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From the loss side, Rodriguez chalks up first Sunshine State Pro Am Tour victory in three years

Mike DeLawder, Trenton White and Ricardo Joel Rodriguez

Barnes goes undefeated to claim concurrently-run Ladies event

One did it the hard way, while the other opted for the shorter, arguably more difficult easy way. Ricardo Rodriguez, looking for his first win on the Sunshine State ProAm Tour in three years, lost his third winners’ side match at this past weekend’s (Oct. 8-9) tour stop He then won seven straight on the loss side before downing Trenton White in the finals to claim the event title. Jessica Barnes took the shorter route in the concurrently-run Ladies event, winning five in a row and downing Nicole Cuellar twice to claim the ladies’ title.

The $1,500 added main event drew 60 entrants to Brewlands Bar & Billiards North in Lakeland, FL. The $500-added Ladies event drew 16 entrants to the same location.

Rodriguez’ path took him past Marcos Bielostozky and George Saunders, both 7-5, before he ran into a double hill match versus Desi Derado that he lost. Mike DeLawder and Trenton White, in the meantime, worked their way forward toward their hot seat match; White advancing through Mike Xiarhos, Jr., Leon Micco, Dale Stanley and Konnor McFayden to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Robert Noon, while DeLawder sent Anthony Cruz, co-tour-director Bobby Garza, and both Manuel Montas and John Souders (both double hill) to the loss side to draw Ameet Kukadia in the other winners’ side semifinal.

DeLawder came within a game of being forced into his third straight double hill fight, but just did edge out in front near the end to defeat Kukadia 7-5. White joined him in the hot seat match after surviving his double hill struggle against Noon. White shut Delawder out to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, it was Kukadia who drew the finals-bound Rodriguez, who’d just eliminated junior competitors Kaylee McIntosh 7-2 and Konnor McFayden 7-4. Noon picked up David Singleton, who’d defeated John Souders 7-3 and survived a double hill match versus Garza to reach him.

Rodriguez defeated Kukadia 7-5 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Noon, who’d put Singleton on the wrong side of his second straight double-hill match. Rodriguez took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Noon and then, by the same score, denied DeLawder his second chance against White.

Rodriguez waste little time. He took the finals against White 9-5 to claim the event title

Nicole Cuellar, Sofia Mast and Jessica Barnes

Barnes gets into a 7-3 groove to the hot seat match

Jessica Barnes seemed to decide that since she had gotten herself into a groove of some kind that she should probably stick with it. She defeated her first three opponents on her way to the Ladies win by the same 7-3 score, defeating co-tour-director Janene Phillips, Erica Pennington and, in a winners’ side semifinal, the Pink Dagger (aka junior competitor Sofia Mast). Nicole Cuellar, in the meantime, got by Sandra Micco, Cami Becker and in her winners’ side semifinal, Margie Soash 7-1.

Cuellar knocked Barnes out of her 7-3 groove in the hot seat match, but it wasn’t enough. Barnes survived Cuellar’s double hill challenge to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Soash picked up and was defeated by Helen Caukin 5-1, as The Pink Dagger drew and eliminated Kaylee McIntosh by the same score. Mast defeated Caukin 5-2 in the quarterfinals, only to have her brief, loss-side run upset by Cuellar’s desire for a rematch against Barnes. Cuellar won that battle 5-1. Barnes downed Cuellar a second time, 9-5, to claim the Ladies title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Larry Wathall and his staff at Brewlands “for taking great care (them) all weekend,” as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Kamui Brand, Diamond Billiard Products, Jamison Daniels, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Dr. V’s Custom Shop and Central Florida Pool League. ‘Shout outs’ were extended to Bobby Garza and Lights Out Streaming for providing great stream and commentary, along with Jimmy Antonietta, Rob McLaren, Mike D and George Saunders for their commentating and  Adam Hanas for helping run the boards. 

In light of the fact that the tour had a junior competitor among the final three in both of this past weekend’s events (Trenton White and Sofia Mast) and because, like so many others,  who enjoy watching these young competitors succeed in their early pool careers, Phillips and Garza thanked Asia Cy for donating an entry fee to a junior lady, Leah Holler and wished to make mention of two local individuals who are “doing great things for the junior competitors’ –  Danielle Fee with Shooting for the Stars and Eddie Altman with Junior Billiards Scholarship Fund. If you’d like to help support a junior program, reach out to either of these organizations.

The next and final stop of the year for the Sunshine State ProAm Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 26-27 and hosted by Racks Billiards in Sanford, FL will feature two events; a $1,000-added Open One Pocket event and a $2,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Championship. 

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Kennedy and Meglino split the top two prizes on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Tommy Kennedy, Anthony Meglino and Justin Gilsinan

They were the last two standing at the season finale of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour in December, 2019 and this past weekend (March 5-6), they were the last two standing at the $1,000-added, second stop on the 2022 Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, which drew 38 entrants to Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café at Winter Park, FL. Neither of the events featured a final match because at the end, reported as 3 a.m. in both cases, Tommy Kennedy in the hot seat and Anthony Meglino, coming back from a few matches on the loss side (both times), opted out of a final and split the top two prizes. Kennedy, in the hot seat, was the official winner both times.

It was, thanks in part to the pandemic, Kennedy’s first win since that 2019 event on the same tour. He’d won an event on his own Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour in August of that year. Meglino, on the other hand, had chalked up six event victories in that time frame, four of them on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, and three of them in 2021, which turned into his best recorded earnings year, to date. Meglino is well on his way to making 2022 better than last year at the tables.

Kennedy opened his campaign with wins over Michael Anderson, David Nguyen and Raymond Linares, advancing to a winners’ side semifinal against former tour director of the New York City area’s Predator Pro Am Tour and now, transplanted Floridian competitor, Tony Robles, who, in the preceding winners’ side quarterfinal, had sent Meglino to the loss side, double hill. In the meantime, Justin Gilsinan, winner of this past January’s Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championship, had defeated Michael McGuire, Brent Mireles and KC Donahey to meet up with Justin Toye in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kennedy sent Robles to the loss side 7-5 and in the hot seat match, was joined by Gilsinan, who’d survived a double hill battle over Toye. Kennedy claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Gilsinan.

On the loss side, Robles picked up a rematch against co-tour director of the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, Bobby Garza, who, after that 7-1 loss had embarked on a five-match, loss-side streak that had recently eliminated Donahey 5-3 and Monthep Hongsyok, double hill. It was Toye who picked up the battling-back-to-the-finals Meglino, who’d followed his loss to Robles with wins over Orlando Dixon 5-1 and Raymond Linares 7-3.

Garza and Robles locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Garza to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Meglino, who’d defeated Toye 7-3. Meglino allowed Garza just a single rack in those quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals against Gilsinan.

Gilsinan didn’t give up his potential second shot against Kennedy in the hot seat easily. He fought for it right down to the 13th deciding game, but Meglino closed out what proved to be the last match of the event. He and Kennedy agreed on the split as the sun was painting thin, early colors in the horizon skies over Winter Park, FL.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Faheem Zia and the staff at Cue-Phoria Billiards and Cafe for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiards Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZ Billiards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, Eastern Billiards and Andy Cloth. Phillips went on to thank her co-tour director Garza for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing and Andy Cleary for his graphics. She also noted and thanked Brent Mireles, Jimmy Antonietta and Tony Robles for their commentary on the stream.

The next event on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of April 9-10, will be a $1,500-added event hosted by Brewlands North in Lakeland, FL.

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Osborne wins his first major tournament at Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour special event

Dominick Dunn, Jimmy Antonietta & Nick Osborne

He’s been playing pool for well over 20 years and with a 9 ft. Brunswick Anniversary pool table in his home, he’s not short on practice TAT (time at table). He’s been winning local tournaments and faring well in league play (USAPL, NAPA and an American rotation pool league). He’s also been doing cue repair for just about as long as he’s been playing and through word-of-mouth and Facebook, manufactures and markets his own cues; Nick Osborne Custom Cues. On Sunday, January 4, Nick Osborne broke through to win his first major professional tournament; an amateur, special 9-ball event for players with a Fargo Rate of 575 or below, held under the auspices of the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. The event drew 32 entrants to Park Avenue Billiards in Orange Park, FL.

The day prior (Jan. 2), Park Avenue Billiards also hosted a 10-Ball invitational that drew 25 entrants. Won by Joselito Martinez, that event is detailed in a separate report that can be found elsewhere on these News pages.

So how, one wonders, does a player with so much experience, a table in his home and a cue-repair/cue-making business manage to avoid cashing in one of the country’s most active pool communities (Florida), or elsewhere, for 20 years?

“I never could afford to travel to these tournaments,” he explained. “Park Avenue Billiards is six minutes away.”

Since he’s been very active and successful as a local player for all of these years, in league play and local tournaments, the fact that he’d won his first professional major tournament almost escaped his notice until AZBilliards called him for comment.

“I’ve won all kinds of league events,” he said, adding that a local pool room runs a regular Sunday tournament and that quarterly, they hold a big, invitation-only tournament that he’s won twice. “I’m a good pool player, I’d say among the top 20 in my area.”

He had to come from the loss side to seal this first major win of his, but only for a single match. He and Dominick Dunn (who has a single entry in the AZ database, a 13th place finish on the tour in 2018) battled twice for the title. Osborne opened with a 7-1 win over Damien Osman and then won two 7-4 matches, sending Nate Beal and David Kaiser to the loss side. This set him up to face Brandon Hoffman in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Dunn, in the meantime, after opening with a double hill win over Jay Stock, defeated Robert McLaren 7-4 and Matt Cain 7-5, to draw Wayne Kelly in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Dunn sent Kelly west 7-5, as Osborne was busy chalking up his third straight 7-4 victory, over Hoffman. Dunn handed Osborne his first, and what turned out to be his only defeat, 7-5 to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Hoffman and Kelly both drew players who’d lost their opening matches and were in the midst of lengthy loss-side winning streaks. Hoffman picked up Jimmy Antonietta, who was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him all the way to the semifinals versus Osborne. He’d recently eliminated Bobby Quin, double hill and Matt Cain 7-1. Kelly drew Brian Luke, whose five-match, loss-side winning streak was about to end, one match shy of drawing the opponent who’d sent him over (Hoffman). Luke had recently defeated David Kaiser and survived a double hill match against Tommy Pauley.

Antonietta spoiled the potential quarterfinal rematch of Hoffman/Luke with a 7-4 win over Hoffman. Kelly spoiled it with a 7-5 victory over Luke. Antonietta then restricted Kelly’s loss-side efforts to the single, quarterfinal match, defeating him 7-2. Osborne, in turn, ended Antonietta’s loss-side streak 7-5 in the semifinals.

Osborne had trouble remembering details of the single race-to-9 finals between the two opponents, Fargo-rated 575 or below, vying for their first major tournament win.

“It was 23 hours in,” he said. “We’d been playing non-stop from 10:30, Saturday morning and left at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning.”

“I remember I had him (on the hill) at 8-4,” he added, “and a couple of his friends started ‘barking’ at him. I think it riled him up and he strung a few racks together.”

Four in a row, to be precise, but they weren’t enough. Osborne won the deciding 17th game to claim his first major event title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the ownership and staff at Park Ave. Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Group, Kamui, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Products, AZBilliards, and all of the players who compete in their events. The season-opening, points-earning stop on the 2021 Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 6-7, will be hosted by Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL.