then, Bova in the semifinals – but Martinez proved equal to the task and got by them both for a shot at Richko in the hot seat.

Richko, though, proved equal to the undefeated task he needed to complete. He took the final 9-3 over Martinez to claim the season opening title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Del Rio and their Strokers’ staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Group, Kamui, Diamond Products, USA Pool League, Stitch it to me Embroidery and AZ Billiards. They also added a shout out to Jimmy Antonietta and Rob McLaren for their help on Saturday. The next stop on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 27-28, will feature a 9-Ball Open event and Ladies Open 9-Ball event. Both will be hosted by Brewlands in North Lakeland, FL.