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Ussery splits Q City 9-Ball top prizes with reigning junior champion, Joey Tate

BJ Ussery

They met in a winners’ side semifinal in pool’s present as icons of pool’s recent past and ongoing future. On the weekend of June 8-9, veteran competitor BJ Ussery, 40, who’s been competing professionally for nearly 20 years, faced the current two-time, 14-and-under Junior National Champion, Joey Tate, at a stop on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour. Ussery won the match and would later, when Tate returned from a three-match journey on the loss side of the bracket, agree to a split of the top two prizes, so that Tate, whose mother was nearby, could get home in time for a good night’s sleep ahead of a school day. According to our records, Ussery’s best earnings year, to date (2005), coincided with the year that Tate was born. The $500-added event that saw them compete against each other, drew 42 entrants to SpeakEazy Billiards in Sanford, NC.
As Ussery and Tate squared off in their winners’ side semifinal, Johnny Haney and Jason Potts met in the other one. With Tate racing to 7, Ussery defeated the youngster 11-2, while Haney downed Potts 6-4. Ussery claimed the hot seat, and what proved to be his final match 11-5 over Haney.
Ussery liked what he saw of Tate and expects that the youngster is only going to get better.
“He keeps his composure about him, comes to the table and acts professional,” said Ussery. “He plays really well, but of course, he does make mistakes.”
At the moment, Ussery noted, the strength of the youngster’s game is in being “above his years in running out and his knowledge of position play.” His weaknesses, Ussery went on to say, may be his break and just the need for “pure experience.”
“That’s crazy,” said Ussery, “to think those are the only weaknesses in his game at that age, but it’s true.”
Though he defeated Tate in their only meeting, Ussery would generally not want any part of him in an 11-7 handicapped race.
“Hell, no!!” he said. “That’s how the handicap system works, and definitely, with him going to 7, I would not be the favorite.”
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On the loss side, Tate opened his trek to the finals against a former junior player, Hunter White, who’d shut out Christy Norris and downed Scott Roberts 8-2 to reach him. Potts picked up Josh Heeter, who’d recently eliminated Larry Faulk 8-3 and Hank Powell 8-5.
Tate defeated White 7-4 and in the quarterfinals, faced Heeter, who’d ended Potts’ weekend 8-2. Heeter was giving Tate a single game on the wire at the start of the quarterfinal race-to-8. Tate sent him home 7-3.
In the semifinals, it was Tate giving Haney a game on the wire in a race to 7. Tate defeated him 7-3, as well.
It was Tate who approached Ussery about forgoing the final match and splitting the top two prizes, although his mother was nearby and no doubt conveying information, perhaps silently, that the youngster had to get home. They agreed to the split.
“His Mom was really cool,” said Ussery. “I’m very peculiar about the people I help, but he seems like a good kid, so I told him a few things when we were done. Gave him some tips and adjustments and his Mom thanked me for helping him.”
“He’s going to go through the same struggles that all players do sometimes,” he added. “Sky Woodward went through it. So did Billy Thorpe. It’s hard to know how that’s going to turn out (with Tate). It’s really too early, and he hasn’t met girls yet.”
Tate will turn 14 in a little over two weeks (June 28) and is prepping for the Billiards Education Foundation’s 2019 Junior National Championships, scheduled for July 23-27. He will be looking for his third straight 14-and-under title. The event will be held in Las Vegas as part of the Billiards Congress of America’s 2019 Expo.
Tour directors Herman and Angela Parker thanked the ownership and staff at Speak Eazy Billiards, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues, Bar Pool Tables, Delta 13 Racks, AZ Billiards and Professor Q-Ball. The next stop on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for this weekend (June 15-16), will be a $250-added event, hosted by Mickey Milligan’s in New Bern, NC.