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Linares and Mills go head-to-head in season opener of Sunshine State Predator Pro-Am Tour

Raymond Linares, Donny Mills and Rich Schau

Raymond Linares recorded his best earnings year at the tables in 2021. His second-best occurred 10 years ago, one year before he won the American College Unions International Collegiate Men’s Championship in 2013. He’s started 2022 by chalking up his first tour victory this past weekend (Feb. 5-6) on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour’s season opener. Opposing him in both the hot seat and finals was Donnie Mills, who also had a good 2021 at the tables, although not even close to his best earnings year, which happened in the same year (2009) that Linares first started showing up on payout lists of Florida tournaments like the Seminole Tour. They’re familiar combatants on the Florida felt (to others and each other) and graced spectators at their most recent battles for a regional tour title with a good show. The $2,300-added event drew 63 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL.

Linares opened his bid for the title by giving up only seven racks to his first four opponents;  Ronnie Mercer (1), Manuel Montas (0), Rich Schau (4) and Michael McGuire (2). He advanced to a winners’ side semifinal versus Konner McFayden. Mills, in the meantime, gave up just a single rack to three of his first four opponents; one each to James Green, Nathan Rose and Marcus Murillo. In the second round, though, Mike Delawder had given him the proverbial ‘run for his money,’ chalking up six racks against him and forcing a deciding game that did eventually advance Mills to a winners’ side semifinal against Jerry Arvelaez. 

Linares advanced to the hot seat match 7-3 over McFayden and was joined by Mills, who sent Arvelaez to the loss side 7-4. Mills claimed the hot seat with a surprising (to a few) 7-3 win over Linares and waited for him to come back from the semifinals.

On the loss side, McFayden picked up Rich Schau, who’d followed his third-round loss to Linares with three loss-side wins that had recently eliminated Marcus Murillo 7-2 and Robert Batson 7-1. Arvelaez drew a rematch versus Trenton White, whom he’d sent to the loss side in the third round 7-4 and who’d just chalked up loss-side wins #3 and #4 against Bobby Garza and Han Berber, both 7-3, to earn the rematch.

Schau downed McFayen 7-1, as White was wreaking his vengeance on Arvelaez with his sixth in a row, 7-2. Schau stopped White’s loss-side streak at that sixth win, defeating him 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Schau and Linares battled to double hill in the semifinals before Linares prevailed for a second shot at Mills.

In the finals that followed, Linares jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, which, after watching Mills chalk up the rack that made it 5-2, prompted stream commentator and event competitor, Bobby Garza to note that Mills seems to have a preference to starting out slow.

“I think (Mills) likes to start out from behind,” Garza said. “He finds his stroke midway, catches up and then destroys his opponent.”

Just after the midway mark of the two-hour match, Mills chalked up his first two-in-a-row and seemed to be making Garza’s point, as he pulled within two at 6-4. Mills made it three-in-a-row to draw within one at 6-5, they traded racks to 7-6 and then began a wild rack #14 that featured Mills’ attempt at a 5-9 combination, resting near a corner pocket. The 9-ball didn’t drop, but the 5-ball went three rails and did. Shortly afterwards, Mills shot at the 7-ball and watched it rattle in the hole. He then watched Linares step to the table and take aim at the same 7-ball and a clear opportunity to finish the rack and reach the hill first. The 7-ball didn’t drop, but the cue ball took a ‘cross country’ trip to the opposite end of the table and did. Mills didn’t miss the three balls left and it was tied at 7-7.

Mills took his first lead in the match, winning rack #15, but Linares roared back to chalk up rack #16 with a 5-9 combination. Linares had the break and took full advantage of the opportunity. He dropped three balls on the break and ran the table to claim his first 2022 title on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour.

In the event that featured three junior competitors, seven ladies, and six USAPL players that attended at a reduced entry fee, the top junior finisher, Trenton White and the top lady finisher, Jeannie Seaver, took home $50 each. 

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Westbrook-Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, and Eastern Billiards. Janene thanked Bobby for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing USA and Andrew Cleary for his graphics. The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 5-6, will be the $1,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Classic, hosted by Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café in Winter Park, FL.

Gilsinan and Burden come from deep on the loss side to win FL State Amateur 9-Ball events

Tony Crosby, Jerry Arvelaez, Michael Zingale, Justin Gilsinan and Mike Lear

Between the Main and Second Chance events on the Florida Pool Tour’s $5,000-added Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championships this past weekend (Jan. 15-16), 183 players (with duplication) came to Zingale’s in Tallahassee to play some 9-ball. It had to be the most heavily-attended event in the state in the last two years. And both events featured winners who’d lost early matches and came back on the loss side to claim a title.

After being awarded an opening-round bye (along with 122 others in the 256-player bracket), Justin Gilsinan lost his third winners’ side match (double hill to Nick Applebee) and then won 10 in a row to claim the $4,000-added, 134-entrant Main Event. Jordan Burden lost his opening match (5-1 to Stacy Harrell) in the $1,000-added, 49-entrant Second Chance event and also won 10 straight to claim that title.

The events were designed to accommodate players at a certain handicap ranking and below. While Fargo Rate was employed to determine a lot of the handicaps (699 and under), co-tour directors Tony Crosby and Mike Lear used that and personal knowledge of players to determine eligibility.

With the eventual winner already at work on the loss side in the main event, it was Jerry Arvelaez and Trenton White who, in races to 7, advanced through the 9-ball field to reach the hot seat match. Arvelaez started his trip with a double hill win over Jason Richko and then advanced through Frankie Bourgeois (3), Josh Hillard (0), Desi Derado (5) and Ben Smith (4) to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal match against White. White had sent Billy Pelkey (5), Lincoln Seiffert (0), Bobby Moore (3), Aidan Rigsby (1) and Jesse Middlebrooks (5) to the loss side to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Kelvin Holliman.

Arvelaez and Applebee battled to double hill before Arvelaez prevailed, advancing to the hot seat match. White joined him after sending Holliman over 7-2. Arvelaez and White came within a game of double hill, before Arvelaez edged out in front to claim the hot seat 7-5.

On the loss side, Applebee picked up Roderick Rentz, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal match, double hill, to Holliman and then, given up just a single rack to Joselito Martinez and none at all to Desi Derado to reach Rentz. Holliman had the misfortune of drawing Gilsinan, who was six matches into his loss-side trip, which had consisted of three matches that came within of game of double hill (5-3), two straight double hill wins and a shutout of Josh Hillard.

Rentz chalked up his second straight shutout, downing Applebee and advancing to the quarterfinals, with the possibility of a rematch against Holliman ahead of him. Gilsinan joined Rentz, spoiling the rematch, with a 5-3 win over Holliman. 

Gilsinan put an end to Rentz’ loss-side run 5-1 in the quarterfinals and chalked up loss-side win #9 in the semifinals, eliminating White 5-3. Gilsinan completed his improbable loss-side run in the finals. He downed Arvelaez 8-5 to claim the Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championship.

Burden comes back from opening-round loss to win Second Chance tournament

The only thing missing from Jordan Burden’s equally improbable, 10-loss-side-win performance to claim the Second Chance victory was what would, no doubt, have been a satisfying ‘So there!’ rematch against Stacy Harrell. It didn’t happen.

It was Jason Jones and Chris Campos who worked their way through the 39-entrant, Second Chance field to square off in the hot seat match. Jones claimed the hot seat 5-2, unaware that his six-match run through the winners’ side was about to come to an end.

On the loss side, Burden’s sixth win came at the expense of Billy Burke, who’d lost his winners’ side semifinal match against Jason Jones. Burden defeated Burke 5-3, advancing to the quarterfinals, where he eventually shut out David Uwate. 

The last piece of Burden’s loss-side puzzle was Campos in the semifinals. A 3-1 victory over him put Burden into the finals, where he defeated Jason Jones 5-3 to claim the Second Chance title. 

Tour directors Tony Crosby and Mike Lear thanked the ownership and staff at Zingale’s, as well as sponsors Aramith Billiard Balls, Outsville, Simonis Cloth, Salotto Pro, Digital Pool, Fargo Rate, Crosby’s Billiards and Darts Supply, Straight Shooter Gear,, Sniper and XL Press Co. The Florida Pool Tour will return to Zingale’s next month for the $5,000-added Florida State Open 10-Ball Championships, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 26-27.

Rodriguez goes undefeated, chalks up ‘anniversary’ win on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Les Duffy, Jerry Arvelaez & Ricardo Joel Rodriguez

When Ricardo Joel Rodriguez stepped to the tables this past weekend, Oct. 3-4, to compete on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, he was looking to repeat his performance on the weekend of Oct. 5-6, 2019, when he won on the same tour, at the same location (Brewlands Bar & Billiards in Lakeland, FL) and collected the same 1st place prize of $1,000. This year’s $1,400-added event on the tour ($1,000 from Brewlands owner, Larry Wathal and $400 from the raffle of a Predator Cue) drew a full field of 64 entrants with 16 players on a waiting list.

Rodriguez had to get by Les Duffy twice to complete his undefeated run. The two had distinctly different trips to the winners’ side semifinal when they met for the first time. Rodriguez, racing to 8, faced four opponents (Jacob Songer, Anthony Fisher, Trenton White and Marcos Bielostozky) and played 50 games, winning 64% of them (32-18). Duffy, racing to 7, faced four opponents, as well (Francisco Serrano, Joselito Martinez, Kyle Fee and Alberto Perez), but only played a total of 34 games. He won 82% of those games (28-6), bolstered by back-to-back shutouts over Fee and Perez. 

In the meantime, Jerry Arvelaez worked his way to the other winners’ side semifinal against David Singleton. Arvelaez’s trip was (statistically) about halfway between Rodriguez and Duffy; four opponents (Micah Daughtery, Monthrep Hongsyok, Jimmy Antonietta & Enrique Gamez), 40 games, a 77% game-winning percentage (31-9) and one shutout, over Antonietta. Singleton, just to complete what turned out to be the event’s top four finishers, got by Nick Lewis, Derek Laprairie, Chris Filippelli and what ended up being the event’s top finishing female, Nicole Cuellar. Singleton rounded out the percentage ‘game’ at 70%; winning 29 of the 41 that had gotten him as far as the winners’ side semifinal. 

The four arrived at the winners’ side semifinals, in game-percentage winning order as 1) Duffy, 2) Arvelaez, 3) Singleton and 4) Rodriguez. Rodriguez would, in two matches, jump four steps to win it, as the other three maintained the relative positions they held going into those winners’ side semifinals.

Singleton downed Arvelaez 8-3, as Rodriguez was busy sending Duffy to the loss side 8-4. Rodriguez claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Arvelaez and waited on Duffy’s return.

On the loss side, Duffy picked up Sam Kantar, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had recently included victories over Gamez 7-2 and a shutout over Cuellar. Singleton drew Bielostozky, who, following his defeat at the hands of Rodriguez, had survived two straight double hill matches and eliminated Joselito Martinez and Ameet Kukadia.

Singleton and Duffy got right back to winning ‘work.’ Singleton downed Bielostozky 7-2 and in the quarterfinals, faced Duffy, who’d stopped Kantar’s winning streak 7-3. Duffy then dropped Singleton 7-5 in those quarterfinals and left Arvelaez in 3rd place with a 6-4 victory that earned him his second shot against Rodriguez, waiting for him in the hot seat.

Duffy began the final race to 10 with one ‘bead on the wire’ and got out to a lead that at the 7-4 mark, looked fairly grim for Rodriguez. But Rodriguez fought back, winning five of the next six games to bring the match to a double hill, final game. Duffy broke the final rack into what looked like a winning layout. He played to the 5-ball and scratched. Rodriguez took the ball in hand and completed the rack to claim the event title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Larry Wathal and his Brewlands staff, as well as title sponsor The Predator Group, Kamui, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Products, and AZBilliards. The next event on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of November 14-15, will be the tour’s Amateur 9-Ball Bar Box Championships, to be hosted by Racks Sports Bar & Billiards, in Sanford, FL.

Arvelaez and Martinez split top prizes on Sunshine State Pro Am

Raymond Linares, Jerry Arvelaez and Joselito Martinez

At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, September 13, at Boulevard Billiards in Ocala, FL, Jerry Arvelaez and Joselito Martinez opted out of a final match at the 4th stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. They were prepared for one, but the venue was closing. As the occupant of the hot seat at the time, Arvelaez was declared the official winner and according to our records, it was his first major win. The $1,250-added, Open 10-Ball event ($750 by Boulevard Billiards’ owner Don Kreischer and $500 by Predator for cue raffle) drew 64 entrants.

Though the event was won by relatively new talent, the full field was not without its share of top-notch Florida (or anywhere else, for that matter) talent. Raymond Linares made it to the hot seat match. Donny Mills, Tony Crosby, James Sandaler, Obie Cirillo, and co-tour director Bobby Garza were in the mix, as well.

Arvelaez, though, went 6-0 and defeated three of those – Cirillo, Sandaler and Linares. He opened with a victory over Malcom Dodson before facing and sending Cirillo to the loss side 7-5. He survived a double hill fight versus Jon Gore, before sending his eventual and just potential opponent in the finals Joselito Martinez to the loss side 7-3, which set him up to face Sandaler in one winners’ side semifinal. Raymond Linares, in the meantime, had defeated John Souders, Justin Toye, Ameet Kukadia, and Donny Mills 7-3 to face Joel Rodriguez in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Linares moved into the hot seat match on the heels of his 7-5 victory over Rodriguez. He was joined by Arvelaez, who’d defeated Sandaler 7-3. In what proved to be his last match, Arvelaez claimed the hot seat by giving up only a single rack to Linares in the match.

On the loss side, Sandaler picked up Jon Gore, who, after his double hill loss to Arvelaez, won three in a row, including two rather significant wins over Donny Mills 5-1 and Tony Crosby, double hill. Rodriguez picked up Martinez, who’d also lost to Arvelaez, and then survived a double hill battle versus Ameet Kukadia and eliminated junior player Trenton White 6-4.

Sandaler and Gore locked up in a double hill fight, eventually won Gore. Martinez downed Rodriguez 5-3 to join Gore in the quarterfinals. Martinez ended Gore’s loss-side winning streak 5-3 in those quarterfinals, and then, like Arvelaez in the hot seat match, gave up only a single rack to Linares in the semifinal.

Arvelaez and Martinez agreed to the split. Everybody went home.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked title sponsor The Predator Group, Kamui, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch-It-To-Me Embroidery, Diamond Products & AZ Billiards. They also gave a shout out to Don Kreischer and his Boulevard Billiards staff, in particular for the effort Kreischer and John Souders put into re-covering the tables, which at the time of the event “looked and played great.” The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 3-4, will be a $1,000-added Amateur 9-Ball event, hosted by Brewlands North in Lakeland, FL.