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Fisher stays atop WPBA rankings with come-from-the-loss-side win at Sledgehammer Open

Kelly Fisher, Janet Atwell and Kristina Tkach

The late Helena Thornfeldt remembered in heartfelt 1st Annual event named in her honor

She was nicknamed the Sledgehammer because of her powerful break. Whenever conversations about Helena Thornfeldt broke out among friends and competitors at the 1st Annual WPBA Cherokee Sledgehammer Open, named in her honor this past weekend (Wed., Oct. 19 – Sun., Oct. 23), more than just a few of the gathered women had cause to remember it; the loud whack of initial contact and the way the balls spread out as though desperate for space beyond the rails to dissipate the energy of it. It had taken over two years for the pool community’s widespread respect and admiration for the late Helena Thornfeldt to arrive at a gathering in her honor. The WPBA Hall of Famer died in August of 2019 and though Janet Atwell, in an attempt to organize a 2020 event, began work on it almost immediately, COVID had other ideas, that persisted.

This past weekend, Atwell’s room, Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN had one of Thornfeldt’s favorite things, sunflowers, on prominent display. A table was set aside to hold a variety of individual and collections of photos. The trophies that were handed to the winner, Kelly Fisher and runner-up Kristina Tkach were accompanied by two actual sledgehammers, made by Robert Ingold of Team SuperShaft. Atwell is working on the creation of a permanent wall plaque at Borderline Billiards with engraving space for the event’s present and future winners, along with a pair of crossed sledgehammers. The event began on Wednesday with words from Janet Atwell and a video made by Bonnie Arnold that featured, among other things, Thornfeldt singing a karaoke version of Born to be Wild. The event officially opened with the National Anthem sung by Christina Druen.

“I think it was an emotional event for everyone,” said Atwell. “Some went through some struggles with it.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Kelly Fisher. “A very emotional event, that first night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”

Kelly Fisher

“We all missed her really,” she added, “and we hadn’t had a chance to show that or feel that, as a family, together. I know that for myself, during that final and a during a few other close matches as well, I could just imagine Helena saying things to me. I went outside at one point to get a breath of air and Monica (Webb) said something to me that Helena would have said and I got kind of fired up there. So for me, personally, she was definitely a presence in my heart and mind.”

Among those in attendance, including Fisher, Tkach and Atwell of course, was Jeannette Lee, who had, in a 2017 interview, called Thornfeldt “the best female straight pool player in the world.” Lee joined Atwell as a member of a ProAm team (one of many) that played a social tournament on opening night, full of blatant sharking and fun. Monica Webb, who ran a restaurant business with Thornfeldt for a number of years, was there, as well. So, too, was the WPBA’s Peg Ledman, a personal friend of Thornfeldt. Not present, though there in spirit, was Allison Fisher, who was in England being awarded an MBE title (a Member of the British Empire) for her “contributions to sport,” many of those, from Britain’s point of view, earned as a snooker player there. The event also featured a strong contingent of (now) relatively well-known junior competitors like Hayleigh Marion (for whom Borderline Billiards is a home room), Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and recipient of a great deal of attention, 12-year-old Savannah Easton.

The $10,000-added Sledgehammer Open drew a total of 80 entrants to Borderline Billiards, 32 of them drawing byes exempting them from Stage One competition. The 48 others, 16 of whom drew opening round byes in Stage One, played in a double-elimination bracket until there were eight on each side of it. Stage Two awarded byes to the top 16 in the WPBA standings, as the double-elimination bracket got underway, and . . . they were off. 

Headlining the eight competitors who advanced to Stage Two from the winners’ side of the Stage One bracket was Sofia Mast, one of the 16 who’d been awarded opening round byes in Stage One. Her first opponent was Savannah Easton, setting up an early junior marquee matchup. Mast advanced on the winners’ side 7-2, while Easton would move to the loss side, winning three by an aggregate score of 21-5 and advancing to Stage Two. Also advancing on the winners’ side of the Stage One bracket were Kathy Friend, Jaye Succo, Nathalie Chabot, Christy Norris and the Callado sisters, Eleanor and Emilyn. Along with Easton, loss-side competitors advancing to Stage Two were junior competitors Skylar Hess and Precilia Kinsley, along with Nicole Albergaria, Dawn Oldag, Kim Housman, Lisa Cossette and Casey Cork.

Kristina Tkach

The opening round of Stage Two, with Kelly Fisher (among others) idle with opening round byes. Kristina Tkach played and won her opening round against Casey Cork 8-3 and then downed Stephanie Mitchell 8-3 in a match that set her up to face Fisher. Savannah Easton opened the Stage Two part of her title bid with a successful, double-hill match versus J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) veteran Kia Burwell. Easton advanced to face another JPNEWT veteran and the #1-ranked American player in the WPBA rankings, Caroline Pao, where she (Easton), as they say, met her match; Pao winning the contest 8-5. Mast lost her opening Stage Two match to Meng-Hsia (Bean) Hung 8-2, and moved west for an eventual rematch against Easton. 

Fisher, in the second round, downed Eleanor Callado 8-3 and then, in a late match, fell to Tkach 8-6. Tkach advanced to the other winners’ side semifinal against Pao.

“She obviously had worked very hard and perfected that cut break and I just wasn’t getting my break going,” said Fisher. “She obviously played very well to beat me. I knew she was in good shape and thought “Oh, my!”

At the other end of the bracket, Margaret Fefilova, with relative ease, was working her way through the winners’ side for an eventual matchup against Jennifer Baretta in the other winners’ side semifinal. Fefilova got by Lisa Cossette 8-3 before running into what turned out to be her toughest opponent (as gauged by racks-against), Janet Atwell, who chalked up five against her. Fefilova moved on to down Ashley Rice 8-2 and record a shutout over the #3 competitor in the WPBA rankings, Brittany Bryant, which set her up against Baretta.

Fefilova got into the hot seat match with an 8-3 win over Baretta and was joined by Tkach, who’d sent Pao to the loss side 8-4. On Saturday night, Tkach claimed the hot seat 8-2 over Fefilova and would wait until Sunday afternoon to see who came back from the semifinals.

It was Kelly Fisher. But she wouldn’t play that semifinal until Sunday. In the meantime, Pao and Baretta had business to attend to on what was left of Saturday night. Baretta picked up Savannah Easton, whose improbable and impressive run among this roomful of professional female pool players was still happening as the bracket whittled down to its final six. Easton had followed her loss to Pao with a loss-side, double-hill win over Beth Fondell and then, looking to advance into the first money round (17th/24th), she had the opportunity to avenge her Stage One loss to Sofia Mast. She did so, in a match that appropriately came within a game of going double hill. Easton then eliminated Laura Smith and won a double-hill battle against Emily Duddy. She then downed Monica Webb 8-6 and Dawn Hopkins 8-3.

Larry Easton, Savannah’s father, no stranger to his daughter’s talent, turned to Atwell as he was watching this, as amazed as many of the spectators at how far his daughter had come, in a lot of ways.

“I don’t even know what to say,” he told Atwell.

“She’s got great cue ball control, thinks ahead and plays very smart for her age,” Atwell would comment later. “She’s very strategic and plays great safeties. She plays like an adult and (her career) is off to a great start.”

Pao, in the meantime, drew Fisher, who’d started what she called a “grueling Saturday,” playing five matches in a row from noon to 8:30. She played and eliminated Meng-Hsia Hung (at noon), Janet Atwell (2 p.m.), Susan Williams (4:30) and the WPBA’s #2-ranked competitor, Brittany Bryant (6:30), all 8-4. Fisher defeated Pao 8-3 (8:30), as Baretta elicited a variety of mixed emotions from all assembled by ending Savannah Easton’s run 8-1. There was a lot of spectator applause in the moment, some of it for both of them, but a lot of it for the talented junior.

“People were excited to see her play,” said Atwell, “and happy with her finish.”

In a quarterfinal battle appropriate to the circumstances, played the following morning, Fisher and Baretta went double hill before Fisher prevailed. In the semifinals, Fisher went back to the loss-side pattern she’d established and punching her ticket to the finals, defeated Fefilova 8-4. Fisher might have played six matches to be in the finals, but thanks to Tkach, it required eight, including a loss. The rematch came within a game of double hill, but not before Fisher found herself down 2-5 and later, 5-8; Tkach a rack away from the hill.

“I was spurred on by pure determination really and the will to win it,” she said of her comeback. “I told Helena, I looked at her picture and like that, ‘Come on, do this for you’ kind of thing and whether you believe in that kind of thing or not, it’s not about who or what it takes to spur you on, but doing whatever it takes.” 

“Whatever it was,” she added, “things turned around. I dug in my heels, hit a gear and took charge of the match.”

From 2-5 down, Fisher won eight of the last 11 games, including the last five in a row. Quite the gear, all things considered. Whether it was herself, Helena, or just the adrenaline of a final push to the finish line, Fisher brought it all to bear and claimed title to her close friend’s first and likely not the last memorial.

Helena Thornfeldt

The 1st Annual WPBA Cherokee Sledgehammer Open came about through the efforts of any number of people, all of whom host Janet Atwell thanked, from the players and spectators to the members of her staff. She also thanked event sponsors the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Brad Hendricks Law Firm (Little Rock, ARK), Patty and Walter Harper of Knoxville and the streaming services of DigitalPool with Upstate Al, Zach Goldsmith and a number of competitors who joined them in the booth.

Editor’s note: Helena Thornfeldt died on August 20, 2019 at the age of 52. Originally from Borlange, Sweden, she was living in Villa Rica, about 35 miles west of Atlanta, when she died. She had opened a new restaurant, Pizza Mania, 15 days before she passed. The “Sledgehammer” turned professional in 1994, was a three-time European straight pool champion and won the 2002 US Open Championship in New Mexico, downing Allison Fisher in the finals. In the year she was inducted into the WPBA Hall of Fame in 2017, she was ranked 9th among American pool players. We here at AZBilliards join with members of the ever-expanding pool community in mourning her loss and in the years to come, celebrating the life of such a vibrant, widely-admired and respected member of our community at an annual Sledgehammer Open.

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Fisher ‘twins’ are winner and runner-up at 5th Annual WPBA Ashton Twins Classic

Brittany Bryant, Kelly Fisher and Allison Fisher

About two months ago, Kelly and Allison Fisher squared off in the finals of the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic, which was the first time they’d met in an event final in six years, when Allison downed Kelly twice in the 2016 finals of the 19th Annual International Women’s Tournament of Champions at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. It didn’t take anywhere near that long between final meetups this time around, because following their finals match in the Northern Classic (won by Kelly), they squared off again this past weekend (June 23-26) at the 5th Annual Ashton Twins Classic. Allison was the event’s defending champion, having defeated Jennifer Baretta in the finals of the event the last time it was held in 2020. Kelly claimed the title this time, coming from the loss side to do it at the event which drew 63 entrants to The Hidden Spot in Calgary, Alberta.

With the Northern Lights Classic and the Super Billiards Expo, the WPBA competitors had been getting back into the stroke of things, to include renewing acquaintances and enjoying the companionship that had marked their days pre-COVID. The Ashton Twins Classic continued that process as the cream of the WPBA crop gathered. Kelly was the event’s #1 seed, with Brittany Bryant as #2. Allison was #3 with Caroline Pao #4 and Janet Atwell #5. Rounding out the top 10 seeds were Ashley Burrows, Emily Duddy, LoreeJon Brown, Kim Newsome and Teruko Cuccelelli.

Kelly’s path to the hot seat match was relatively undramatic; in races to 8, downing Katherine Robertson (2), Eleanor Callado (2), Kelly Cavanaugh (3) and Maria Teresa Ropero Garcia (1), she drew Pao in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Allison, in the meantime, got by Jana Montour (2), Sandra Badger (1), Stephanie Mitchell (1) and Kyoko Sone (6) to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal versus Bryant.

The event’s top four seeds went at it in their respective winners’ side semifinals. Allison sent Bryant to the loss side 8-3, while Kelly was sending Pao over 8-2. Allison grabbed the hot seat 8-4 and waited for Kelly to get back from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Bryant picked up Eleanor Callado, who’d been defeated by Kelly Fisher in the second winners’ side round and was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Susan Mello 8-4 and Ashley Burrows in a double hill battle. Pao drew Sone, who, after losing her winners’ side quarterfinal to Allison Fisher, had defeated Maryann McConnell 8-1 and Tamami Okuda 8-2.

Sone, who was seeded just outside the top 10 (#11), downed the #4 seed, Pao 8-6, while Bryant was eliminating Callado 8-1. Bryant stopped Sone’s loss-side run at three matches with a subsequent 8-5 win in the quarterfinals.

And there they were, the event’s top three seeds as the last three standing on Sunday afternoon. Kelly Fisher defeated Bryant 8-4 for a second shot at Allison, waiting for her in the hot seat.

The final was a single race to 10. Allison had chalked up twice as many racks as Kelly to claim the hot seat. Kelly chalked up twice as many as Allison in the finals, 10-5, to claim the 5th Annual Ashton Twins Classic.

The Ashton twins, Beverly and Joanne, who finished 49th and 25th, respectively (Beverly allowing Joanne to advance when they were scheduled to meet in the first loss-side round), along with the WPBA thanked the ownership and staff of The Hidden Spot for their hospitality, along with sponsors Simonis, Esports, Diamond Billiards Products, RAD and ATC. 

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Corr dominates North American Pool Tour’s Coupe du Quebec

Karen Corr not only went undefeated at the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) Coupe du Quebec, she damn near went unscored upon. Through seven round robin flights and five rounds in a double elimination final bracket, she gave up only 11 games of the 88 she played to claim the event title. She shut out four of her round robin opponents and three of the five she faced in the final double elimination phase. She was the only player to go undefeated in both phases of the event. The Division 1 Pro event drew 32 entrants to Dooly’s in Quebec, Canada on the long weekend of October 24-27.

The Round Robin phase of the event split the field of 32 into four flights of eight players each. At the end of seven rounds in each of the four flights, the top four in each flight (based on win/loss records and point differentials for ties) advanced to the double elimination bracket of 16.

Corr’s flight in the round robin phase pitted her against (among others) fellow J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour player, Nicole King, as well as Nathalie Chabot, and Chantal Bergeron, all of whom finished with 4-3 records to advance to the final 16.

California’s Callado sisters played in separate round robin flights. Eleanor finished with a 5-2 record, as did Nathalie Jacob, Amanda Soucy and Marie-France Blanchette; all advancing to the double elimination bracket. Sister Emilyn finished with a 6-1 record and was joined in the double elimination bracket by Toni Sakamoto, Farla Salmonovitch and Judie Wilson. The woman who’d defeated Emily Callado, Dorah Cornell, did not advance; Emilyn being the only opponent she defeated.

Veronique Menard was at the top of her round robin group and finished with a 6-1 record. Joining her in advancing were Roxanne Ryan Aucoin, Fanny Giroux (Menard’s only loss), and Sandra-Line Michel.

Corr wasn’t scored upon until she reached the hot seat match, downing Sandra-Line Michel, Nathalie Jacob and in the winners’ side semifinal, Emilyn Callado by shutout; thus spoiling any hope for a Callado sister hot seat match. Eleanor Callado’s path to the hot seat match went through Farla Salmonovitch 7-4, Marie-France Blanchette 7-3 and in the other winners’ side semifinal, Veronique Menard 7-4. Corr gave up her first rack of the double elimination phase defeating Callado 7-1 to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Emilyn Callado picked up Blanchette, who, after her winners’ side quarterfinal loss to Eleanor Callado, had defeated Judie Wilson 7-5 and Fanny Giroux 7-2. Menard drew Nathalie Jacob, who, after her quarterfinal loss to Corr, had defeated Toni Sakamoto 7-5 and shut out Roxanne Aucoin.

Emilyn Callado and Blanchette locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Callado to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Menard, who’d defeated Jacob 7-1.

With the hope of a Callado sister semifinal looming, Menard spoiled that with a 7-3 win over Emilyn in the quarterfinals and turned for a second shot against her sister, Eleanor in the semifinals. Menard downed her 7-4 and got a shot at Corr in the hot seat.

To her credit, Menard chalked up more racks against Corr in the finals than all four of Corr’s previous opponents, or any one opponent in both the round robin and double elimination phases. But it wasn’t nearly enough, as Corr finished the proceedings with a 7-4 win.

NAPT President Adrianne Beach thanked Elvis Joubert and his staff for their hospitality, as well as event sponsor, Turtle Rack.

Callado wins four to capture NAPT Desert Challenge in Las Vegas

(l to r): Tara Williams, Gigi Callejas, Veronique Menard & Eleanor Callado

In a short field of 23 entrants, some of whom competed last year at the same event, Eleanor Callado won four straight matches to capture the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) 4th Desert Challenge title on the weekend of September 19-22 at Griff’s in Las Vegas, NV. Callado faced separate challengers in the hot seat and finals of this 10-ball competition – Gigi Callejas (hot seat) and Canada’s Veronique Menard (finals) – to complete her undefeated run.
 
Granted an opening round bye, as eight of the event’s 12 competitors squared off in a play-in round, Callado drew Kim Pierce off that play-in round and defeated her 7-5 to open her four-match march to the winners’ circle. She then faced Melissa Herndon in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Gigi Callejas, in the meantime, who’d defeated Christina Gonzalez 7-5 in the play-in round, went on to get by Tara Williams 7-5 and draw Veronique Menard in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Callado and Callejas advanced to the hot seat match with identical 7-4 wins over Herndon and Menard, respectively. Callado grabbed the hot seat with a 7-2 win over Callejas and waited on the return of Menard.
 
Over on the loss side, Menard picked up Nicole King, who’d defeated Laura Bendikas 7-3 and Kim Pierce 7-5 to reach her. Herndon drew Tara Williams, who’d eliminated Debra Aarens 7-3 and shut out Bernie Store.
 
Menard downed King 7-5 and in the quarterfinals, faced Williams, who’d survived a double hill battle versus Herndon. Menard took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Williams to earn a rematch against Callejas in the semifinals.
 
Menard earned her slot in the finals with a 7-3 rematch win over Callejas in the semifinals. Callado, though, punctuated her brief, but successful run on the Desert Challenge by giving up only a single rack to Menard in the event finals.
 
NAPT President Adrienne Beach thanked Mark Griffin and his staff for their hospitality, as well as Rail2Rail Productions for their live streaming of selected matches throughout the weekend. The next NAPT event, scheduled for October 24-27 will be the Division I Pro Coupe Du Quebec, hosted by Dooly’s in Quebec, Canada.

Ng goes undefeated to win Women’s Open Division of 46th Annual Texas Open

Ming Ng (Photo courtesy Jerry Olivier Pool Tour)

The two finalists at the $1,000-added Women’s Open Division of the 46th Annual Texas Open were coming off recent victories. Ming Ng had chalked up a win on the Gulf Coast Women’s Regional Tour in June, while her finals opponent, Taylor Hansen had won a Division I Pro event on the North American Pool Tour (NAPT) in mid-August. It was the second time in a little over two weeks that 20-year-old Taylor Hansen squared off against an opponent who’d been competing as long as she’d been alive. In August, Hansen defeated Eleanor Callado in the finals of the NAPT’s 4th Summer Classic. This time, though, the veteran prevailed. Ming Ng went undefeated through the field of 32, meeting and defeating Hansen in the finals to claim the event title.
 
Though Ng had a pair of relatively easy opening matches in this event, downing Nicole McDaniel and Tracie Voelkering, both 7-1, things tightened up pretty quickly. Robyn Petrosino managed more racks against her than Ng’s first two opponents combined (three), as Ng advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Chris Fields. Ellen Robinson, in the meantime, who’d been challenged, double hill, by Courtney Peters in the opening round, shut out Michelle Abernathy in the second and sent Teresa Garland to the loss side 7-3 in the third, faced Taylor Hansen in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Both matches for advancement to the hot seat match went double hill, as did the hot seat match. It was Ng and Robinson who advanced as Hansen and Fields moved to the loss side. Ng claimed the hot seat, double hill, over Robinson and waited on Hansen’s return.
 
On the loss side, Chris Fields picked up Liz Galvan, who’d been defeated by Julia Rapp in the event’s opening round of play and was in the midst of a five-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end, and had most recently included victories over Teresa Garland, double hill, and Kim Pierce 7-5. Taylor Hansen drew Jennifer Kraber, whom she’d faced at the end of the Texas Open’s Women's 10-Ball ring game. Kraber and Hansen ended up splitting 1st and 2nd in that event.  In the Women’s event, Kraber had been sent to the loss side by Chris Fields, double hill, in a winners’ side quarterfinal and then eliminated Nicole McDaniel 7-3 and Robyn Petrosino, double hill, to draw Hansen.
 
Fields advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Galvan and was joined by Hansen, who’d defeated Kraber 7-5. Hansen then shut Fields out, advancing to a rematch against Robinson in the semifinals.
 
Hansen defeated Robinson 7-3 and came within a game of forcing a deciding match in the finals against Ng. Ng, though, edged out in front and won it 7-5 to claim the 46th Annual Texas Open Women’s title.
 
Co-tour directors James Davis, Sr. and John Palmore thanked Sue and John Cielo and their Skinny Bob’s Billiards staff, as well as Sleep Inn, Mints Amusement, and James Hanshew. They also acknowledged Ray Hansen and his PoolActionTV crew for the live stream of the event throughout the long weekend.

Hansen goes undefeated to take 4th Annual NAPT Summer Classic

Taylor Hansen and NAPT President Adrianne Beach

The two stories moved in opposite directions. For a while. Until they didn’t, and two female pool professionals met in the finals of the North American Pool Tour’s 4th Annual Summer Classic.
 
One story was about a young woman who’s already made her mark, winning VNEA junior Championships, chalking up wins on the North Star Ladies Pool Tour and at the age of 16, winning the US Bar Box Women’s 10-Ball Championships. Taylor Hansen, 20, is currently a member of Lindenwood University’s billiards team, under the tutelage of Mark Wilson, and competing with fellow-Minnesotan April Larson, who joined the program this past year. Hansen and Larson battled twice at the recent (June) American College Union International Tournament,  with Larson capturing her first of (presumably) many college titles ahead. Hansen has competed in the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) annual Division I Pro 10-Ball Summer Classic three of its four years already, and at this most recent event – August 15-18 at Shooter’s Sports Bar & Billiards in Grayslake, IL – she won it, going undefeated through a field of 27 entrants.
 
The second story was about an older woman who’s been competing professionally longer than Taylor Hansen has been alive. Eleanor Callado has been a regular winner on the West Coast Women’s Tour for a number of years, a regular competitor at WPBA events, and a competitor in all four of the NAPT’s Summer Classics, including 2017, when she finished as runner-up to Karen Corr. According to our records, she had a breakout year, financially, in 2009, but she recorded her best earnings year, to date, last year (2018). At this most recent NAPT Summer Classic, she lost her opening round match to Caela Huddleston and embarked on an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that led to her challenging Hansen in the finals. Her loss-side run had included a 7-4 victory over her sister, Emilyn Callado, who’s in possession of an equally impressive pool resume.
 
As Eleanor Callado was beginning her loss-side run, Hansen and Christy Dickerson advanced toward a meeting in the hot seat match. Hansen almost got sent over in her opening match as she survived a double hill battle versus Ellen Robinson. She reversed her fortunes in the second round with a shutout over Vanessa Hood and then, downed Veronique Menard 7-3 to draw Kaylin Wikoff in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Dickerson defeated her first opponent, Kelly Jones 7-5, before meeting up with the woman who’d sent Callado to the loss side, Caela Huddleston. Dickerson sent her over 7-5 and then defeated Laura Semko 7-3 to pick up Sarah Rousey in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Hansen shut out Kaylin Wikoff and in the hot seat match, faced Dickerson, who’d survived a double hill battle against Rousey. Hansen gave up only a single rack to Dickerson and claimed the hot seat. She had given up only 10 racks over 45 games.
 
On the loss side, Eleanor and Emilyn Callado were working on their respective winning streaks. Emilyn had lasted one more round on the winners’ side than sister, Eleanor. Eleanor got by Kelly Jones, Theresa Ballinger, Ronnette Chop and Tara Williams to draw sister, Emilyn, who’d defeated Chris Honeman, Vanessa Hood, and Laura Semko to get to that point. Eleanor defeated Emilyn 7-4 to draw Wikoff. Rousey picked up Marian Poole, who was working on her own four-match, loss-side winning streak that had included recent wins over Veronique Menard 7-5 and Tina Larsen 7-4.
 
Callado advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-4 victory over Wikoff. Rousey joined her after surviving a double hill battle against Poole. Callado then chalked up two straight 7-5 wins, downing Rousey in the quarterfinals and Dickerson in the semifinals to earn a shot against Hansen in the finals.
 
Callado became only the second competitor to chalk up more than three racks against Hansen and in the finals, came within a game of forcing a single deciding game. Hansen, though, prevailed 7-5 to claim the event title.
 
Tour director Adrienne Beach thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Sports Bar & Billiards, and noted that the next stop on the NAPT, scheduled for Sept. 19-22, will be the Division I Pro 3rd Annual Desert Challenge, to be hosted by Griff’s in Las Vegas.

Herndon hangs on to win NAPT West Coast Challenge

Melissa Herndon, Eleanor Collado, Khanh Ngo and Veronique Menard

It’s the kind of match that spectator fans love to see. A player sends an opponent to the loss side in an early round and that opponent treks all the way back through the loss side to face that opponent in the finals. And then, it’s a double elimination final and the loss side opponent wins the first set, double hill. They battle a second time to double hill and the hot seat occupant finally wins it. So went the North American Pool Tour’s (NAPT) Division I West Coast Challenge, a 10-ball tournament, held on the long weekend of June 20-23 at Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento, CA. It was Melissa Herndon who sent Veronique Menard to the loss side in the event. Menard won seven on the loss side and defeated Herndon double hill in the opening set of the double elimination final. Herndon returned the favor, defeating Menard in the second set, double hill to claim the title. The event drew 33 entrants to Hard Time Billiards.
 
Herndon and Menard clashed first in the second round of play. Herndon had opened with a 7-1 victory over Samantha Hill, while Menard was busy downing Sher Ahola 7-3. Herndon took the first of their three matches 7- 4 and moved on past Bernie Store (7-3) to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Rachel Lang. Eleanor Callado, in the meantime, who’d almost been sent to the loss side in the opening round, survived that double hill match against Laura Bendikas and advanced to defeat Amani Ali 7-1, and shut out Kelly Nickl to arrive at the other winners’ side semifinal against Khanh Ngo.
 
On the loss side, it was Lang who ran into Menard, four matches into her loss side streak, which had most recently eliminated Stephanie Hefner 7-3 and Nickl 7-5. Ngo picked up Bernie Store, who, following her defeat at the hands of Herndon, had survived two straight double hill fights against Janna Sue Nelson and Sher Ahola. 
 
Bernie Store’s third straight double hill match was not the proverbial ‘charm’ she’d hoped it would be. Ngo hung on to win the match and advance to the quarterfinals, where she was met by Menard, who’d chalked up loss-side win #5 against Lang 7-1. Menard then put an end to Ngo’s weekend with a 7-3 win in the quarterfinals and followed up with a 7-5 win over Callado in the semifinals. 
 
It was clear from the opening set of the final that neither of these women was going to go quietly. Menard had the usual momentum boost from seven matches on the loss side and Herndon knew she only had to win one more set to go home with the top prize. Herndon arguably had more at stake than Menard did. They’d both been around competing since the turn of the century, but in recent years, Herndon had been taking time off for a job and a husband routine. For her, standing on the brink of her first major title in years, there was an “I’m back” feel to the whole process, which would have felt good no matter how the finals turned out, but winning it was clearly on her mind and in her game.
Menard took an early, short lead in the opening set, but Herndon caught up to tie things at 4-4. The ninth rack turned into a back-and-forth safety battle as they both worked at dropping the 5-ball. Menard broke through, but jumped up, shooting at the 8-ball and turned the table over to Herndon. Herndon dropped it, but scratched shooting at the 9-ball, giving Menard a ball-in-hand shot at the 10-ball and immediately thereafter, the lead.
 
Herndon took the 10th rack to tie things at 5-5. Menard took game 11 to reach the hill first. With a connect-the-dots finish to rack #12, Menard missed the 9-ball, allowing Herndon to finish and force a deciding rack. Menard broke and ran rack #13, claiming the first set and forcing a second.
 
Tension mounts in the second set of a true double elimination final like an old-fashioned Jack in the Box. Especially when it goes back and forth as this one did. The crank keeps turning, ratcheting up the tension, as you brace for that damn clown to jump out at you.
 
Two things were evident right from the start of the second set. No one was going to jump out to any kind of substantial lead. They were both tight and cautious, one game at a time. And they were getting a bit tired. Making mistakes; missing shots, rattling them in holes, putting each other in tough situations and alternately shooting right out of them.
 
They established a lead/tie pattern right from the start, with Menard taking the first rack, Herndon, the second. Back and forth to a 2-2 tie, until Herndon threatened to go out in front for the first time as she aimed at the 10-ball. She missed it, tapping the 10-ball to concede the rack and the pattern resumed, all the way to a 4-4 tie.
 
Herndon broke the pattern, and took her first lead, 5-4, in game #9, and with nothing byt the 9 and 10-ball to go in rack #10, she threatened to go up by two. She left herself in an awkward position shooting at the 9-ball and missed it, allowing Menard to knot things at 5-5.
 
Herndon misjudged a position shot in game #11 that left a 5-ball hanging in the pocket and allowed Menard to recapture the lead and reach the hill first at 6-5. 
 
At this point, Menard was probably the only person in the room, or the extended chat world that didn’t want Herndon to tie things up at 6-6 to force a deciding game. Herndon being the strongest proponent for forcing a game #13, tried to accomplish it a little early, going for a 5-10 combo, which she rushed and missed. Menard dropped the 5-ball and with five balls down and five to go, things looked grim for Herndon.
 
Menard made it to a shot at the 8-ball, which she attempted to put into a side pocket. But she over-anxiously hit it way too hard and when it caromed off the rail next to the side pocket, it looked as though it had enough speed on it to reach a table in New York City. Herndon stepped to the table and promptly tied the match at 6-6.
 
Herndon broke the final rack, sinking the 8-ball and giving herself a decent look at the 1-ball. But like Menard, she got a little over-anxious and bounced the 1-ball off the side rail. Subsequent ball action dropped two other balls. Since the ball at which Herndon was shooting didn’t drop, 10-ball rules dictated that Menard had the option of taking over or allowing Herndon to keep shooting. Menard chose to shoot, ran to the 5-ball and rattled it in and out of the side pocket. 
 
Herndon played safe and Menard safed her right back, but not quite good enough. Herndon made a terrific, long-table, oblique angle shot on that 5-ball that drifted it within less than an inch or two of two other balls on its way into the corner pocket. Herndon dropped the last three balls and claimed the NAPT’s West Coast Challenge title.
 
NAPT President Adrianne Beach thanked the ownership and staff at Hard Time Billiards, as well as Cue Sports Live and the players who made it out to play. The next Division I NAPT event, scheduled for August 15-18 will be the 4th Annual NAPT Summer Classic, to be hosted by Shooter’s Sports Bar and Billiards in Grayslake, IL.

Corr goes undefeated to win NAPT Coupe de Quebec in Canada

Karen Corr (Photo courtesy of NAPT)

In the two years between January, 2017 and the soon-to-be January of 2019, Irishwoman Karen Corr has chalked up nine major titles (so far). She’s split her competition between wins in WPBA events and with the North American Pool Tour (NAPT), while also cashing in two successive Turning Stone events (XXVII & XXVIII). Last year, she won the WPBA’s Rivers US Open, three events on the NAPT and a stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT). This year, she’s added three wins on the JPNEWT and a victory at the Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Championship to her growing and continuing to be impressive resume.
 
On the long weekend of Nov. 1-4, she added another NAPT win to the list. Corr went undefeated through a field of 42 entrants, on-hand for the $5,000-added NAPT Women’s Division 1 Pro event, held at Dooly’s in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, about 25 miles southeast of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.
 
The event was preceded by a pro-am charity event in which Division 1 players were matched up with a local amateur player for a modified single elimination, blind draw Scotch Doubles tournament. A $20 donation by the amateur players will be used by the venue, Dooly’s, to fund a charity of their choosing.
 
Following an opening round bye and victories over Krista Walsh, Maria Juana and Laura Semko, Corr moved into the first of what would be two against Canada’s Brittany Bryant in a winners’ side semifinal. Eleanor Callado, in the meantime, having defeated Anick Cadorette, Nathalie Chabot, Denise Belanger, and Veronique Menard, squared off against her own sister, Emily Callado, in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Eleanor downed sister Emily 7-5, as Corr was busy defeating Bryant 7-4; the first opponent to chalk up that many against Corr. Corr gave up only a single rack to Callado and sat in the hot seat awaiting what turned out to be the return of Bryant.
 
On the loss side, Bryant picked up Naomi Williams, who’d been defeated by Maria Juana in the opening round of play and was in the midst of a six-match, loss side winning streak that was about to come to an end. Williams had most recently eliminated Teruko Cucculelli 7-4 and Menard 7-1. Emily Callado ran into Jia Li, who’d lost a double hill fight to Bryant in a winners’ side quarterfinal and on the loss side, shut out Marilou Therrien and eliminated Denise Belanger 7-4.
 
Bryant ended Williams’ loss-side run, but not before Williams forced a deciding 13th game in the race to 7. Li joined Bryant in the quarterfinals following a 7-3 win over Emilyn Callado.
 
Bryant downed her next two opponents 7-4; Jia Li in the quarterfinal and Eleanor Callado in the semifinal for second shot at Corr in the hot seat. Among many things Bryant may not have expected in the event’s final match, a shutout would have been high on the list. But that’s how Corr punctuated her undefeated run, shutting Bryant out to claim the event title.

Bryant goes undefeated to win NAPT Desert Classic at Griff’s in Las Vegas

Brittany Bryant (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

With her victory in the Sept. 22-23 NAPT Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Brittany Bryant officially made 2018 her best recorded earnings year in the dozen that she’s been appearing on our payout lists. She went undefeated through a field of 34 and faced Melissa Little twice to claim the event title, her first since winning the Music City Classic in January. In addition to these two 2018 victories, Bryant finished as runner-up twice; at the Super Billiards Expo in April and the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic in June (to Karen Corr and Vivian Villareal, respectively). The $5,000-added, 10-Ball event was hosted by Griff’s in Las Vegas.
 
Following victories over Christina Gonzalez, Gigi Callejas and Veronique Menard, Bryant moved into a winners’ side semifinal against Eleanor Callado, who’d just sent her sister, Emilyn Callado to the loss side. Melissa Little, in the meantime, got by Mary Coffman, Tina Malm (double hill), and Sara Miller to draw Kaylin Wikoff in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Little got into the hot seat match rather handily, allowing Wikoff only a single rack in their race to 7. Byrant and Eleanor Callado locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Callado to the loss side and Bryant to the hot seat match. In their first of two, Bryant defeated Little 7-5 and sat in the hot seat awaiting the outcome of the semifinals.
 
On the loss side, Wikoff picked up Veronique Menard, who’d been sent west by Bryant in a winners’ side quarterfinal and then, after defeating Jia Li 7-5, survived a double hill challenge by Tina Malm. Eleanor Callado drew Teruko Cucculelli, who’d been defeated by Eleanor’s sister, Emilyn, double hill, in the second round and was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take her as far as the semifinals.
 
Wikoff stopped Menard’s short loss-side streak 7-5, and in the quarterfinals, faced Cucculelli, who’d eliminated Eleanor Callado by the same 7-5 score. Cucculelli advanced one more step, downing Wikoff in the quarterfinals 7-4.
 
Cucculelli and Little battled back and forth in what proved to be a relatively lengthy semifinal. Each had opportunities they took advantage of and others they failed to capitalize on. It was tied at 5-5, at which point, Little took command to win the next two and earn herself a rematch against Bryant in a true double elimination final.
 
Their individual Fargo Ratings were 21 points apart, with Bryant holding the advantage (662-641) and in the matchup projections, held a 60.5-39.5 edge. Bryant jumped out to an early lead in what could have been a two-set final, but, at 6-2, advantage Bryant, didn’t appear likely. Little rallied, however, and won three to make a second set possible. In the 12th game, Bryant missed a shot, leaving Little a slam-dunk shot at the 3-ball, giving her an opportunity to clear the table and knot the opening set at 6-6. Little failed to capitalize, and Bryant ended it to claim her second 2018 title since winning the Music City Classic in January.
 

“Duchess of Doom” goes undefeated to win 3rd Annual NAPT Summer 10-Ball Classic

Mary Rakin, Molly Bontrager, Allison Fisher and Helena Thornfeldt (Photo – Tony Fox)

 

Allison Fisher went undefeated through a field of 52 entrants to win the 3rd Annual North American Pool Tour’s Summer 10-Ball Classic on the long weekend of August 16-19. And for the second year in a row, the winner of this tournament had to go through relative newcomer, Molly Bontrager. Bontrager battled for the hot seat against Karen Corr last year, then, was defeated in the semifinals by Eleanor Callado. This year, she finished as runner-up to Fisher, whom she faced twice, in the hot seat and finals. The 3rd Annual $5,000-added event drew its 52 entrants to Shooter’s Sports Bar & Billiards in Grayslake, IL.
 
Though the annual event’s defending champion, Corr, was not in attendance, the event’s debut champion, April Larson, did compete. When Larson won in 2016 (at the age of 16), it was her first professional win, which had followed on the heels of five straight victories at the BEF Junior Nationals; three in the 14-and-under Girls Division and two in the 18-and-under Girls Division. She was so excited to have actually won the event, that while she collected the trophy, she forgot to collect the $3,400 check that went with it (later hand-delivered by NAPT President Adrianne Beach). In this year’s event, Larson was moved to the loss side in a tightly-contested, double hill match against Teruko Cuccelelli, and after winning five on the loss side, was eliminated by Canada’s Brittany Bryant.
 
In something of a prescient move, CueSportsLive’s first two streamed matches featured the eventual winner (Fisher) and runner-up (Bontrager). Bontrager played first at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 16 and made something of an opening statement by shutting out Darlene Dantes. She went on to defeat Laura Semko (double hill), Farla Salmanovitch 7-3, and Taylor Hansen (double hill) to draw JPNEWT veteran Jia Li in one of the winners’ side semifinals.
 
Fisher, in the meantime, who stepped up to the streaming table at noon on Friday, downed Rae Noregard 7-1, and then defeated Autumn Duncan 7-3, shut out Krista Walsh, and then survived a double hill fight against last year’s runner-up Eleanor Callado, to draw Helena Thornfeldt in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Fisher and Thornfeldt locked up in something of a predictable double hill fight to determine advancement to the hot seat match. Fisher won it. Bontrager joined her with a 7-3 win over Li. Fisher claimed the hot seat 7-3 over Bontrager and waited on her return.
 
On the loss side, Thornfeldt picked up Bryant, who was in the midst of a four-match, loss-side winning streak that included a 7-5 win over Kaylin Wikoff and the aforementioned double hill win over Larson. Jia Li drew Mary Rakin, who, following her defeat at the hands of Thornfeldt, had defeated Cuculelli 7-2 and survived a double hill fight against Callado.
 
 
Rakin eliminated Li 7-2 and in the quarterfinals faced Thornfeldt, who’d defeated Bryant 7-4. Rakin chalked up a commanding victory, 7-1, over Thornfeldt in those quarterfinals, only to run into an obviously determined Molly Bontrager in the semifinals. Though Rakin would score 5, Bontrager scored the requisite 7 to earn her re-match against Fisher.
 
Last year, Bontrager admitted to being in awe of the woman she faced in the hot seat (Corr), whom she’d been watching play since she (Bontrager) was in her 20s. In much the same situation, Bontrager was going into a match against someone she’d been aware of before she’d begun her still-new pool career. But this time, Bontrager was a little more seasoned than she’d been the year before. She had mentioned in an interview for Billiards Digest that she expected her “newbie attitude” to have worn off by the time she arrived to compete this year. And it did, to a certain extent.
 
“I talked to Allison on and off a couple of times before we played,” she said. “I tried to get to know her a little to break the ice, which makes it a lot easier when you’re playing a match.
 
“She’s a really fun, bubbly person,” she added, “the complete opposite of her demeanor at the table.”
 
While the seasoning that the year provided served her well in this tournament and brought her a step closer to winning the event, she was still somewhat plagued by a lack of practice on 9-ft tables (something she hopes to correct in the year to come) and just a lingering touch of the awe she experienced last year.
 
“I was pleased with the tournament overall,” she said, “and pleased with the results. As far as critiquing myself, I did OK, but not what I’m capable of.”
 
She needed to win two against Fisher in the double elimination final format of the event, but Fisher completed her undefeated run in the opening set. She duplicated her score in the hot seat against Bontrager (7-3) and captured the title.