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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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Ashton Twins Bring Social Distancing and The Proximity of Help Together With a 9-ball Battle

Bev Ashton and Valerie Franiel

To women struggling with issues of domestic abuse, self-isolation in their home has the potential to be as dangerous as the Covid-19 virus. The need to escape the violence becomes much more acute and the agencies normally positioned to be of assistance get overwhelmed with aid requests, while at the same time, donations diminish. On Saturday, April 11 at The Hidden Spot in Calgary, the pool-playing Ashton Twins (Bev and Joanne) got together for a benefit 9-ball match; a race to 19 between them and after them, two brothers (Guy and Andrew Nicklin), that solicited donations for a local domestic abuse organization called Gems for Gems.
 
Five years ago, a friend of Bev Ashton, Jordan Guildford, used a teenage memory to launch a charitable campaign designed to benefit the victims of domestic abuse. As detailed in a blog post by Mica Lemiski on the Hillberg & Berk Web site, when they were teenagers, Guildford and her siblings had pooled the money their grandmother had given them to purchase Christmas gifts for themselves and used it, instead, to purchase a bracelet for their single Mom “that looked like leaves woven together.” Initially, when, upon opening the package, their Mom burst into tears and left the room, the siblings thought that they’d made a mistake, but when she returned, and explained to her children that the gift had, in fact, “reconnected her to being a woman and an individual, the link between jewelry and personal empowerment had been made clear to Jordan.” 
 
Fueled by the memory of her mother and the bracelet, Guildford decided to spearhead a jewelry drive to collect accessories she would give to women in shelters on Christmas. She called the campaign “Gems for Gems,” the intended message being that gems in the community would donate gems to the gems (the women) in shelters on Christmas. With only three weeks to collect, she set a goal of giving 25 packages. She collected enough to do 436 packages.
 
Now, Gems for Gems is a nationally-registered charity whose mission has expanded beyond the realm of crowd-sourcing jewelry and into that of domestic abuse education and prevention. They still operate the annual jewelry drive, but their outreach now includes a scholarship program and a series of workshops designed to empower survivors.
 
Bev Ashton and Jordan Guildford became friends while exchanging pleasantries on treadmills at Orangetheory Fitness in Seton, a suburb of Calgary. When Jordan, in conversation with Bev, recently explained that domestic abuse was having a tendency to be more acute in these times of self-isolation, Bev conceived of the challenge match with her sister and set out to make it happen. 
 
They settled on The Hidden Spot location in Calgary and, to maintain self-isolation guidelines, determined that it would be a closed event, with just enough people to make it happen; no spectators, bar patrons, or excess personnel of any kind. They communicated with Valerie Franiel to enlist the support of her E-sports Productions company to set up a live stream and the function of $20 donations to the charity. They launched proceedings earlier than Saturday by offering on their streaming site a set of individual challenge matches between individuals with pool tables in their home and the ‘ghost’ (a hypothetical pool opponent in a structured game).
 
“Before we started streaming the Ashton twins,” said Franiel, “we had already raised $1,000.”
 
There were, noted Franiel, only six people in The Hidden Spot when the matches started. And the first glitch in the machinery, so to speak, came when everybody realized that as a result of restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the room’s Internet service provider had suspended service. It took a while, a few hours, for them to get that connection up and running, but when it did, the matches began.
 
In the end, they raised just over $4,000 for Gems for Gems, as the FB stream drew nearly 10,000 viewers to the six-hour-plus streaming broadcast between the Ashton twins and then, the Nicklin brothers. The donations made each donor eligible to win one of two cues – a $1,000 (Canadian) Viking Custom Cue and a $1,500 (Canadian) Erbez Custom Cue – and a couple of Gems for Gems ‘swag bags,’ valued at $100 (Canadian) each. According to Bev Ashton, Jordan Guildford is more than happy with the donations to Gems for Gems.
 
“For her,” said Ashton, “$500 would have been cool, so with the $4,000, she was ecstatic.”
 
“We wanted to do something positive and good,” Ashton added, “while maintaining social distancing and offering some entertainment to people who are sitting bored in their houses.”
 
And oh yeah, there were a couple of pool matches broadcast on Saturday. The event opened with the Ashton twins, who should have been mic-ed to take advantage of their penchant for sibling trash talk that can border on the hilarious and for those who don’t know them, can occasionally sound vindictive. Joanne Ashton’s Web site, for example, notes that she was born 20 minutes before Bev and that it was the best 20 minutes of her life. 
 
Their Fargo rates are separated by 42 points (Bev/571 and Joanne/613), which, at the outset, in a race to 19, gave the higher-rated Joanne an 81.3% chance of winning the match (Fargo Rate match odds tend to give a higher-ranked player a better chance of winning with longer matches). 
 
“We have different styles,” noted Bev. “But she actually has more titles and has actually worked harder at it.”
 
Bev figured that the Fargo Rates were about right and generally speaking, represented their long-time hypothetical match score over a hypothetical 100 matches; Joanne, winning about 80 of the 100. It was Bev, however, who came out gunning. After a few back-and-forth matches to start things off, she opened up a substantial lead, which got as far as 10-3, before Joanne started the catch-up routine that would eventually tie them at 16. Win #17 represented Joanne’s first lead of the match, which she followed with two more to win it all.
 
The Nicklin brothers, Andrew and Guy, played a shorter race to 13. It was a much tighter match that went back and forth to an 8-8 tie, before Andrew pulled ahead to eventually win 13-9. 
 
“Everybody called it the battle of the almost-twins,” said Valerie Franiel, “because they look so much alike that everybody assumes they’re twins, but they’re not. Andrew is older by 13 months.”
 
According to Franiel, the success of this particular event has prompted her (and her company) to begin arranging for follow-up tournaments to include one this weekend (Saturday, April 18, 2 p.m., Mountain Time), which will feature a “Border Battle,” pitting Canadian Geoff Waterfall against USA’s Phillip Wright, who will each be playing against the ‘ghost’ from their home. Geoff will be in Rock Creek, British Columbia as Wright competes from Owatonna, Minnesota. Watch the E-Sports Productions Facebook page for further info on upcoming matches.
 
“I’m happy we went through it,” said Bev Ashton of her and Joanne’s benefit match; streaming glitch and eventually, loss to her sister, notwithstanding. “It was professional and fun and good.”  
 
The Ashton Twins and E-Sports Productions' Valerie Franiel thanked Viking Cues, Erbez Custom Cues, The Hidden Spot, Jennifer Miles with Desjardins Insurance, Brutal Game Gear, Philly’s Billiards and Gaijin Custom for their sponsorship of this event.

Kelly Fisher comes from the loss side to down Tzu-Chien Wei at WPBA’s Aramith/DR Classic

Kelly Fisher

Kelly Fisher came to Rothschild, WI on the long weekend of November 20-24 in search of her first 2019 win and knew almost immediately that she might need to defeat some adversaries she’d faced before. There were, at the WPBA’s Aramith/DR Pool Classic, the usual array of suspects in that regard; Allison Fisher, Jasmine Ouschan, Jennifer Baretta, LoreeJon Hasson, Janet Atwell and Line Kjorsvik, to name just a few. And though she wouldn’t have to face China’s Siming Chen, who did not compete and who’d defeated her in the finals of the WPBA Masters last February in Michigan, she knew she might have to face Chinese Taipei’s Tzu-Chien Wei, whom she’d defeated in the semifinals of that WPBA Masters and then, been defeated by in the semifinals of August’s Sondheim Diamond Invitational in Iowa. She did face Wei this time around, twice as it turned out, losing the first, but coming back from the loss side to win the second and claim the event title. The $20,000-added event drew 48 entrants to the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center in Rothschild.

The importance of chalking up her first win of the year at this event was not lost on Fisher. As a professional, she’s not inclined to dwell on a given event’s individual importance, lest it interfere with the game(s) at hand, but having been on the mend since surgeries sidelined her for a few years, she was getting a little antsy.

“I was getting a worried for a moment there,” she said. “I’d had numerous semifinal wins (since last May; 3, to be exact), so I’m very pleased to have gotten this title.”

“I’m finally feeling that my game is back to where it was a few years ago,” she added.

Fisher was one of 16 seeded competitors who were awarded opening round byes, as the other 32 squared off against each other. Fisher drew Shanelle Loraine out of that original 32, defeated her and joined 12 other players who’d been awarded opening round byes in advancement to the third round. Only Gerda Gregerson, Melissa Little, Line Kjorsvik and Jenna Bishoff from that group of 16 seeded, went to the loss side, sent by (in order) Jeannie Seaver, Dawn Hopkins, Jasmin Ouschan and Teruko Cucculleli.

Fisher went on to defeat Monica Webb 8-1and then survived a double hill battle versus Jennifer Baretta to draw Tzu-Chien Wei in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Jasmin Oushchan, in the meantime, got by Joanne Ashton 8-1, survived her own double hill battle versus Kjorsvik, and downed Dawn Hopkins 8-2 to pick up Jia Li.

Wei defeated Fisher 8-5 and in the hot seat, faced Ouschan, who’d sent Li to the loss side 8-4. A double hill battle ensued for possession of the hot seat. Wei prevailed, sending Ouschan off to a second straight, double hill semifinal matchup against Fisher.

Over on the loss side, there were some top-notch matches brewing as the tournament’s elites moved toward picking up Fisher and Jia Li, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. After losing to Jeannie Seaver in the second round, Gerda Gregerson embarked on a six-match, loss-side streak that saw her eliminate Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Catherine Tschumper and, moving into the early money rounds, Caroline Pao and Emily Duddy. She went on to down Brittany Bryant 8-5 and young Atlantic Cup Challenge competitor, April Larson 8-4 to draw Li.

Fisher drew Tamara Peeters, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak of her own and fresh off something of an 8-1 upset over Teruko Cucculleli. Cucculleli had defeated Allison Fisher on the winners’ side, before being sent over by Jia Li in a winners’ side quarterfinal. She proceeded to eliminate Jessica Barnes, Beth Fondell and jumped into the money pool with an 8-4 win over Loree Jon Hasson. She downed Gail Eaton and Dawn Hopkins, both 8-6 and then, eliminated Cucculleli to reach Fisher.

Fisher gave up only a single rack to Peeters in advancing to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Jia Li, who’d sent Gregerson home 8-6. Fisher won a second straight 8-1 match, eliminating Li 8-1.

That little 16-2 run wasn’t destined to last, as Fisher squared off against Jasmin Ouschan in the semifinals. It was Ouschan’s second straight double hill match, and proved to be the second one in a row that she lost.

With lingering echoes of previous matchups and a nagging little voice that kept telling her that since she’d earned herself a second chance against Tzu-Chien Wei, she’d damn well better take advantage of it, Fisher launched into the finals, in search of her first 2019 win. There are, she noted, generalities about such endeavors, and specifics, related to particular opponents. You have to play ‘your game,’ regardless of opponent, while awareness of specific opponents can inform decisions about approach.

“My main thing,” said Fisher, “is to come out of the gate strong, to keep control of the table.”

“Looking back at previous matches against Wei,” she added, “it was about not allowing her to come back. She’s capable of coming back from behind, so I knew once I had (the lead), I had to keep it.”

As noted in a Biblical proverb – “The heart of Man (Woman) plans his/her way, but the Lord establishes his/her steps.” Fisher lost the opening four racks and immediately switched roles to become the person “capable of coming back from behind.” She allowed Wei only one more rack, before she chalked up 10 to claim that first 2019 title.

“I’ve been practicing quite hard,” she said a few days later from her home in Scotland. “It came down to being patient. I knew I was close (to getting back into previous form), and that there was room to grow.

“I want to win the big ones,” she added, “and it really is just a matter of practice.”

She’ll spend a few days at home, more than likely find time to do some of that practice and then head for China and competition in the 2019 Women’s World 9-Ball Championships, to be held from December 13-20.

WPBA representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Diamond Billiards Products, Aramith, Outsville and Simonis Cloth.

The Texas Tornado goes undefeated to win the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic

With its two previous winners ‘in the house’ – Brittany Bryant and April Larson – the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic got underway on June 14, at 6 p.m. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Though Bryant would get two chances, hot seat and finals, to win her second Ashton Twins Classic, the attempts were disrupted by a Texas Tornado known as Vivian Villareal, who went undefeated to claim the event title. Defending champion, April Larson, was sent to the loss side in the third round by Line Kjorsvik in a live-streamed match on Saturday and was eliminated in a double hill, loss-side match by Liz Cole to finish in the tie for 9th place. Emily Duddy, who was third in the inaugural event and battled Larson in the finals for the title last year, defeated one of the Ashton twins (Beverly) in a second-round match, and then, after being sent to the loss side by Cathy Metzinger, was defeated in her second loss-side match by the second Ashton twin, Joanne. The $8,000-added event drew 46 entrants to The Hidden Spot in Calgary.
 
After being awarded an opening round bye, Villareal got by her first three opponents by an aggregate score of 27-4, giving up two racks to Leandrea Gaff, and one each to Claire Pipestem and Valerie Franiel, which set her (Villareal) up to face Monica Webb in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Bryant, in the meantime, who was not awarded an opening round bye, worked her way to the other winners’ side semifinal with an aggregate score of 36-17, sending Elizabeth Jensen (1), Aryana Lynch (5), Sandy Badger (4) and Line Kjorsvik (7) to the loss side and turning to face Cathy Metzinger in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Monica Webb put up a fight against the Tornado, chalking up more racks against her in the winners’ side semifinal than all of Villareal’s previous opponents combined. Villareal, though, advanced to the hot seat match 9-5, and faced Bryant, who’d sent Metzinger west 9-1. Bryant proved to be Villareal’s second strong challenge in a row. She chalked up seven against her, but once again, Villareal advanced, sitting in the hot seat, waiting for what turned out to be Bryant’s return.
 
On the loss side, Webb picked up Teruko Cucculelli, who, after a defeat by Metzinger in a winners’ side quarterfinal, had downed Bonnie Plowman 9-3 and eliminated Kjorsvik 9-6. Metzinger drew Joanne Ashton, who, after eliminating Emily Duddy 9-6, had also eliminated Franiel 9-5 and Liz Cole 9-7 (Cole had just eliminated Larson).
 
Webb ended Cucculelli’s loss-side run 9-3, and in the quarterfinals, faced Metzinger, who’d eliminated the last-standing Ashton twin 9-2. Metzinger and Webb locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal battle that eventually advanced Metzinger to the semifinals against Bryant.
 
Bryant, apparently very determined to get a second shot at Villareal, allowed Metzinger only two racks in those semifinals. In what proved to be a nail-biting, extended-race-to-13 final, Bryant got out in front early, staking herself to a 5-1 lead, which by rack #13 had been extended to a 9-4 lead and then, quickly, an 11-6 lead.
 
Over the next 40 minutes of the match, Villareal had cut that lead down to a single game. She capped the four-game run by attempting an 8-9 combination which initially failed, only to have the 8-ball continue to travel and drop into a side pocket, leaving Villareal with a straight-on shot at the 9-ball in the opposite side pocket. It was 11-10, with Villareal breaking.
 
Bryant stopped the bleeding to reach the hill first at 12-10, but the Texas Tornado, which had been lurking on the horizon through much of the match, started to pick up some speed. She won game #23 and when Bryant missed a tough shot on the 7-ball in rack #24, Villareal jumped on it and won the rack to force a single deciding game.
 
Bryant broke the last rack, sunk a ball and had a clean, albeit bridge-necessary shot at the 1-ball. She dropped the 1-ball in a lower corner pocket, but as she drew back from the shot, her right wrist nudged the 9-ball forward, out of its original position by about an inch. Tournament officials took a minute or two to sort that out to Villareal’s satisfaction, as Bryant contemplated the difficult shot she’d left herself on the 2-ball. She made the 2-ball, but on a much easier shot, rattled the 3-ball in a corner pocket.
 
Villareal pocketed the 3-ball and played safe, leaving Bryant with a potential jump shot to make the 4-ball. She opted for a kick off the long rail, putting the 4-ball back up-table on a short rail with the cue at the opposite end of the table, leaving Villareal a long, sharp cut shot. A subsequent missed bank shot by Bryant left Villareal with a long-rail cut shot at the 4-ball, which she made, and proceeded to drop the next four balls, including the 9-ball to claim the 3rd Ashton Twins Classic title. 
 

Edmonton hangs on to win first Alberta Cup trophy

Team Edmonton

Modeled after the Mosconi Cup ("with a twist," according to organizers), Cue Sports Live (CSL) held its first Alberta Cup, on the weekend of June 16-18. The 10-ball event pitted two of that Canadian province's cities against each other in teams of seven players each, drawn from six months of qualifiers. The cities of Edmonton and Calgary were represented by teams consisting of five men and two women, selected by slightly different processes. This 1st Annual Alberta Cup, was hosted by The Hidden Spot in Calgary, and saw the city of Edmonton claim the first title 15-13 over the city of Calgary.
 
Edmonton sported a team made up of seven players, which included their captain Garry Hauck. Eight qualifiers were held from which four males (Hauck, Rob Phillips, Carlos Barbosa, and Roger Colbert) and one female (Sandy Badger) were chosen. Hauck selected one more male (Brian Butler) and one more female (Cathy Metzinger). Calgary did things just a little differently, ending up with a team of seven players and a non-playing captain, Barry Hooey, who was chosen before the qualifying players had been identified. As with Edmonton, the qualifiers produced four males (Jason Onespot, Eric Vargas, Ben Francis, and Albert Augustin) and a female (Joanne Ashton), after which Hooey added one male (Joe Spence) and one female (Bev Ashton)
 
Edmonton got on the board first in Day One by winning the team match 8-1 (the only match that went to 8; all others were races to 5). Alternating between scotch doubles and singles, Edmonton took the next four, as well, and were up 5-0, having won 21 of the 32 games played. With one match to play on this opening day, a singles match, Calgary was, psychologically at least, in something of a must-win situation. Calgary's captain, Hauck, chose his personal pick for the team, Joe Spence, who stepped up to the challenge and downed Edmonton's Carlos Barbosa 5-1, which was also the score of the day's matches with Edmonton on top.
 
Calgary had some work to do on Day Two and they started off on the right foot, winning three straight double hill matches. Calgary's Joanne Ashton then downed Edmonton's Cathy Metzinger 5-2 to knot the teams at 5-5.
 
Edmonton wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, as Day Two progressed. Edmonton Captain Garry Hauck and his scotch doubles partner Rob Phillips defeated Calgary’s Ben Francis and Jason Onespot 5-2 to retake the team lead at 6-5. Edmonton went on to win five more, including a shutout by Edmonton’s scotch doubles team of Brian Butler and Sandy Badger over Calgary’s Erik Vargas and Joanne Ashton. Each team chalked up one more win to complete the Alberta Cup's second day, which ended with Edmonton up 12-6; three more matches away from victory.
 
  
As they'd done the day before, Calgary came to the tables on the final day (featuring all singles matches), looking to make up lost ground, and promptly chalked up four games to cut Edmonton's lead to 12-10. Calgary's Joanne Ashton, hoping to get her team within one, was on the hill in game #7 in this match (4-3) against Edmonton's Cathy Metzinger, when she (Ashton) scratched, shooting at the 9-ball. Metzinger closed out the game, putting the two of them at double hill (4-4).  Metzinger broke dry and with eight of the 10 balls in holes, Ashton found herself looking at an almost identical layout from the one she'd faced in the previous game.
 
"Well, this shot looks familiar," Ashton called out, as she took aim at the 9-ball. For the second game in a row, Ashton scratched shooting at the 9-ball, but this time, it cost her not only the game, but the match. It was Edmonton's first win of the final day and gave them the momentum shift they'd been looking for. 
 
Calgary chalked up match #24 to draw them back to within two at 13-11. Edmonton's Carlos Barbosa got to the hill first in game six (4-2) of match #25, but in game seven, missed a tough cut to give Calgary's Jason Onespot the break he needed to finish the rack and draw within one. Onespot broke and ran to force a deciding game. In that deciding game, Barbosa got to the 8-ball, looking at an easy layout on the 9-10, when he miscued and sunk the 8-ball in the wrong pocket. Onespot sunk the 9-ball, and left himself with perfect shape on the 10-ball. He sunk it to cheers from the Calgary fans in attendance, because the team was within one at 13-12.
 
At 3-3 in match #26, Edmonton's Rob Phillips, playing against Calgary's Erik Vargas, broke and ran to reach the hill first. In game #8, Phillips got as far as the 8-ball, poised to win the game, but scratched. Vargas finished the game, forcing a ninth and deciding game. Phillips promptly broke and ran to win the match, and put Edmonton on the hill at 14-12.
 
With the Alberta Cup on the line, Calgary's captain Brian Hooey put up the team's eventual MVP and his personal team pick, Joe Spence. Edmonton countered with Roger Colbert. Spence won 5-3, and, as the saying goes, the hometown and room Calgary crowd went wild, with their team now a single game away from double hill at 14-13.
 
Match #28 pitted Edmonton Captain Garry Hauck's pick, Brian Butler, against Calgary's Ben Francis. Butler took a quick 3-0 lead, but Francis came right back and chalked up two. Francis broke in game six and ran to the 8-ball, before rattling it in the hole, and allowing Butler to finish the game and reach the hill first at 4-2. Francis fought back in game seven to draw within one at 4-3.
 
Calgary's Francis broke rack #8, and though he sunk the 7-ball, he had no shot at the 1-ball. Francis opted to play safe, looking to take advantage of the three-foul rule to get on the hill with Butler. He reckoned, though, without Butler's experience with the game of snooker. Francis tried twice to put Butler in a foul situation, and not only did Butler foil both attempts, but in the second attempt, he left Francis tough, forcing him to foul. With ball in hand, Butler sunk the 1-ball, and the 2-ball, before lining up and making a 3-10 combination that gave him the match win and his team, the 1st Alberta Cup. The Edmonton team pocketed $4,000 and each team member will have his/her name inscribed on a trophy, which will be held in the winning city until further competition. MVP awards went to Edmonton's Cathy Metzinger, who won four of her five matches, and Brian Butler, who won five out of seven, including the championship match. Calgary's Joe Spence picked up an MVP award, as well, for his five out of seven victories. All three of the MVPs were captain picks for the teams.
Event director Valerie Franiel thanked the owner of the Hidden Spot, Joanne Ashton, for her hospitality during event qualifiers and the actual Albert Cup competition, along with sponsors  Cuejo Custom Cues (Darcy Musurichan), Fuss Cupcakes (Kostas Broumas), Recreation World (Jay MacDougall for the Olhausen balls), Elaine Hicks-Reaper from ReMax, Spruce Grove, Discount Custom Apparels (Tim/Ron), Barry Hooey, David Harding, AZ Billiards (Promotions), E&B Plumbing, ScoreSaloon (Jenny Lucas), Fuze Graphics (Curtis Lea), and Jerry W. Briesath.
The entire event was streamed live, courtesy of CueSportsLive, with commentary by Dave Harding, PJ Massicotte, Jim Wych, and a number of participating members from both teams.
 
According to Franiel, this 1st Annual Alberta Cup featured 213 games, and 33 hours of play, supported by (among other things) endless hours of work by volunteers. There will, she said, be more to come.
 

Larson goes undefeated to capture 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic title

April Larson

In discussing the young April Larson, in an interview about her which appeared in Billiards Digest magazine last July, Mark Wilson, captain of the US Mosconi Cup team for three years, made mention of her skills and the likelihood of their development over time.
 
"She's got the tools," he said. "It's just a matter, now, of sharpening them."
 
Since that interview, Larson, a five-time Junior Nationals Champion in two separate divisions (under 13 & 13-17), has gone on to compete at the professional level, chalking up a victory at the North American Pool Tour's (NAPT) Summer 10-Ball Classic last August, and finishing among the top 10 in four other events last year; a stop on the North Central Pool Tour (runner up), the Super Billiards Expo's Women's Championship (5th), the NAPT's Inaugural 10-Ball Invitational (7th) and The Tornado Open (9th).
 
On the weekend of June 10-11, she traveled with her sharpened tools to Calgary, Alberta and went undefeated at the $5,000-added, 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic to chalk up her first (recorded) win of 2017. This, in spite of a strong nine-match, loss-side winning streak by her eventual opponent in the finals, Emily Duddy, who'd finished third in the 1st Ashton Twins Classic last year.
 
In races to 9, Larson's seven opponents in this most recent event, which drew 46 entrants to the Hidden Spot in Calgary, were chalking up an average of just under five racks per match against her (4.71, to be exact), but her undefeated run through the field was surgical, none the less. What had to be frightening to her opponents was the casual ease with which she approached every shot, stroke and eventual game victory; no signs of body language hinting at nervousness, silent aggression, or frustration when an unlucky roll or unforced error led to one of those 4.71 racks against her. Just a friendly, business-like attitude that served her well through the 100 games that she played, and the 67 of them that she won to secure the title.  
 
And the recently-turned-17-year-old has yet to graduate from high school.
 
"I have one more year left," she said, "and I can't wait to be out."
 
With plans to join Mark Wilson's program at Lindenwood University, where she will presumably further sharpen her already considerable skills, her future in the sport is bright. And being noted by those who've opposed her, like veteran pro LoreeJon Hasson, who defeated her in a one-on-one Challenge Match at The Break Room's 2nd Annual 8-Ball Classic last weekend. The match went double hill before Hasson won the challenge and then warned potential opponents in Larson's future.
 
"WPBA ladies," said Hasson, after the match, "Watch out! April is the real deal."
 
Following victories over Maria DeWolff, Shaundra Norquay, Kathie MacDonald and Denise Belanger, Larson moved into a winners' side semifinal against the opponent who would end up keeping Larson's racks-against average below 5, Rashiela Dela Cruz. In the meantime, one of the event-namesake Ashton twins (Joanne) advanced to the other winners' side semifinal versus Liz Cole.
 
Dela Cruz chalked up her event-leading seven racks against Larson, but the youngster put up her nine and advanced to the hot seat match. She was joined by Ashton, who'd defeated Cole 9-5.
Larson grabbed the hot seat 9-3 over Ashton and waited for Duddy to complete her loss-side run.
 
On the loss side, it was Dela Cruz who ran into Duddy, six matches into the streak that would put her into the finals against Larson. Duddy had most recently eliminated Theresa Lien 9-2 and Veronique Menard 9-7. Cole drew Cathy Metzinger, who'd defeated Robyn Petrosino 9-1 (Petrosino had sent Duddy to the loss side in the event's second round) and last year's Ashton Classic winner, Brittany Bryant 9-6 to reach her.
 
Duddy advanced to the quarterfinals 9-6 over Dela Cruz, where she was met by Metzinger, who'd eliminated Cole 9-7. Duddy defeated Metzinger 9-3 and then spoiled Joanne Ashton's bid for a second shot at Larson with a 9-7 win in the semifinals.
 
By virtue of her resume, her gutsy loss-side streak and natural inclinations toward self-confidence, Duddy entered the race-to-13 finals prepared to win. She maintained that air of confidence through about 14 of the eventual 18 games, in spite of chalking up only one of the first seven. At 6-1, she chalked up two in a row to cut Larson's lead in half. They traded racks to 7-4, before Larson chalked up three for a 10-4 lead. In the 15th rack, Larson took aim at an easy 9-ball shot and rattled it in the hole. Thanking goodness for small favors, Duddy dropped it to win what would prove to be her last rack.
 
In typical style, Larson shrugged off that single one of her very few unforced errors, and returned to the table for racks 16, 17 and 18. She won them all to complete her undefeated run, and claim the event title.
 
On her way back home, Larson said that underneath her apparent calm exterior throughout the tournament ("Everybody says that," she noted), was a nervous wreck. Friends who gathered around the pool table when the last match was over were surprised that she was shaking, a remnant of nerves, hidden below the surface of her calm exterior.
 
"Oh, for sure," she said. "I was glad it was over."
 
Though she'd faced and defeated Duddy before at her first SBE appearance two years ago, she was under no illusions that a win this time would be guaranteed.
 
"I told some friends of mine before the event started that if I got into a final against either Emily or Joanne (Ashton), it was going to be tough," she said. "I wanted this real bad, and I knew I had to forget who I was playing, and just play the table."
 
And she did, of course. She joined Emily and a few gathered well-wishers in a ceremonial 'shot' just after the match ended; a 'shot,' which given Canada's age restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, and her own preferences, consisted of milk. She tries not to drink anything during a match – no water, or soft drinks – to avoid any need for a bathroom break, but she reportedly welcomed the milk.
 
She'll rest up for a week, and then travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in Big Dog Billiards and Diveny Custom Cues' 2017 Midwest Billiards and Cue Expo, scheduled for June 21-25. Though she won't be a part of that event's Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge, One Pocket Championship or Banks Ring Game, she will sign on to that event's $2,000-added 9-Ball Open, where she'll mix it up with the boys.
           
"I've been able to experience the best of the best women," she said, "so it's all the same to me."
 
Note to Mosconi Cup organizers: It might be time to rethink the male restriction on members of the US team.
 
" I certainly hope so," she said, "because that's what I'd like to do."
 

Kelly Fisher comes from the loss side to double dip Ga Young Kim in finals of Tornado Open

Kelly Fisher and Vivian Villarreal

Kelly Fisher, who won the Women's Open 10-Ball event of the 2nd Annual Tornado Open over the weekend (Sept. 28-Oct. 3) played for 14 hours straight; from noon on Sunday, October 2 to 2 a.m. on Monday morning, October 3, when she completed a two-set final against Ga Young Kim. Along the way, she'd competed against a host of familiar opponents, including Allison Fisher (twice; two double hill matches), Monica Webb and Jessica Barnes. The $25,000-added women's event drew 62 entrants to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL.
 
"I was absolutely thrilled," she said, pool-side, from her hotel on Monday afternoon, "because while I've won tournaments all over the world, it's been a long, long time since I've won an event here in the USA. 
 
"I really don't know who's in front in our head-to-head battles over the years," she added of her matches against Ga Young Kim. "It's quite close, I know that. Very, very close."
 
Following victories over Julie Kelly, Crystal McCormick, Barnes and Eun J. Park, Fisher had her first meet-up with Allison Fisher in a winners' side semifinal. Kim, in the meantime, having received an opening round bye, defeated Gerda Hofstatter, Laura Smith, and Brittany Bryant to pick up Chezka Centeno in the other winners' side semifinal.
 
The Fishers locked up in their first of two double hill battles, which eventually advanced Allison to the hot seat match. Kim joined her after completing a double hill battle of her own against Centeno. Kim claimed the hot seat 7-3 over Allison Fisher and waited for Kelly to come back from the loss side.
 
On the loss side, Kelly Fisher picked up Monica Webb, who after falling to Eun J. Park on the winners' side in the third round of play, won four straight, including victories over Ewa Laurance, Brittany Bryant (double hill) and Jia Li 7-4. Centeno drew Karen Corr, who'd gotten by (among others) Ewa Laurance and teenage phenom April Larson before being sent to the loss side by Allison Fisher. Corr eliminated Joanne Ashton and Eun Ji Park to face Centeno.
 
Kelly Fisher defeated Webb 7-5, and in the quarterfinals, faced Centeno, who'd downed Corr 7-4. Fisher then navigated her way through two straight double hill matches to reach the finals, defeating Centeno in the quarterfinals, and in the semifinals, turning the double hill tables on Allison Fisher.
 
Fisher won both sets of the double hill final (7-5, 7-4) to complete her run, and claim the Women's 10-Ball title.
 
"You've got to keep her real tight," said Fisher of those final two matches. "(Kim) is a very fluent player, and really dangerous if she gets going."
 
Though acknowledging that, having been playing for so many years, she "doesn't really prepare for whom (she's) playing," Fisher admitted that her experience over the years with Kim, led to some decisions.
 
"She's very good at jumping and kicking," said Fisher, "so if I'm pushing out, I'm not going to leave her with a jump or kick.
 
"That actually happened," she added. "I tried for the shot, rather than leave her with a jump."
 
Kelly's taking a week off to bask in the sun, before flying back to the UK on October 10. Ten days later, she'll be in China for an 8-ball event with a major US title under her belt for encouragement.

Bryant goes undefeated to win inaugural Ashton Twins Classic in Calgary

Joanne Ashton, Brittany Bryant, Eleanor Callado, Beverley Ashton and Emily Duddy

Fresh off her fourth place finish in the North American Pool Tour's Women's 10-Ball Invitational in Herndon, VA, last weekend, Brittany Bryant traveled to Calgary, Alberta to compete in the inaugural Ashton Twins (Joanne and Beverley) Classic, on the weekend of June 11-12. Though challenged twice by Eleanor Callado, Bryant went undefeated through the field of 32 that had signed on to compete in the $2,000-added event, hosted by The Hidden Spot in Calgary.
 
Following victories over Kathie MacDonald, Liz Cole, and Emily Duddy, Bryant squared off against Veronique Menard in a winners' side semifinal. Callado, in the meantime, who'd defeated tournament namesake Joanne Ashton, Farla Salmanovitch and Janet Atwell, met up with Toni Sakamoto in the other winners' side semifinal. Bryant sent Menard to the loss side 9-5, and in the hot seat match faced Callado, who'd defeated Sakamoto 9-7. Bryant claimed the hot seat 9-4 over Callado, and waited on her return.
 
On the loss side, Sakamoto picked up Emily Duddy, who'd been defeated by Bryant in the third winners' side round. Duddy opened her loss-side campaign with a victory over Nathalie Chabot 9-1, and just did survive a double hill battle against Kathie MacDonald. Menard drew Janet Atwell, who'd been sent to the loss side by Callado, and then eliminated Liz Cole 9-6 and Sandy Badger 9-7.
 
Atwell and Menard locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Atwell to the quarterfinals against Duddy, who'd ended Sakamoto's run 9-2. Duddy earned herself a shot at Callado in the semifinals with a 9-6 victory over Atwell.
 
Duddy, who's in the midst of her best year, to date, as a pro (financially), fought Callado, back and forth, one victory at a time, to a 6-6 tie, and then pulled out in front to reach the hill first, ahead by two. Callado, though, fought back to tie it and force a case game. Callado won that game to earn a re-match against Bryant in the hot seat.
 
In spite of a relatively long wait, Bryant opened the single race to 11 with four straight racks. Callado chalked up rack #5, but Bryant came back to win four more to take a commanding 8-1 lead. With some applause-worthy shooting in rack #10, from an enthusiastic crowd, Callado chalked up her second. Bryant took racks #11 and #12 to reach the hill, and then closed it out to claim the event title.
 
The Ashton Twins and Tour Director Stephanie Toy thanked the ownership and staff at The Hidden Spot for their hospitality, as well as sponsors SBI Landscaping, Infinity Mechanical, Inc.,
Sierra Publishing Company, Jenny Lucas from Score Saloon (game by game scoring), Orange Theory Fitness, Nasty Boy Drywall Services, World Sports and Poker.com, Westcreek Consulting, and Randall Morrison for the on-line streaming service.

Ga Young Kim comes from the loss side to win 1st WPBA Rivers US Open

Ga-Young Kim

Coming in as the #1 seed, Ga-Young Kim probably didn't expect to be spending most of her time at the inaugural WPBA Rivers US Open on the loss side of the preliminary double elimination bracket. She and 15 other seeded competitors, including Allison Fisher (#2) and Monica Webb (#3) were awarded opening round byes, as 32 other women battled it out for the right to advance. It was Jeannie Seaver, defeating Kelly Cavanaugh 9-4, who advanced to face Kim in the event's second round. Seaver and Kim locked up in a double hill fight that ended with Kim moving to the loss side, from where she would advance to become one of the four players to advance to two, single elimination, semifinal matches, and eventually, chalk up the event victory. The 48-entrant WPBA Rivers US Open was held on the weekend of March 12-13, and hosted by the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, PA.
 
Jeannie Seaver followed her opening round victory over Kim with 9-5 victories over Jessica Barnes and Ewa Laurance, before running into Line Kjorsvik among the winners' side final four. Kjorsvik had arrived, having sent Michell Monk, Janet Atwell and Melissa Little to the loss side. The other winners' side semifinalists – Allison Fisher and Vivian Villareal – had collectively sent Monica Webb (Villareal), Emily Duddy and Joanne Ashton to the loss side. Fisher gave up only a single rack (to Duddy) over her first three matches.
 
Kjorsvik sent Seaver to the loss side 9-3 to become one of the four semifinalists. Fisher and Villareal battled to double hill before Fisher advanced to become the other winners' side semifinalist.
 
On the loss side, Monica Webb eliminated June Maiers 9-1 and Kim Newsome 9-4 to draw Seaver. A 9-3 victory over Seaver gave Webb one of the loss-side draws into the semifinals. 
Ga Young Kim, in the meantime, having eliminated six on the loss side, including Liz Cole and Melissa Little, faced Villareal. Kim ended Villareal's bid 9-3 to become the second, loss-side semifinalist.
 
The re-seeded, single elimination semifinal pitted Kim against Kjorsvik and Webb against Fisher, in two, race-to-4 sets. Kim took both sets against Kjorsvik, as Webb defeated Fisher 2-1. Ga Young Kim completed her title run with a 2-0 victory over Webb in the final matches.

Wagner double dips the Duchess of Doom to take Chinook Winds Open 10-Ball

Rebecca Wagner (Photo courtesy of Nick De Leon)

Owner of a couple of wins on the Arizona Women's Billiards Tour this year (April & September), and a 9th place finish in the WPBA's Regional Tour Championships in January, Rebecca Wagner traveled north and west to join a 30-entrant field at the $4,700-added, 3rd Annual Chinook Winds Casino and Resort's 10-Ball Championships (Ladies Division) in Lincoln City, OR on the weekend of October 9-11. She was awarded a bye in the opening round, and lost her first match to Liz Cole. She went on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that put her into the finals against The Duchess of Doom, Allison Fisher, and double-dipped her to take the title.
 
With Wagner at work on the loss side, Fisher and Susie O'Connor advanced to the hot seat match; Fisher having sent Joanne Ashton to the loss side 5-2 in a winners' side semifinal, as O'Connor was busy surviving a double hill match against Liz Cole. Fisher, who at that point, was boasting a 20-4 advantage in total games played, made it 25-4 with a shutout over O'Connor and waited in the hot seat for Wagner.
 
Following opening loss-side victories over Sherry Ahola and Melyssa Chasteen, Wagner chalked up two straight double hill wins over Bev Ashton and Kimberly Kirk to earn herself a re-match against Cole. Joanne Ashton drew Cindy Sliva, who'd defeated Deby Welfringer and Bernie Store, both 5-3, to reach her. 
 
Wagner successfully navigated her re-match against Cole 5-3, and in the quarterfinals, faced Sliva, who'd eliminated Joanne Ashton 5-1. Wagner advanced to the semifinals with a 5-3 win over Sliva, and then, as Fisher had done before her, shut out O'Connor.
 
Apparently in something of a shutout mood, Wagner took the opening set of the true double elimination final against Fisher 5-0. The Duchess of Doom wasn't about to let that stand and put up a strong double hill fight in the second set. Wagner prevailed, though, to claim the event title.