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Immonen Takes East Coast Canadian 9-Ball Open Title

Denis Boudreau (The Billiard Shop) and Mika Immonen. Photo courtesy of Barry Peddle

The first ever Billiard Shop East Coast Canadian 9-Ball Open was held in Halifax at RailBirds Billiards from November 7 to November 13, 2017.  The event was the brainchild of Atlantic 9-Ball Tour promoter Thomas ‘TJ’ Martin as a Pro-Am event to both showcase the Atlantic Canada pool scene to top level professional players, and to treat local players first hand to the level of talent pro players possess, something few people from this area get to witness in person.
In total, the week began with 238 paid participants, making this event one of the largest in Canadian history.  The Main Draw was double knockout, races to 11, winner break format, with $25,000 CDN added to the prize pool, which brought the total payout package of the Main Draw to $63,500.  In addition, there was $10,000 more in added money spread across 3 Second Chance Divisions available to players who did not cash in the Main Draw.
In the early rounds it was like winning the lottery for some local players who got to draw their idols.  While the matches may not have been the most competitive, they were surely entertaining for both the player and the crowds at the rail.  Halifax’s Brian ‘Pidge’ Ashworth drew huge applause when he won the lag vs John Morra, with Pidge triumphantly pumping his fist in the air at the “accomplishment”.  He drew even bigger applause when he captured the first game.  That, however, would be the extent of his success in this match, as Morra went on to capture the next 11 racks.  Cape Breton shooter Mike Basque could not stop smiling after seeing the draw sheet, knowing he was to play Alex Pagulayan on the show tables in the premier night time slot.  Alex was already up 10-0 before Basque finally got a game. That didn’t stop the crowd from roaring with delight at the win, as Mike pretended his work was done, offering to shake Alex’s hand before jokingly walking off in drop-the-mic style.  Basque managed to gain one more rack before succumbing to Pagulayan 11-2.  To their credit, the pros were taking the crowd’s enthusiasm “against” them in stride, laughing along.  The fans were just as awed and appreciative of cueing prowess displayed by Morra and Pagulayan in these matches.
Matchups were not all as lighthearted in the opening rounds.  There were a few local heavyweight clashes, such as Rocky Johnson of Dartmouth, NS winning 11-10 over Carl Sampson of Sydney, NS.  Gilles LeBlanc of Moncton, NB got by Bruce Lilly of Porters Lake, NS 11-9.  Dennis Penney of St John’s, NL narrowly missed sending one of the Maritimes best shooters to the B-Side early, but Rob Sakell of Moncton, NB was able to snatch the victory at hill-hill.   And while most top-level players were posting lopsided score lines in the early going, at least one local had some measure of success against the odds.  In round 2, tour promoter TJ Martin was able to hang close with Martin Daigle of Montreal, Quebec before Daigle pulled away late for an 11-6 win.
Daigle, a perennial threat in any event, was also involved in the first clash of titans on the board, meeting Erik Hjorleifson, a former Canadian Champion, in the third round.  Daigle kept Erik in his chair for most of the early going, amassing a 6-0 lead, only to see Erik make quick work of eating into that cushion, bringing the match back to 6-5.  Daigle recovered though, eventually closing Erik out 11-7, and sending the first big fish over to swim in the B side waters.  
In round 4, Atlantic 9-Ball Tour stalwart Chris Dempsey got a first hand lesson on how quickly a professional player can turn the tables.  With Dempsey up 6-4 in the match, an illegal break turned possession of the table over to John Morra.  Dempsey would not get to win another game, as Morra ran the set out from there. 
The match that got the fans most excited came on the B-Side in a contest to send the winner into the final 12.  Again, Martin Daigle was at the center, this time matched up with an Atlantic Canadian player, Clayton “Magoo” Dennis of Eskasoni, NS.  Although being the heavy underdog in the match, Dennis was able to trade blows with Daigle, with several lead changes, but no one pulling more than a few racks ahead.  At 10-10, the rail was teeming with people looking on in anticipation as Magoo methodically worked through the final balls.  Even the other matches being played stopped to witness the potential upset.  When the 9-Ball dropped, the entire pool hall erupted in cheer.  This was easily the most talked about (memorable) moment for the rest of the event.
Andy Aupin of Sudbury, ON, one of eight shooters in the field with a 700+ Fargo Rating, got the hard luck draw among top players, losing to Mika Immonen in a tight match, 11-9, on the A-Side, and later dropping an 11-3 decision to Imran Majid on the B-Side.  
For his part, Majid had the crowd buzzing about his play all week, making it look effortless on way to victories 11-0, 11-1, 11-1, and 11-1 before dropping a match to Pagulayan 11-5.  Majid rebounded on the B-Side, continuing his dominating score lines against tough competition, winning 11-3, 11-3, 11-3, 11-4, and 11-2 to reach the B-Side Semi Final. 
Majid would next meet Immonen, who was fresh off an 11-7 victory over Hjorleifson.  Immonen jumped out to the early lead 5-0.  Majid was not ready for his week to be over, leveling the match at 8-8.  However, the final racks went Immonen’s way, moving him past Majid 11-8.
Immonen then moved on to tangle with Pagulayan, the ‘Lion’ having just lost in the A-side semi-final 11-7 to Morra.  This matchup had the fans salivating, finding it surreal they were about to watch two former World 9-Ball Champions duke it out live in Halifax.  Mika was on his third straight match in a matter of a few hours, yet he showed no sign of mental fatigue, outlasting Alex to take the match 11-9, securing Mika a place in the final.
The final was to be one race to 17.  Immonen started to pull away around the mid-point of the match, building a 14-9 lead.  Morra managed to get the next two racks, before Immonen again put a bead over to his side to lead 15-11.  It was here that Morra changed his own fortunes, managing to get out on each of the next 5 racks, thus wrestling the lead from Immonen and perching himself on the hill 16-15.  A scratch on the ensuing break brought Mika back to the table, but without a great opportunity on the 1 ball, he chose to play safe.  This started a short safety battle on the 1 that Johnny came out on top of.  Johnny moved through the rest of the rack easily, but when shaping from the 7 to the 8-Ball, Morra left his cue ball pinned to the rail, which meant difficulty in trying to get the cue ball from the 8 to the other end of the table for the 9.  Morra chose to roll the 8 in and take on the long pot of the 9-Ball, which sat a few inches below the spot.   The cut shot barely missed, and the 9 and cue ball spun around the table, leaving Mika a back cut to the bottom corner, which he deposited.  Mika made a ball on the following break, setting himself up nicely to run out the rack, taking down the final 17-16, and earning the $10,000 first prize.
Chris Penney of Yarmouth, NS took home top honors, and $1390, in the A Division Second Chance event, getting the better of Rob Sakell, Moncton, NB in the final.  Jason Thomas, Tracadie, NB was third.  Brent MacIntyre, of Dartmouth, NS earned $1120 as the B Division Second Chance winner, over Terry Gulliver of St. John’s, NL.  Finishing in third was Rodney Carpenter, also of St. John’s, NL.  The C Division Second Chance $1000 first prize was captured by Leo Sanchez of Halifax, NS beating Brandyn Griffin, of Toronto, ON.  Jarrett Campbell, Halifax, NS, placed third. 
The lion’s share of appreciation goes to TJ Martin for tirelessly working the phones to secure sponsorship and participation from pro players.  This event was not just a tournament, but an experience for a great number of amateur players.  Thank you to the title sponsor – The Billiard Shop, and to RailBirds Billiards, a stellar host pool hall, and also a major sponsor of the event.  Thank you to Canada Billiards, Simonis Cloth and Aramith Balls for their support.  Thank you to sponsors Pechauer Cues, Atlantica Hotel, and Coastal Cannapy.  Thanks to the referee crew of Dale Brimicombe and Derek Peterson, and to the Tournament Director Steve Cooper and Scheduler Craig Teal.  Thanks to all the Atlantic Canadian players that took part in the event, and all the spectators for rooting on your favorite players.  A special thank you all the players came from away to support year one, especially those professional players for believing what was promised would be delivered.  The Billiard Shop Eastern Canadian 9-Ball Open was a large success due to all of you!
Next year’s event has been announced for November 6 to 12, 2018, with $50,000 CDN added.  There is sure to be even greater interest from pro’s, amateurs, and fans!

2016 Canadian Championships

Naomi Williams, John Morra, Alex Pagulayan and Brittany Bryant

From May 5th to May 10th, le Tapis Vert in Quebec City hosted the Canadian Billiards & Snooker Association’s (CBSA) 21st annual Canadian Pool Championships.  The six-day event consisted of 8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball tournaments open to any person holding a Canadian passport. The CBSA is affiliated with the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), through the WPA’s North American affiliate, the Billiard Congress of America (BCA). With these affiliations, it grants Canada the opportunity to be represented at all World Pool Championships, and most other major International pool events.
The restructured CBSA Board of Directors made a wise decision this year in selecting Quebec as the host province for 2016.  The Province of Quebec has a great attitude towards billiards, they produce a great number of top calibre players, and there was a significant increase the attendance from previous years.
Women’s Events
Naomi Williams and Brittany Bryant continue to dominate this sport in the Women’s Canadian field.  Year after year, these ladies share titles and this year was no different.  Brittany and Naomi played each other in the finals of both events (9-Ball and 10-Ball).  After losing to Brittany in the A-side finals, Naomi returned from the B-side to win her forth Canadian 9-Ball title with an 11-6 win.
In the 10-Ball event, it was Brittany’s turn to shine.  Both players traded racks for the first 8 games and the score was tied 4-4.  All of a sudden, Brittany took control and went into dead stroke winning the next 6 games in a row to take the 10-Ball title.  Well done girls.
Open 8-Ball
Earlier in the year the organizing committee for the 2016 World 8-Ball Tournament announced that the event would be held in Toronto at The Corner Bank.  It was disappointing to recently learn that the event was moved from Toronto to China.  A large number of players had high hopes of competing at the international level in front of their fellow countryman.  In any event, the show must go on.
In the Canadian event, the crowd favourite, Alex Pagulayan looked unstoppable only losing 6 games in his first 4 matches.  Alex outscored his opponents 36-6.  Alex’s then faced 3-time Canadian 8-Ball Champion Jason Klatt.  Klatt was also having a good day with wins over Jason Thomas, Alain Martel, Sylvain Gingras and John Morra.  A very focussed Klatt got the 9-5 win over Alex in their 5th round match.
In the finals, Jason faced Alex Pagulayan for the second time.  Both players traded racks in the alternate break format and the score remained close until the end.  With the score tied 10-10, Jason broke and ran the final rack to take the match and the title.  An impressive start for Klatt as he went undefeated to claim his fourth Canadian 8-ball title.
Open 9-Ball
A few weeks before this event, it was announced that the 9-Ball would be racked on the spot.  This rule was implemented to follow the lead of the World Pool-Billiard Association which will be enforced at the World Championships.  All participants needed to adapt to this break format on short notice.
Although Alex fell one game short in the 8-ball event, “The Lion” reigned in the 9-ball.  Three days into this event, Alex was well adjusted to the conditions of the room.  Alex dominated his opponents and reached the finals with wins over Jeff Blais, Danny Hewitt, John Morra, Sylvain Grenier and Alain Martel.  It was John Morra who had the last opportunity to dethrone Alex.  John has been travelling the planet and is currently ranked 5th in the world rankings.  Unfortunately for John, the break shot was not cooperating with him and he had very few opportunities to gain any momentum.  Pagulayan stayed in control the entire match and won the 9-ball title with a solid 15-6 performance.
Open 10-Ball
In this event, “The Dancing Bear” Alain Martel proved he still has what it takes to compete with the best players in the country.  His gentle, finesse style put him in the A-bracket semi-finals with wins over Randy Bagot, Charles Castonguay, Shannon Ducharme and Stephan Doiron.  Alain continued his clinic against Alex Pagulayan and mounted a 6-2 lead.  Unfortunately for Alain, no lead is safe against Alex.  Pagulayan somehow managed to comeback and win 10-9.  Martel was eventually eliminated by John Morra and settled for a respectable 4th place finish.
The final match would see John Morra face off against Alex Pagulayan.  This was a rematch of the 9-ball finals and John wanted revenge.  Morra got off to a great start winning the first 4 games.  In the 5th rack, John committed an early foul and Alex pounced at the opportunity to get on the scoreboard 4-1.  John scratched on the next break in this alternate break format and Alex ran out again to bring the score to 4-2.  From there, the smooth stroke of John Morra took over.  John kept the pressure on Alex as he won 9 of the next 10 racks to clinch the title with a dominating 13-3 score.  A fabulous finish to a great tournament.
“The CBSA very much needed a bounce-back year, and the numbers were big enough to say that this event should help pave the way for better things in the future”, said Randall Morrison President, Canadian Billiards & Snooker Association.  Check out their website for full brackets from the event –
A special thanks to all the special people that made this event happen.  The CBSA Secretary, Candace Campbell, did an excellent job as tournament director and had a great time doing it.  Volunteers Barry Hetherington and Alain Parent were gracious to offer their assistance in helping conduct the bracket, calling matches and officiating shots.  Acknowledgement should also be given to the sponsors for contributing to the costs associate with running these national events:  Tiger, Simonis/Aramith, Kamui, Chalk-Cube, F.G. Bradley’s, Think Green Industries and Jostens.

Olinger and Brown take opposite paths to victory on GSBT Championships

Shannon Daulton, Alex Olinger, Kenny Tran and room owner Mike Medley

The biggest story of the Great Southern Billiard Tour's 7th Annual Tour Championship weekend, December 13-15, was Alex Olinger, who won 12 straight matches – 10 on the loss side and two in the finals – to claim the 9-Ball title. In the 8-ball tournament, Mike Brown went undefeated to claim that title; his first on the GSBT. The $5,000-guaranteed purse events ($2,500 each) drew 90 entrants – 44 in 8-ball and 46 in 9-ball, with some duplication – to Michael's Billiards in Fairfield, OH, which was hosting the event for the second year in a row.
Olinger began his loss-side march when Louis Altes took him down 7-7 in the second round; Olinger was racing to 10. Altes would move on and advance to a winners' side semifinal against Danny Smith, who was looking to end 2012 the way he had started it, with a win (He took first place in last January's Music City Classic). In the other winners' side semifinal, Kenny Tran faced Brandon Thomas (the son in a father/son pair that competed; against each other in 8-ball). 
Tran won 7-5, and Smith sent Altes over 11-5. With Smith racing to 11, Tran won his final match, moving into the hot seat 7-7. Olinger was on his way.
By the time the loss side got into its money rounds, Olinger was just over halfway home; six down, four to go for a shot at Tran in the hot seat. He took down Bill Tremble 10-3 and Bruce Luttrell 10-5, which set him up to face Brandon Thomas. Altes picked up Timmy Heath, who'd defeated Corey Morphew 7-5, and Jeremy Seaman 7-7. Olinger got his re-match versus Altes, but only just, as Thomas battled him to double hill. Altes, in the meantime, eliminated Heath 7-5.
Olinger sent Altes home 10-4 in the quarterfinals that followed, and then, locked up in a double hill semifinal battle with Danny Smith. With Smith racing to 11, Olinger prevailed 10-10 and moved on to face Tran. 
With Tran, in the hot seat, racing to seven, Olinger took the opening set of the finals double hill (10-6). He took the second set 10-5 to claim the GSBT 9-Ball Championship title.
In the 8-ball tournament, Ohio's Mike Brown was the main story, as he went undefeated to claim his first-ever win on the Great Southern Billiard Tour.  Brown's trip to the hot seat dodged a bit of a bullet, as Danny Smith, who finished third in the 9-ball event, advanced to the winners' side final four, and eventually finished fourth in the 8-ball event. Brown faced Jeremy Seaman among the winners' side final four, and looking for a second hot seat match, Smith faced Chris Bosse.
With Seaman racing to 8, Brown got into the hot seat match 6-6, as Bosse was busy sending Smith to the loss side 5-3. Brown defeated Bosse 6-3 to claim the hot seat and waited on what turned out to be the return of Seaman.
Smith moved to the loss side and ran into Russell Thomas, who'd shut out Samantha Patton, and then defeated his own son, Brandon 5-4 (Brandon racing to 6). Seaman picked up Jason Thomas (no relation), who'd survived a double hill match versus Shannon Murphey, and eliminated Timmy Heath 6-3. Smith made short work of the elder Thomas 8-2, and in the quarterfinals, faced Seaman, who'd ended Jason Thomas' run, double hill.
In a straight-up race to 8, Seaman dropped Smith into fourth place, and then survived a double hill matchup against Bosse (8-4) in the semifinals. The Brown/Seaman re-match was a replay of their first meeting among the winners' side final four. With Seaman racing to 8, Brown prevailed 6-6 to claim the 8-ball title.
Shannon Daulton and Marge Cooper thanked Mike Medley and his staff at Michael's Billiards and Games, as well as sponsors Nick Varner Cues & Cases, Delta 13 Racks, Andy Gilbert Custom Cues, Tiger Products, Ozone Billiards and Lomax Custom Cues.

Canadian National 9-Ball Results in Toronto

Alex Pagulayan (Photo courtesy of Dave Thomson

The Canadian Championships continues at Shooters Snooker and Sports Club in Toronto. The Open 9-ball event had 34 players competing for the title with the winner guaranteed a spot in the World Championships. With many of the previous 9-ball champions not in attendance, the event was wide open.

Moving through the top half of the bracket was Jason Klatt with wins over Bruce Lilly (11-1), Andy Aupin (11-10), Brad Poorman (11-4) and Jason Thomas (11-7). In the lower bracket, Alex Pagulayan was in fine form after just winning the 8-Ball event. Alex had wins over Dwayne Thompson (11-4), John Morra (11-7), Rob Phillips (11-10), and Dave Martin (11-3).

In the “hot seat” match, Pagulayan made quick work of Klatt with a convincing 11-4 win. Klatt then faced Rob Phillips from Alberta in the b-bracket finals. Phillips would have to settle for 3rd place after losing to Klatt 11-6.

In the finals, Klatt then faced Pagulayan once again for a shot at the national title. With the match tied 1-1, Alex won 8 of the next 9 games leading the match 9-2. Jason managed to swing the momentum into his direction winning the next five racks to bring the score within two at 9-7. The players traded the next few racks before Alex closed out the match with a break and run in the last game. Pagulayan wins his third Canadian 9-Ball title with a 15-9 score.

9-Ball Open Results
1st – Alex Pagulayan
2nd – Jason Klatt
3rd – Rob Phillips
4th – Mario Morra
5-6th – Dave Martin
5-6th – Jason Thomas
7-8th – Andy Aupin
7-8th – Brad Poorman

This article originally appeared at