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Sykes from the JPNEWT wins first major at NAPT Division II Championships in Phoenix

Bethany Sykes (photo courtesy of NAPT – Playnapt.com)

Prior to her start and victory at the $5,000-added North American Pool Tour’s 3rd Annual Division II Championships, held from February 21-24 at Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ, Bethany Sykes had only one major victory on her brief, two-year, four-event, cash payout resume; two of those payouts were earned on the J. Pechauer Northeast Womens’ Tour (JPNEWT) and two, including the only victory, came on the Action Pool Tour (APT), where, this past November, she won the Virginia State Ladies 8-Ball Championships. It should be noted that the Ladies’ VA State 8-Ball event featured a field of only five entrants, although as they say, a win is a win is a win. For Sykes, though, the NAPT Div. II Championships were her “first big tournament” and the win was like gravy on a main meal of just being thrilled to be there and the four-day joy of participation.
 
“It was an incredible feeling,” she said of her first impressions, “just to be there with that many women in the room (64 entrants).”
 
“It was an awesome experience,” she went on to say, noting that it was her first time playing in a round robin event, and the first time she’d ever had to deal with a shot clock. “I found that the 30 seconds gave me no time for indecision about what could go wrong. There was no thinking about anything but the shot.”
 
As her resume indicates, she’s only been playing the sport competitively for the past couple of years, although she says she’s been in love with the game since she was about nine years old. She got her first cue when she was 16 and now, at 31, she’s crossed a big threshold and won her first major tournament. Her appearances on the JPNEWT and APT over the last year or two helped her to identify and improve some of the basics to which she had not been exposed previously.
 
“I never knew where to put my feet,” she said of her early attempts to develop a stance. “I got a lesson from Karen Corr about five months ago, and she told me where to put my feet.”
 
With her feet sorted out, Sykes joined 63 other women from seven regional ladies pool tours at these Division II Championships; six from the United States and four women from a ladies tour out of Quebec. The most heavily represented tour among the seven was the Texas-based Jerry Olivier Pool Tour (JO), with 14 entrants, about 22% of the field. The Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) was next with 12, followed by the ‘hometown’ Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour (AWBT), which had 11. The West Coast Women’s Tour (WCWT) sent 9. The JPNEWT contributed 8 (including Sykes), the North Central Pool Tour (NCPT) checked in with 6, while  four women represented the ‘Circuit de Billard Feminine du Quebec.’
 
They broke up into eight round robin flights of eight players each, beginning on Thursday, February 21. Sykes, in Group Two, representing the JPNEWT, was paired with a primarily West Coast field; Cassie Francois and Elaine Eberly from the NWPA, Ginger Bowen from the WCWT, Jaye Succo and Leandra Gaff from the AWBT, Tam Trinh from the JO and Marilou Therrien from the Canadian league.
 
Sykes opened her campaign at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning with a 5-2 win over Francois. In round two, she got by Eberly 4-2 and then, in the final match of the opening day, she survived a double hill fight (4-3) against Trinh, which would prove to be highly significant later. As measured by total games won, she was the ‘flight’ leader at the end of that first day, with 13 games won. Gaff, Trinh and Therrien were second with 12 each.
 
Day two didn’t start out as well. Succo defeated her 5-2. Though Gaff and Therrien had been defeated, as well in the fourth round, Trinh downed Bowen 5-2, putting her out in front (by game points) 17-15.
 
“In that morning match (on the second day),” said Sykes, “(Succo) came out on fire. And from being ahead by one, I was all of a sudden behind by two games.”
 
Sykes survived a double hill (4-3) battle against Therrien in round 5, as Trinh lengthened her game lead by one more, with a 5-2 defeat of Eberly. With the game score between them now at 22-19, in favor of Trinh, they both chalked up 5-2 wins; Sykes over Bowen and Trinh over Succo. The game score between Sykes and Trinh was now at 27-24, with a single match to play.
 
Since the top four in each flight would advance to a 32-player, double elimination bracket, Sykes’ advancement at that point, short of being shut out or winning only a single game in the final match, was pretty much assured. Sykes sealed the deal with a 6-1 victory over Gaff that left her with 30 total wins. When Trinh fell to Francois 5-2 in that final round, she ended up with 29 total wins, allowing Sykes, by a single win (reflected in their earlier match), to enter the double elimination phase as the winner of her individual flight.
 
Heather Cortez, from the AWBT, with 37 total wins in her round robin flight was the top winner in her flight as well as the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event. Other top winners from the individual round robin flights were Michelle Cortez, from the Jerry Olivier Tour, in second place overall with 36 total wins. Susan Williams, with 35, from the AWBT was third. Suzanne Smith, from the NWPA, was fourth with 34, Natalie Chabot (from Canada) and Sykes’ eventual opponent in the hot seat and finals, Kim Pierce from the JO, were tied for fifth with 33 wins each. Yang Liu from the West Coast Women’s Tour was sixth with 31 total wins. Though she’d enter the double elimination phase of the event as the winner of her flight, Sykes was last among the individual flight winners advancing to the final two days of the event. Advancement to the double elimination rounds guaranteed all 32 participants at least of the share of the total $11,400 prize package.
 
“The Round Robin was so scary,” she said. “Every single game mattered. I grew from the experience, though. That Round Robin hardened me.”
 
Seven down, seven to go.
 
Over the next two days, Sykes played seven more matches; four on the winners’ side, one on the loss side, and two in the double elimination final. None were against the opponents she’d faced in her own round robin flight, one was against the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event (Heather Cortez) and three were against Pierce.
 
To get into their first match together, Sykes and Pierce would eventually, in the two winners’ side semifinals, have to get by two AWBT opponents. Sykes opened her winners’ side campaign on Saturday morning, February 23, against Gigi Callejas from the West Coast Women’s Tour, downing her 7-3. She followed that with victories over Jennifer Kraber (JO) 7-3 and then, defeated the overall round robin winner, AWBT’s Heather Cortez 7-4, to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against a formidably more experienced opponent, another AWBT entrant, Bernie Store. Pierce, in the meantime, had defeated Nicole Donisi from the NWPA 7-3, both Janna Nelson (7-5) and Khanh Ngo (7-3) from the West Coast Women’s Tour and arrived at her winners’ side semifinal match against yet another AWBT entrant, Susan Williams.
 
Sykes and Pierce got into the hot seat match with identical 7-5 wins over Store and Williams. In their first of three, Pierce claimed the hot seat in a double hill match.
 
“I got on the hill and things just fell apart,” said Sykes of that hot seat match, “and I couldn’t get it back together.”
 
On the loss side, Store picked up Ngo, who, following her defeat at the hands of Pierce, had defeated Stephanie Hefner 7-2, and survived a double hill match against Michelle Cortez. Williams drew Heather Cortez, who, following her defeat at the hands of Sykes, had shut out Kelly Jones and eliminated Tam Trinh 7-5.
 
Heather Cortez and Williams locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Cortez to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Ngo, who’d defeated Store 7-4. Cortez and Ngo had faced each other on the opening day of the round robin matches, with Cortez winning that battle 5-2. This time, in the quarterfinals, it was Ngo who came out on top, winning it 7-5.
 
Sykes, though, having so unexpectedly, but joyfully arrived at this spot in her “first big tournament” was in no mood to let it go. She downed Ngo 7-2 in those semifinals and turned for a second and, necessary in a double elimination format, third shot at Pierce in the hot seat. They locked up in their second straight double hill battle in the opening set, but this time, it was Sykes coming out of it with the win. She completed her 12-2 run with a decisive 7-2 win over Pierce in the second set.
 
“People tell me I have no sense of tension,” said Sykes. “I always feel as though I’m in the right place at the right time. That was what made the whole thing exciting.”
 
“I went out there to get into the top four,” she added. “That was my goal as soon as I read about the tour. This was my first opportunity to get to that level and I spent the week before, imagining what it would be like; thinking of how I’d be telling my Dad about it afterwards.”
 
Exactly one week later, on the first weekend in March, Sykes rejoined her JPNEWT comrades, competing on the tour’s season opener at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. In a field of 22, Sykes had the misfortune of running into tour director Linda Shea, who defeated her in the opening round. She’d win two on the loss side before finishing in the tie for 9th place when she was defeated by Sharon O’Hanlon.
 
And so it goes, in the world of the emerging amateur into the world of the best in pool. Up one day, down the next. She remains somewhat in awe of her “first big tournament” win and is looking ahead at better things to come. She expects, looking ahead to competing at the Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Pro 9-Ball event, her first shot at the Pro level, to continue improving. She is also keenly aware that pool careers, like the tournaments along the way, can be a relentless series of hills and valleys.
 
“My goal,” she said, “is to make the gaps between them smaller and smaller.”
 
“I expect to be playing with the best of them,” she said of her hopes for the next five years. “I have no aspirations of anything in particular, just to be playing at that level.”

Smith goes undefeated to take NWPA stop #4 in Tacoma, WA

Clark Smith (owner of Malarkey’s), Kim Jones, Suzanne Smith and Ford

Suzanne Smith went undefeated to win the fourth stop on the Northwest Women's Pool Association Tour on the weekend of June 24-25. She had to get by Kim Jones twice to win it; once in a winners' side semifinal and again, in the finals. The $500-added, 10-Ball event drew 17 entrants to Malarkey's Pool & Brew in Tacoma, WA.
 
After an opening round bye, Smith downed Alicia Kvaanika 7-1 and Stephanie Hefner, double hill, to draw Jones in the winners' side semifinal. Cassie Francois, in the meantime, having defeated Clara Silvas and Andy Ruth, both 7-4, drew Teri Klyzek in the other winners' side semifinal. Smith sent Jones to the loss side 7-5, and in the hot seat match, faced Francois, who'd sent Klyzek to the loss side 7-2. Smith gave up only a single rack to claim the hot seat over Francois, and waited on the return of Jones.
 
On the loss side, Jones began her trek back to the finals against Ruth, who'd defeated Elaine Eberly 6-2 and Jing Liu 6-1 to reach her. Klyzek picked up Sarah Myer-Mitchell, who'd eliminated Hefner and Silvas, both 6-2, to reach her.
 
Jones and Myer-Mitchell advanced to the quarterfinals; Jones 7-2 over Ruth and Myer-Mitchell 7-3 over Klyzek. Jones won the quarterfinal match 7-3 over Myer-Mitchell and shut out Francois in the semifinals for a second shot against Smith.
 
In their second match, a race to 9 in the finals, Smith and Jones battled back and forth to a 6-6 tie before Smith jumped ahead by two to reach the hill first. Jones chalked up a seventh rack, but Smith closed it out at 9-7 to claim the title, and earn the North American Pool Tour qualification that came with the top prize money.

Kirk come back from semifinals to defeat Cole and win third stop on the NWPA Tour

Kimberly Kirk-Lengel has been playing on the Northwest Women's Pool Association (NWPA) tour for nearly 15 years now, and on the weekend of May 14-15, she chalked up her third overall tour victory and her second within the past year. She's been working her way up the 'finish' ladder since the 2016 tour began, back in February. She was third on the first stop, second on the second, and now, has added a victory which puts her at the top of the NWPA rankings list, 165 points ahead of Suzanne Smith, and 325 points ahead of the woman she defeated in the finals of the most recent stop, Liz Cole. The $500-added event drew a short field of 16 entrants to Ballad Town Billiards in Forest Grove, OR.
 
After being awarded an opening round bye, Kirk defeated Teri Klyzek 7-5, and Kirsten Fery 7-4,which set her up in a winners' side semifinal against Rebecca Slyter. Liz Cole, in the meantime, got by Elaine Eberly 7-3, and Ricci Jeanbart 7-2 to draw Stephanie Hefner in the other winners' side semifinal. Kirk sent Slyter to the loss side 7-3, as Cole was sending Hefner over by the same score. Cole claimed the hot seat over Kirk 7-3, as well.
 
On the loss side, Hefner picked up Patrician Tipton, who'd eliminated Helen Wragg 6-4 and Elaine Eberly, double hill. Slyter drew Melyssa Chasteen, who, following a defeat at the hands of Hefner, downed Fran Johnson 6-1 and Teri Klyzek 6-2.
 
Hefner advanced to the quarterfinals 6-2 over Tipton, and was joined by Chasteen, who took a forfeit win over Slyter. Chasteen and Hefner locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal re-match  that eventually sent Chasteen to the semifinals versus Kirk. A 7-4 win in those semifinals sent Kirk back for a second shot at Cole.
 
Kirk took full advantage of the second opportunity. She and Cole battled to double hill before Kirk sunk the final 9-ball to claim the event title.

Cole comes from the loss side to win second stop on NWPA Tour

Liz Cole (Courtesy of Sandro Menzel)

Liz Cole came back from a defeat in a winners' side semifinal to meet and defeat hot seat occupant, Kimberly Kirk, during the second stop on the 2016 Northwest Women's Pool Association Tour. The $500-added event drew 27 entrants to The Cue Bar in Salem, OR.
 
Cole, following victories over Linda Smith, Claire Binci and Rebecca Slyter, faced Mary Coffman in one winners' side semifinal, while Suzanne Smith, winner of the first tour stop in February, met up with Kirk in the other. In a double hill match, Coffman sent Cole to the loss side, as Kirk downed Smith 7-3. Kirk and Coffman locked up in another double hill battle,which eventually sent Coffman to a semifinal re-match against Cole.
 
On the loss side, Cole and Smith, Kirsten Fery and Patricia Tipton, respectively. A four-match, loss-side run, including victories over Melyssa Chasteen (6-5) and Stephanie Hefner (6-4), set Fery up to face Cole. Tipton, who'd been defeated in the event's opening round by Claire Binci, was on a six-match, loss-side run of her own that saw opponents chalk up an average of only two racks against her. She eliminated Elaine Eberly 6-3 and Rebecca Slyter 6-2 to draw Smith. 
 
Tipton took it a step further with a 6-4 win over Smith, as Cole was eliminating Fery 6-4. Cole took the quarterfinal match that followed, 6-2 over Tipton, to earn a re-match against Coffman in the semifinals.
 
A 6-4, successful re-match victory by Cole over Coffman gave Cole a shot at Kirk in the hot seat. Cole completed her comeback from the loss side with a 7-3 win over Kirk and claimed the event title.

Hopkin moves into first place in NWPA rankings after undefeated win on Stop #4

Mary Hopkin – Courtesy Sandra Menzel

Mary Hopkin picked up her second victory on the 2013 Northwest Women's Pool Association Tour by going undefeated on the tour's fourth stop. She had won the tour's second stop in April. The win moved her into the #1 slot in the tour's standings, replacing Liz Cole, who has won the other two stops on the tour, but was absent for this most recent event. The  $500-added, June 22-23 event drew 22 entrants to Black Diamond Billiards in Spokane, WA.
 
It was a five-match journey for Hopkin that was almost derailed in the battle for the hot seat. She had defeated Adrianne Beach 7-1, Amber Foster 7-5, and among the winners' side final four, Alicia Kvasnicka 7-3, when she met up with Natalie Seal in that hot seat match. Seal had survived a double hill, opening match against Sheila Clark, defeated Joyce Robinson 7-2, and Elaine Eberly 7-5, before meeting and defeating Alisha Rogers 7-5 in the other winners' side semifinal. Hopkin and Seal, in their first of two, battled to double hill before Hopkin prevailed to sit in the hot seat, awaiting her return.
 
On the loss side, Kvasnicka ran into Elaine Eberly, who, after being sent west by Seal, had shut out Sharon Bledsoe and defeated Suzanne Smith 6-4. Rogers drew Suwanna Matarazzo, whom she'd sent to the loss side in the second round, and was on a four-match, loss side streak that included victories over Julie Valdez 6-1 and Amber Foster 6-4. Kvasnicka defeated Eberly 6-2, and in the quarterfinals, faced Rogers, who'd successfully defeated Matarazzo a second time 6-4.
 
Kvasnicka dropped Rogers into the fourth place slot 6-4, earning herself a shot against Seal in the semifinals. Both were looking for a second chance against Hopkin, but it was Seal who earned it, allowing Kvasnicka only a single rack in their semifinal match.
 
Seal got her second chance against Hopkin, with thoughts of their double hill hot seat match relatively fresh on her mind. Hopkin, though, had those thoughts in her head as well, and left little to chance. She defeated Seal 9-4 to claim the event title, as well as first place in the tour rankings.

Cole wins Stop # 3 on NWPA tour, Locati qualifies for Ultimate 10-Ball Championship

Liz Cole (Courtesy of Sandro Menzel)

Liz Cole went undefeated to win the third stop on the Northwest Women's Pool Association Tour, held on the weekend of May 18-19. The victory also qualified the winner for the Ultimate 10-Ball Championships in Tunica, MS next month, but because Cole was already qualified, that slot went to Shelby Locati, who'd won three on the loss side to meet her in the finals. The $1,000-added event drew 23 entrants to Ballad Town Billiards in Forest Grove, OR, with selected matches streamed live by Rail2Rail Productions via Ustream.

 
Cole opened her five-match winning campaign by giving up only two racks in her first two matches; one each to Stacy Eilts and Mary Hopkin. Then, among the winners' side final four, she met up with Tamre Rogers, who battled her to double hill, before giving way. Joining Cole in the hot seat match was Suzanne Smith, who'd gotten by Rebecca Slyter, Robin Adams, and Sharon Bledsoe, before meeting and defeating Locati in the other winners' side semifinal 6-3. Cole moved into the hot seat with a 6-2 win over Smith and waited for what turned out to be the return of Locati.
 
Locati moved west and picked up Hopkin, who'd defeated Alisha Rogers and Cristy Barsky, both 6-4. Rogers drew Andrena Brown, who'd defeated Tammy Holcomb 6-2 and shut out Elaine Eberly. Rogers eliminated Brown 6-4 and in the quarterfinals, faced Locati, who just did survive a double hill match against Hopkin. Locati picked up her second straight, double hill win, ending Rogers' bid in the quarterfinals, and then shut out Smith in the semifinals.
 
In the single race-to-9 finals that followed, Cole and Locati traded racks back and forth, right from the start. They did so right through to double hill. Knotted at seven games apiece, Cole missed an easy shot on the 9-ball, and Locati reached the hill first. Cole missed an easy shot on the 4-ball in the next rack, but Locati couldn't take advantage. Cole finished to knot things at double hill and then won the final game to claim the event title.