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Turning Stone Classic XXXIV – Johnny Archer vs Tyler Styer

Turning Stone Classic XXXIV Day Three Underway

Tyler Styer

Day three is underway at the Turning Stone Classic XXXIV at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY.

A couple early favorites are on the wrong side of the tournament bracket as both six time champion Johnny Archer and recent NBL 10-Ball Champion John Morra suffered losses on Friday. Archer dropped a 9-5 match to Tyler Styer and Morra lost a 9-4 match to Joss Tour Points leader Bucky Souvanthong. Souvanthong and Styer will face off this afternoon on the winner’s side of the tournament.

Other winner’s side matches include Mika Immonen vs Joey Dupuis, Frankie Hernandez vs Abdullah Al Youssef and Fedor Gorst vs Demetrius Jelatis.

Upstate Al is streaming the event for free on his Facebook page and we are running online brackets and scoring using digitalpool.com.

Johnny Archer Opens New Room in Georgia

Johnny Archer

Johnny Archer’s new pool room is now open in Cartersville, GA, just a stone’s throw north of Atlanta off of I-75. “Archer’s” is equipped with 6 new Brunswick bar tables and three of the new Gold Crown VI 9-footers. It features a full-service bar and a kitchen serving up all the good eats you could want. 

Archer’s is located at 138 South Tennessee Street in Cartersville. It is in the middle of a shopping center with lots of parking so there is no issue with parking. When we spoke to Johnny he was still waiting on some refinements like more TV’s for the walls but those have now arrived and the kitchen opens on October 28.

We first asked Johnny why he was getting back into the room business. He told us: “I have always wanted a room like this. It is not as large as the old Marietta Billiard Club and is just a lot easier to handle. Plus, this size of room is a lot more intimate and the bar is the kind of place where friendships are made and nurtured. Plus, I am really tired of the road. I have been traveling for so much of my life and I am ready to set down some roots. Having Rodney Morris here with me is another big incentive. You know Rodney, he is just a lot of fun to be around and I am simply tickled to be here with this opportunity. I have been planning this for a few years now and, while Covid slowed us down a bit, the day is finally here to open the doors and we are all excited to get going.”

Cartersville was once an Atlanta outlier but Atlanta has spread out so much that it is now one of the fastest-growing bedroom communities in the area. Johnny said: “This town is really growing fast. We expect the business to start well and grow as the town grows, so we really feel that this is a ground-floor opportunity here and we are fortunate to have this open when it has. As you know, I am a man of faith and I just feel that the good Lord has guided me to this point in my life.

From October 28th on, the hours of Archer’s will be from 11 AM until 2 AM, at least on the weekends. They will adjust their weekday hours as the business demands. They are installing a huge 24-tap beer keg system so no one gets thirsty and are looking forward to satisfying everyones hunger as well.

Archer’s is more than just pool tables. They have a beautiful shuffleboard setup and video games are lined up near the bar. These are called Georgia skill redemption games, run by the Georgia state lottery commission, so those with a gaming bent can enjoy their favorite pastime. They also have a Pacman machine, which will require getting Johnny off of it before any customers can play, and a Golden Tee golf machine as well. 

Music will be well taken care of. The juke box is loaded and Johnny is looking forward to having local musicians perform as well. And Rodney has convinced Johnny to at least try a Karaoke night. Johny has promised not to sing.

There is also a private room with a Gold Crown VI that is to be called “The Scorpion Pit”. Johnny is still coming up with things to do in there but it is great for private parties and instruction. And it will be a great place for challenge matches and exhibitions when friends like Earl Strickland come to town.

Want to play a few racks and have a great time? Archer’s is waiting for you!

Early favorite, Atencio goes undefeated at 1st Annual Ronny Park Memorial Tournament

Jesus Atencio

On March 23, the pool community lost one of its dearest, true-blue friends, Ronny Park, who passed away, having contracted COVID when he was also battling a variety of pre-existing conditions. He was not what you’d call a household name, but within the community, there are very few places where he wasn’t known, beginning with his early days in Connecticut, and very few players who didn’t know of him. Some of you reading this may remember when Tommy Kennedy passed out at a tournament a few months ago and as he and his family began to deal with what proved to be a very slow but successful recovery, arrangements began almost immediately to raise money for Kennedy and his family. 

It was Ronny Park who set that financial assistance into motion. Kennedy joined 95 other players, including Park’s roommate for the last eight years, Kevin Shaw, along with Johnny Archer, BJ Ussery and the eventual undefeated winner of this first, though certain not to be the last memorial in Park’s honor, Jesus Atencio. In addition to a couple of days of top-notch competition, the $500-added event, held under the auspices of the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, also raised over $10,000 to help defer the costs associated with Park’s funeral.

As the flyer promoting the event noted, the event was designed to be a celebration of Park’s life, and at Josh Newman’s West End Billiards in Gastonia, NC, where Park spent a lot of time, that celebration was marked by the people who knew him gathering primarily outside the facility, because the facility itself, almost every inch of its available space, was occupied, as Park would likely have preferred, with pool tables and players. At the center of the event was Herman Parker, tour director of the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, who roomed with Park, early in their respective careers and room owner, Josh Newman, who offered food to those who gathered, both on Friday night as the players began to arrive and during both Saturday and Sunday while they played; the grill was going outside pretty much throughout the event.

In addition to being there for the family who’d done so much to help him personally, Kennedy donated some cues as raffle prizes, as did cue maker Daniel Heidrich, who, in addition to donating a cue valued at $2k, became the event runner-up after challenging Atencio twice. Herman Parker donated a Viking cue for raffle. One of the tour’s sponsors, Diamond Brat, purveyor of pool jewelry and giftware (including some terrific, acrylic designs for pocket markers) donated a portion of their proceeds to the benefit. Others took advantage of on-line ways to donate. 

“And,” Parker noted, “the cue that Ron used to shoot with was raffled off. It was a Shawn Putnam cue, in fact.”

The event officially got underway, late afternoon on Saturday, and at around 6 p.m., room owner Josh Newman and Johnny Archer squared off in a challenge match. Archer won the match 9-4.

One of the surprises that emerged late in the tournament was 16-year-old Landon Hollingsworth, who began his Saturday work with two victories, before running into Josh Newman. Newman sent him to the loss side, where Hollingsworth embarked on an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him as far as the semifinals. Tour director Herman Parker, though reluctant to indicate that the teenager had “played way above his head,” not just because of the loss-side streak, but the quality of the opponents he faced and defeated down the stretch, described Hollingsworth’s loss-side run as a “ridiculous tear to third place.”

With Hollingsworth at work on the loss side, Jesus Atencio and Danny Heidrich advanced to the winners’ side semifinals. Atencio faced Hunter White, as Heidrich squared off against Chuck Ritchie. Heidrich defeated Ritchie 7-5 and in the hot seat match, faced Atencio, who’d sent White to the loss side 7-4. In their first of two, Atencio sent Heidrich to the semifinals 7-2 and sat in the hot seat, awaiting his return.

On the loss side, it was Hunter White, not long from being a junior player himself, who drew the teenager, Hollingsworth, six matches into his loss-side streak. Hollingsworth had already defeated last week’s winner on the tour, Sammy Manley, and a few other tour veterans like Bruce Campbell, Josh Heeter and David Anderson, before eliminating Joey Fox 5-2 and then, at the end of his match versus Tommy Kennedy, shot what Herman Parker described as “a ridiculous jump shot on the 8-ball and ran out” to defeat Kennedy 5-2, as well. Chuck Ritchie drew The Scorpion, Johnny Archer, who’d defeated Mike Bumgarner, double hill and BJ Ussery 5-3 to reach him.

Archer got by Ritchie 5-1, as Hollingsworth was at work shutting Hunter White out. The teenager couldn’t have picked a better opponent to chalk up what would prove to be his last win at the event than Johnny Archer. He did so in the quarterfinals 5-2.

Heidrich turned the tables on Hollingsworth, ending the young man’s impressive loss-side streak 5-2 and turning for a second shot against Atencio, waiting for him in the hot seat. Atencio hadn’t lost his edge waiting.

The final, an extended race to 9, took 26 minutes. With alternating breaks, Heidrich broke four times and failed to make a ball on any of them. Atencio ran each of those racks, and on his breaks, broke and ran all five times to shut Heidrich out. 

Much to the chagrin of Upstate AL, who ran a live stream on Saturday and most of Sunday, the streaming operation ran into what proved to be an insurmountable technical glitch that for all intents and purposes, shut the stream down on Sunday afternoon. The best matches of the tournament, which from all appearances, occurred near the end, with the teenager’s streak, the final matches of Kennedy & Archer, and the 26-minute final could not be seen. The problem was not with the streaming operation itself, but with the on-line infrastructure of the facility, which learned, late on Sunday, that a ‘fix,’ requiring a major overhaul of the room’s systems, wasn’t possible. “There was,” explained AL, “nothing we could do.”

Tour directors Herman and Angela Parker thanked Newman and his staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues, BarPoolTables.net, Dirty South Grind Apparel Co., AZBilliards, Federal Savings Bank mortgage division and Diamond Brat. They also thanked the numerous individuals and groups that donated to the success of this 1st memorial in honor of their friend, Ronny Park, including Danny Heidrich and Tommy Kennedy for their cue donations for the raffles.

The next stop on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour will be a three-day affair, getting under way this Friday, May 14 and continuing through until Sunday, May 16. The $3,000-added event will be hosted by Stroker’s Billiards, in Sumter, SC.

Ronny Park Benefit Memorial – Johnny Archer vs Justin Clark

 

Kiamco wins 5th Behrman Memorial that brought past US Open 9-Ball competitors back home

Dexter Real, Warren Kiamco, Q Masters Manager Gary Ornoff and Manny Chau

At times, it felt like a high school Homecoming weekend. The $5,000-added, 5th Annual Barry Behrman Memorial Tournament, held this past weekend (April 24-25) at his former pool hall, Q Master Billiards in Virginia Beach, VA offered free entry to Past US Open 9-Ball Championship winners. Though it was a bit of a surprise that only three past champions took advantage of this $200 courtesy – Rodney Morris (’96), Johnny Archer (’99) and Mika Immonen (’08 & ’09) – it was not as much of a surprise that two of them ended up among the event’s final four standing. Immonen and Archer finished 3rd and 4th, respectively (Morris was eliminated by Shaun Wilkie, ending just out of the money in the tie for 17th).

What helped create the homecoming atmosphere was exemplified by the competitor who went undefeated to claim the event title, Warren Kiamco. He was among the 56 entrants at this event and one of a number of competitors who had, over the years, made appearances at the US Open, but didn’t win. Since he first finished in 5th place at the 1998 US Open, Kiamco has cashed in 11 of them, including his best finish, 3rd in 2008. According to records, runner-up, Manny Chau, who lost his first match to the Iceman, Mika Immonen and then won nine on the loss side for a shot at Kiamco in the hot seat, has only cashed in two US Opens (’09 & ‘10). It’s likely that he, like so many others at this event, competed in many others and they all contributed to the ‘coming home’ kind of feeling, including, but not limited to Brandon Shuff, Jeremy Sossei, Matt Krah, Mhet Vergara, Shaun Wilkie, Daniel Dagotdot, Reymart Lim, Tommy Tokoph, Eric Moore and Jeffrey De Luna.

Kiamco opened his nine-match winning campaign with a 9-2 victory over Tom Czaplicki and then ran right into a double hill battle against The Scorpion, Johnny Archer. Kiamco sent Archer on the seven-match, loss-side trip that would end in the quarterfinals, as he advanced to down Daniel Sardoncillo 9-3 and then, in a second double hill fight, Jeffrey De Luna. This put Kiamco in a winners’ side semifinal match against Reymart Lim. 

The Iceman, in the meantime, downed Joe Blackburn 9-1 and sent Manny Chau to the loss side, where he’d win nine in a row against some of the event’s toughest opponents and battle Kiamco in the finals. Iceman advanced to defeat James Davee, double hill, and Brandon Shuff (winner of the debut Barry Behrman Memorial in 2017) 9-4, to draw Jeremy Sossei in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kiamco defeated Lim 9-4 and in the hot seat match faced Immonen, who’d sent Sossei off 9-3 to an immediate match against the streaking Johnny Archer. A double hill battle for possession of the hot seat followed. In the deciding 17th game, the Iceman had the final two balls in sight, neither of them, nor the positioning necessary to win the match were challenging, except to the extent that all shots are challenges. The 8-ball rattled in a corner pocket and rattled him, as well. It was the first of two straight losses that would leave him in third place. Kiamco was one match and a few hours away from claiming the title.

Archer, in the meantime, working on the loss side, had defeated Bill Mason, Jared Pitts, shut out Garret Vaughn, and eliminated Mhet Vergara, Jimmy Bird and Jeffrey De Luna, to draw Sossei. Chau had navigated his loss-side way through Dylan Carr, Don Perryman, Tommy Tokoph, Eric Moore, ‘young gun’ Shane Wolford, and fought a tough, double hill battle versus Brandon Shuff, to draw Reymart Lim.

Archer and Sossei battled back and forth to a 5-5 tie before Archer began a four-rack streak that would advance him, looking strong, precise and very Scorpion-like, into the quarterfinals. He was joined by Chau, who’d (alliteratively) eliminated Lim 9-5. Chat room commentary and support was split between the two veterans, Archer and Chau. Chau, though, pulled ahead to win it 9-6 and advanced to his re-match against Immonen. Displaying varied levels of frustration that only increased as his semifinal rematch against Chau moved on, Immonen was unable to overcome the steady and competent play of Chau, who won 9-5, earning a shot against Kiamco in the finals.

Though Kiamco and Chau have been around the proverbial block a few times, competing in any number of hot seat matches, loss-side runs and semifinal wins and losses over the years, one might have assumed that the gritty play and consistent time-at-table as Kiamco waited, would have given Chau a bit of an edge in the finals that followed. Kiamco dusted off whatever ‘cobwebs’ that might have formed during his multi-hour wait and opened those finals with three straight racks; a lead that would never really be challenged.

Chau won the 4th rack, but Kiamco came back to increase his lead by four of them at 5-1. Chau chalked up another one, but Kiamco came right back to run four more. Even as Kiamco moved ahead by seven at 9-2 in the race to 11, chat room and stream commentary by Ra Hanna (and others) kept predicting a run by Chau that would close the gap. It came in rack 12, when Kiamco scratched and Chau ran the table to make it 9-3. 

Chau won two more, setting the chat-o-sphere buzzing, before Kiamco responded with the rack that put him on the hill. In what proved to be the final rack, Kiamco cleared the table and lined up a straight-on shot at the 9-ball. Chau conceded at that point. Kiamco stood up when Chau gestured his concession, acknowledged the courtesy and got back down to aim. He changed his mind about the straight-on shot and in a sort of punctuation move, hit the 9-ball hard and watched it travel three rails and fall into a side pocket.

Tournament director Dexter Real thanked the ownership and staff at Q Master Billiards, as well as Virginia Novelty, Holt, MW Designs Fences and Decks, National Billiard Academy, Nick Varner Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, team straight pool eye and Littman lights. He also thanked Ra Hanna and his On the Wire Creative Media crew for an excellently commentated stream throughout the weekend.   

The Scorpion wins tight, entertaining race to 30 over The Pearl in benefit for Tommy Kennedy

Photo courtesy Ron Park

Two of pool’s certified legends – Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer and Earl “The Pearl” Strickland – squared off against each other in a 9-ball race to 30 at Smokin’ Cues in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, September 13. Archer and Strickland played 58 of the possible 59 games that could be played in a race to 30. In the end, literally, Archer won it, 30-28, in an entertaining, mostly drama-free four-plus hours of terrific pool that towards that end was drawing about 2,000 viewers to UpState Al’s Facebook page to watch the live stream.

“It was a well-played match,” said Archer a few hours later. “It had everything in it. We each had our momentum swings, went through spells where things didn’t go so well. There were some tactical games and some great shots.”

“As a fan of pool,” he added, “I’d watch that match on video.”

Both players were mic-ed for the game, and while Archer was typically quiet and Strickland was typically talkative, the resultant ‘sound track’ was never distracting. Unlike other times, when even without a microphone, Strickland can get a little vocally boisterous, he stayed within himself and restricted commentary to the occasional gripe about his inability to get any luck or help from the actual table. Most importantly, Strickland didn’t distract himself by elevating any given moment into unnecessary drama that often, in his storied past, had led to contentious battles and distracted play that over the years had cost him a game and even a match or two. 

Though he couldn’t pinpoint when he’d last played against Strickland, Archer guessed that it might have been at a Turning Stone event four or five years ago. He also couldn’t remember exactly when or where he’d first played against Strickland, but figured that he (Archer) was a teenager at the time. He recalled, over the years, being on the wrong side of a few verbal incidents with Strickland.

“I used to take it personally,” he said. “I don’t take it personally anymore.”

The two-day event began on Saturday with a narrated, trick shot exhibition by Strickland, in which he dedicated a number of shots that he set up to historic players like Steve Mizerak and Willie Mosconi. It was Strickland at his best. Joking with the small crowd of about 30-40 people seated in chairs that ringed the two tables designated for Strickland’s ‘show’ and then, he and Archer played in one-on-one, best-of-three matches against spectators, who donated money for the cause that led to the organization of the whole event by Ronny Park, a lifelong friend of Tommy Kennedy. Many commentors in the stream’s chat room were unaware of the benefit aspect of the two-day event, asking repeatedly how much money was at stake in Sunday’s race to 30 challenge match.

Tommy Kennedy and Ron Park

The basic story was that on March 14, after participating in a Tony Crosby pool tournament in Tallahassee, FL, Kennedy slipped and fell in a hotel bathroom and hit his head. He was hospitalized and learned that he’d suffered a concussion that led to, among other things, an inability to eat. As neurologists attempted to learn the extent of his injuries, which proved to be severe and potentially, of long-lasting duration, Kennedy began losing weight. He was down to 87 pounds before there was a reversal and little by little, he began to gain that weight back. It took nearly four months. He still figures it’ll be a while before he can get back to any pool tables outside of his home.

“At least a month or two,” he said from his home on Sunday. “When I bend over, I still feel a little off-balance.”

“The impact was to my head, my neck and my upper spine,” he explained, noting further that a difference of couple of inches could have killed him on the spot. 

All the while, the medical bills for this unexpected and traumatic injury were putting a severe dent in the Kennedy household’s finances. It was clear, almost from the start, that he was going to need some help to weather this personal storm. Enter Roger Long, another long-time friend of the family, who set up a GoFundMe page (on behalf of Tommy’s wife, Denise Kennedy. To date, that page has received just over $28,000 in donations, with a goal of $75,000.

Ronny Park joined the cause of helping Tommy out and enlisted Archer and Strickland’s help in the organization of this past weekend’s event. According to Park, between on-line donations (Loree Jon Hasson donated a cue, which was the prize in an on-line raffle at $20 per ticket) and in-person donations at Smokin’ Cues, the event raised almost $5,000. 

“I am so grateful for all of the support,” said Kennedy, his voice echoing the sentiment. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Mid-way, a slow start turns into a tight race

In the early going, the race to 30 did not look as though it was going to be memorable. The two of them had to get to the 6th rack, before either of them sunk a ball on the break. Oddly enough, ahead by one at 3-2, Strickland was the first to make a ball on the break, but when he was forced to ‘push,’ Archer made a tricky combo and ran out to tie the score.

Archer returned the favor by breaking dry on the 7th rack, allowing Strickland to run and go ahead by one. The first signs of the ‘talkative’ Pearl showed up in the eighth rack when he sunk three balls on the break and did not have a shot on the 1-ball. He complained about bad luck, loudly. After a few safeties, Strickland was awarded ball in hand and sunk the remaining six balls that he probably would have dropped if he’d been able to see the 1-ball after the break. It was 5-3.

A series of dry breaks and a few unforced errors later, Strickland was ahead by four at 7-3. Archer checked in with one and Strickland ran two more to make it 9-4. Back and forth they went, with Strickland having the longer runs, until he got out in front by six at 13-7; as it turned out, his largest lead of the match. And then, as they say, the tide turned.

The plan was for a break when either player reached 15. At that 13-7 mark, Archer went on a run that saw him win eight of the next nine racks and take his first lead – 15-14 – at the break.

Upon their return, Strickland let everyone know that the match was far from over because Archer had taken a lead. Strickland won the 30th rack to tie things up at 15. They went back and forth to ties, including, but no limited to 20-20, 25-25 and 28-28; 56 down, potentially only three to go in a race to 2.

There some ‘nerves’ involved at this point. In rack 57, Strickland sunk a ball on the break but scratched. Archer ran to the 7-ball, but attempted a long rail-runner that rattled in its intended corner pocket. Strickland dropped it for him but got ‘a little close to his work’ positioning for the 8-ball. He missed and Archer finished to be on the hill.

At this point, with nearly 2,000 people watching on the stream, Archer sunk a ball on the break, but didn’t have a clean look at the 1-ball. He played safe, Strickland safed back, and Archer played safe a second time. Strickland’s second shot missed the 1-ball completely and before Archer could pick up the cue ball, Strickland used his stick to sweep the balls across the table and conceded.

“I started out missing a couple of shots and my speed was off in the first few games,” said Archer, “but overall, it felt pretty good.”

“I played well to come back on him in that first half,” he added.

Ronny Park and Upstate Al thanked the ownership and staff at Smokin’ Cues for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Lite Systems, JB Cases, Aramith Balls, Kamui Tips, HI Impact Tips, Simonis Cloth, Billiard Engineering, Thomas Grimaldi Pool Tables, and Byrd, Byrd, McMahon and Denton, Attorneys at Law. Upstate Al gave a shout out to his commentators for the event – Joe Torres, Chris Miller and Ronnie Park and thanked everyone who watched the stream and contributed to the cause of helping Tommy Kennedy.

“That’s what this (was) all about,” said Al, who assured that people watching the stream were made aware of why the match was being held by putting the varied means of contributing to the cause on-screen between every game of the 58-game match.

Kennedy has a lot of friends in and out of the pool community and they continue to come to his assistance when now, he needs it most. 

Earl Strickland vs Johnny Archer – Race to 30 Part 3

 

Earl Strickland vs Johnny Archer – Race to 30 Part 2

 

Earl Strickland vs Johnny Archer – Race to 30 Part 1