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“Kwikfire” goes undefeated to win second straight WPBA title

Kelly Fisher

Fresh off her undefeated win two weeks ago at the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic in Minnesota, where she faced Allison Fisher for the first time in a final match since 2016, Kelly Fisher came to the CSI/Predator US Pro Billiard Series’ Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, held this past weekend (March 31-April 3) and went undefeated a second time to capture her second straight WPBA title. Though Allison Fisher was, once again, ‘in the house,’ the two did not meet up at this latest event. Allison was eliminated in the opening round of the single-elimination final phase to which they’d both advanced. The event drew 64 entrants to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The event was divided into two phases; an opening, 64-entrant, double-elimination Phase 1, followed by a 16-entrant, single-elimination Phase 2 that eventually crowned Kelly as the champion. The format was best-two-out-of-three races to 4. If the competitors were tied after two matches, a “spot shootout’ followed to determine the winner.

Kelly, who was in a 16-player, Phase 1 bracket that included eventual runner-up, Brittany Bryant, advanced to be among the eight winners’ side entrants in Phase 2 without having to play a third match. She played a total of 27 games against three opponents in Phase 1 and gave up only three of them, downing Sarah Kapeller (4-0, 4-1), Ashley Burrows (4-0, 4-0) and Cathy Metzinger (4-1, 4-1). To join Kelly in advancement to Phase 2, Bryant, in the meantime, had to play 44 games and lost 18 of them. She got by Anna Riegler and junior competitor Savannah Easton, both 4-2, 4-2, before facing Jennifer Baretta, who won the opening set 2-4. Bryant came back to win the second set and the “spot shootout,” both double hill.

Angela Ticoalu got by Jeannie Seaver, Nicole Keeney and Woojin Lee with an aggregate score of 24-15 to qualify for Phase 2, as did Susan Williams from the same 16-entrant section of the opening bracket. Williams sent June Maiers, Vang Bui Xuan and Joanne Ashton to the loss side to join Ticoalu in the winners’ side advancement to Phase 2.

Allison Fisher chalked up an even more impressive Phase 1 than Kelly had. She, too, advanced to Phase 2 without having to play a third match against any of her three opponents, downing Susan Wilbur, Veronique Menard and Naomi Williams and giving up only two racks (to Menard, in their second race-to-4). Kyoko Sone joined Allison in advancement to Phase 2 from the same 16-entrant section of the opening bracket, downing Sandy Badger, 13-year-old junior competitor Sofia Mast and Amalia Matas Heredia.

Rounding out the field of eight winners’ side competitors to advance to Phase 2 were Jasmin Ouschan and Line Kjorsvik. Ouschan got by two of her opponents without having to play a “spot shootout” third match, downing Tamami Okuda 4-2, 4-1 and Beth Fondell 4-1, 4-2, before splitting her first two against Mary Tam 1-4, 4-3. Ouschan won the shootout 3-2 to advance. Kjorsvik did not play a third, tie-breaking “spot shootout” against any of her first three opponents either, joining Ouschan in advancement after defeating Gigi Callejas (4-1, 4-2), Camille Campbell (4-2, 4-0) and Melissa Helland (4-0, 4-1).

After five losers’ side rounds, Kaylee McIntosh, Woojin Lee, Angela Janic, Heather Cortez, Melissa Helland, Mary Tam, Amalia Matas Heredia and Ashley Burrows joined the eight winners’ side competitors in advancement to Phase 2, which in some ways, was notable for those left behind as much as for those who advanced. Among those who failed to make the cut were long-time WPBA veterans (in no particular order) Stephanie Mitchell, Teruko Cucculelli, Monica Webb, Jeannie Seaver, Liz Cole, Kim Newsome, Emily Duddy, Dawn Hopkins, Loree Jon Brown, Janet Atwell and Caroline Pao. It should also be noted that while both 13-year-old junior competitors, Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess, failed to advance, one (Mast) fell to an opponent (Angela Janic) who was among the final 16 and the other (Hess) was eliminated by someone (Cucculelli) who arguably should have been. It was the first appearance for these two extraordinarily talented and professionally-composed young women and WPBA competitors should be on notice that these two will be back and barring any unforeseen life changes, for many years to come.

The Final Four in this event competed in plenty of time for those so inclined to turn their attention to the NCAA Final Four, which got started well after the four ladies in Vegas got underway at about 2 p.m. on Saturday. It was an International Final Four, which was absent representation from the United States.  Kelly Fisher, representing the UK was matched up against Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan. Spain’s Amalia Matas Heredia, who, in February, chalked up her first win on the European Ladies’ Tour, faced Canada’s Brittany Bryant.

Kelly Fisher had kept her no-third-match streak going through the opening round against Heather Cortez, whom she defeated 4-1, 4-0 before drawing Angeline Ticoalu, who took the opening set against Fisher 4-2. Fisher came back to win the second set 4-1 and then, in something of a nail-biter, the “spot shootout” 6-5. Ouschan, who got by Kaylee McIntosh 4-0, 4-1 in the opening round of Phase 2 had her own nail-biter in the second round, where she won two straight double hill fights against Kyoko Sone to draw Kelly.

Advancing to the other semifinal, Bryant had played 24 games against two opponents, eliminating Woojin Lee 4-2, 4-1 and then Ashley Burrows 4-2, 4-3 to advance. Heredia proved to be Allison Fisher’s downfall in the opening round of Phase 2. Fisher took the opening set, double hill, but Heredia came back to win the second set and the “shootout,” double hill. Heredia went on to down Mary Tam 4-1, 4-3 to pick up Bryant.

Kelly Fisher downed Ouschan 4-2, 4-1 in their semifinal matchup. She was joined in the finals by Bryant, who’d defeated Heredia 4-2, 2-4 and 4-2 in the “shootout.” 

It’s not hard to imagine Fisher’s “I’ve got this,” and Bryant’s “Uh, oh, trouble right here in Sin City” when Fisher shut Bryant out in the opening set of the final. It’s also not hard to imagine the spectator’s rooting for Bryant in the second set when she and Kelly finished the 6th game, tied at 3 apiece. Fisher, though, completed her undefeated run by winning the second set to claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, as well as sponsors and partners the WPBA, Alfa Coin, CueSports International, Predator Group, Kamui, Seybert’s, Medalla Light, Rums of Puerto Rico, BCA Pool League and the USA Pool League.

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Savannah Easton Goes Undefeated at Griff’s

With the Junior International Championship going into its second season, it is becoming more and more common for fans to see its top junior players branching out from their success in the junior ranks to succeed in open events. For eleven year old Savannah Easton from Las Vegas, she might be skipping the success amongst her peers and moving full speed into open event success.

Easton outdistanced a field of thirty three other players to win the Griff’s Ladies 640 & Under Fargo 9-Ball event over the weekend of January 29th – 30th. 

Easton says she has been “hitting balls” on a pool table since she was four and her first real interest in playing the game seriously came from playing her Dad Larry on the family pool table. It was also words of encouragement from her Dad that helped prepare her for playing the event at Griff’s. “My Dad told me that if I shoot with confidence, good things will happen” she said. “I also knew that even if I lost, it would be a huge learning experience for me.”

That confidence paid off on Saturday, as Easton (Fargo 447) had wins over Val Porter and Ces Ralston, both higher rated players and both opponents that Easton defeated without the handicap she was getting. 

Easton came back on Sunday in the final eight on the winner’s side and said that while she was warming up with her Dad she started thinking about possibly making it to the finals of the event. Easton’s first two Sunday matches were against Catherine Colosia and Amani Ali. Colosia looked to have things under control against Easton, leading 4-2 in a straight race to 5, but Easton took advantage of errors by Colosia to win three straight for the win. Ali would fall 5-3 in the next match.

The hot-seat match was against Yen Huynh, who had been mowing down opponents all weekend. Huynh had allowed one opponent to get to the hill against her so far in the event, and was just coming off of an 8-1 drubbing of Janna Nelson. Easton was getting three games in the 8-5 race, but again she didn’t need the handicap as she beat Huynh 5-3 to take the hot-seat.

Easton’s opponent in the finals would be her toughest challenge yet. California’s Gigi Callejas has been a successful player on the west coast for a couple of years and has top finishes in both regional and national tours. Callejas had dropped her second match of the event to Colosia on Saturday but then forged a seven match winning streak on the one loss side. The finals would be true double elimination, but Easton would only need one set to score a hill-hill victory and celebrate the undefeated tournament win. “When I sunk that last 9-ball for the win, I couldn’t believe I actually won the whole tournament undefeated” said Easton days after her victory. “It never really sunk in until the next day because I was so tired”.

Easton has hopes to build on this success and says she hopes to become like her idol Margaret Fefilova. She credits Fefilova with helping in her early success, as well as other champions like Tyler Styer, Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann and Hunter Lombardo who helped her with her technique at the table. More importantly, Easton credits the support that she gets from her Mom and Dad on her “journey to becoming the next World Champion”.

Easton is currently sponsored by Predator, Kamui, JamUp Apparel and Bangin Ballz Billiards. Next up for Easton is the Junior International Championship stop in Cape Coral Florida next week, where she hopes to continue her success. 

Gigi Callejas Wins AWBT Season Opener

Heather Cortez and Gigi Callejas

Thanks to all the ladies that showed up march 14th – 15th for our 1st stop of the season. Thank you Bull Shooters Michael & Jamie Bates for hosting the 1st stop adding money and excellent service!

45 Ladies showed up for the main event and 24 Guys for the ‘Balls Only’

Big Congratulations to all the ladies that cashed in the Main Event. After day one it was all Heather winning her 1st four matches 7-0 (28-0 total). Day 2 was 8 Ladies that came back. The hot seat match was between Heather vs Leandrea with Heather winning Hill-Hill (7-5). On the B Side after Gigi lost to Leandrea, Gigi won her next 3 matches to make it to the finals. The extended race to 9 Final was all Gigi, winning it with a 9-4 score.

24 Ladies showed up for the 2nd chance with $300 in the pot. Congrats Susan Smith Williams for her 1st place finish.

Thank you to all the sponsors for the support and Edward LaRue for adding money to both the Main Event and 2nd Chance Event! Much appreciated.

Stephanie Hefner Wins NAPT Division II Championship

Stephanie Hefner

A field of forty six of the top ladies in the country, representing seven different regional tours, made their way to Bullshooters in Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the North American Pool Tour’s Division II Championship on February 13th – 16th.
 
The event kicked off on Thursday with six round robin groups competing in seven rack matches. With the top four players from each group advancing based on total games won, players could not take any opponent lightly at any point in the match. 
 
After two days of play, the field was narrowed to just twenty four players. The top player from each group, as well as the top two runner-up finishers from round robin play, all earned first round byes, with the remaining sixteen “top four” finishers being forced to play first round matches. 
 
Home field advantage proved to be valuable coming out of the groups, with four of the eight byes earned by Arizona Woman’s Billiard Tour (AWBT) players. The pool gods proved fickle though, as three of those four players (Leandrea Gaff, Susan Williams and Jaye Succo) were all knocked to the one loss side after their first matches. Bernie Store was the only local player to win her first double elimination stage match. Store then went on to defeat the Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) tour’s Michelle Hughes to remain unbeaten going into Sunday. She was joined by the NWPA Tour’s Stephanie Hefner, Gigi Callejas (West Coast Women’s Tour) and Suzanne Smith (NWPA). 
 
On the one loss side, Hughes earned her place in Sunday play with a hill-hill win over Succo, and was joined by Williams, Marian Poole and a player who had clawed her way through the entire event, Bonnie Ogg from the West Coast Women’s Tour. 
 
Ogg’s play all weekend was noteworthy in that she escaped her group as the 4th player, and then lost her first match on Saturday to Suzanne Smith. Ogg then came within a rack of a “two and out” elimination, beating Khahn Ngo hill-hill on the one loss side Ogg’s last match on Saturday saw her trailing Ricki Casper 6-3, but she dug down and won four straight racks to earn her spot in Sunday play. 
 
Sunday play saw Hefner face off with Store. Store was the top ranked player in the event and Hefner knew she was going to be an obstacle that she had to overcome. She rose to the occasion and beat Store 7-5 to advance to the hot-seat match. “Going into this tournament, I really had ambition. I wanted to do well, and I knew she was going to be the toughest opponent. Not just because of her Fargo, but she’s the hometown girl. I’d never played her, so I didn’t know how we’d match up. It felt like an accomplishment getting through her, but I knew I couldn’t relax. “
 
Hefner then went on to hand Callejas a 7-3 loss to take the hot-seat, but she knew her job still wasn’t done as she headed to a practice table to stay sharp while waiting for an opponent. “I knew they would be fresh and I wanted to make sure that if I missed any balls, it wasn’t because I wasn’t in stroke.” she said. 
 
On the one loss side, Ogg continued her improbable run. A 7-3 win over group 4 winner Marian Poole was followed up by a 7-5 win over Store. Ogg’s next match was a true example of how brutal the pool gods can be. Ogg led Suzanne Smith 6-5, but left herself a tough 9-ball in the twelfth, that required the mechanical bridge. She missed that shot, allowing Smith to tie things at 6-6. Smith quickly took control of the final rack and ran to the 9 with textbook pattern play. She took her timeout and gathered herself to make the final 9-ball. That might have taken her out of her rhythm though, as she missed the 9-ball and left the match for Ogg to cleanup. Ogg had a much easier time with Callejas in the semi-final match, breaking a 3-3 tie to win 7-3.
 
The final match looked to be “advantage Hefner” on paper, as she eclipsed Ogg’s 508 Fargo rating by nearly 50 points, and Ogg would have to beat Hefner twice. Ogg had momentum though, and obviously wasn’t going to just give up. The turning point of the match appeared to happen with Hefner leading 4-2. Both players were caught up in a safety battle on the 8-ball, when Hefner took on a bank shot that would have made a one pocket player proud. She banked in the 8 and then banked the 9-ball into the same hole … left handed. “I almost played the same safe back, but I thought it was two way. Even if I rattled the eight, she might not get back for the nine so I just decided ‘screw it’ and went for it. I was a little less confident taking the shot left handed, but sometimes when I’m in it, the banks just happen and I don’t think about it.“ Ogg would fight back to get within one at 5-4, but it was Hefner who then won the last two racks for the 7-4 win. 
 
Hefner took the trophy, and $1400 in prize money, back to Oregon. Ogg settled for $1000 in prize money and the knowledge that her Fargo ratings is due for a major increase. 

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.

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.”

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.
 

Pulley Tops AWBT Stop 4 And Points List

Susan Williams and Amanda Pulley

Amanda Pulley bounced back from a late Saturday loss to win her second AWBT tour stop of the season and jump to the top of the tour’s point list. Pulley was just one of the early favorites in the field of 53 players at Main Street Billiards in Mesa on July 7th – 8th. 

 

Pulley was joined in the field by such notables as Susan Williams, Sara Miller, Pearl Ortiz and Justine Bishop.
 
Things were going well for Pulley early Saturday with wins over Tonya Kurtz and Ilyana Flores but her path took a detour late Saturday after a 7-5 loss to Pearl Ortiz. A 7-2 win over Kristi St Ange was enough to earn Pulley her place in Sunday’s matches.
 
Ortiz came back on Sunday morning for a lopsided 7-0 win on the winner’s side over Sara Sorg, who had a great weekend of matches. The other half of the bracket saw AWBT veteran Susan Williams scoring a 7-1 win over Pati Martinez, who also turned in an outstanding performance all weekend long. The hot-seat match saw Williams with a convincing 7-3 win over Ortiz.
 
On the one loss side, Pulley had wins over Tommy Holben, Martinez and Dawn Polotto before a rematch with Ortiz in the semi-finals. “I wasn’t thinking revenge,” said Pulley, “but I felt strong during the match and this (plus an energy drink) empowered me”. Pulley was definitely empowered as she eliminated Ortiz 7-3 to earn her spot in the finals against Williams.
 
The final race to 9 was a true back and forth battle. Williams took an early 2-0 lead, but Pulley quickly knotted things at 2-2. The players stayed close until Williams was able to pull ahead for a 7-4 lead and she got to the hill at 8-6 but wasn’t able to put Pulley away. Pulley clawed back to 8-8, leaving the ladies playing one game for the title. The pressure of the final game appeared to get to both players as they both had problems pocketing the final 9-ball. After a missed bank by Williams though, Pulley cut the final ball into the heart of the pocket for the win. “I just told myself that I know how to make this shot, and I wasn’t going to give Susan another chance at the table,” Pulley said.
 
Sunday saw 29 players come back for the second chance tournament where Gigi Callejas took first place and Heather Cortez finished in second. Ed Scott and Evans Bishop split the men’s event that was ran alongside the main event. The AWBT will take it’s annual trip to Tucson on August 18th – 19th for an event at Pockets Pool & Pub.