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Miller wins her 5th on the JPNEWT; qualifier for WPBA “Sledgehammer Open” in October

Briana Miller and Nicole Albergaria

Corr returns, Albergaria wins qualifying spot

One can only imagine that while the entrants on this past weekend’s (Aug. 13-14) stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were happy to see Ireland’s Karen Corr back at the tables, and in spite of the pool mantra of ‘playing the table, not the opponent,’ there had to be an underlying sense of trepidation. Some, arguably many, remembered that the last time Corr had lost a JPNEWT event in which she had appeared had been seven years ago. As it happened, it was also the year (2015) that she was the tour champion, winning the first eight stops of 11 that year and for reasons lost to the mists of time, finishing 9th at that year’s season finale.

The assumed ‘trepidation’ didn’t affect the JPNEWT’s current, #1-ranked player, Briana Miller, at all. In fact, she opened what turned out to be an undefeated run to her fifth win of the 2022 season by defeating Corr in the opening round. Corr fought back, winning four on the loss side before she became ill and had to withdraw from the event quarterfinals, which would have put her up against Kia Burwell. 

The event was a qualifier for the WPBA “Sledgehammer” Open, a memorial event for the late Helena Thornfeldt, scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 19-23 at Janet Atwell’s room, Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN. Though won by Miller, she deferred the qualifying spot to runner-up, Nicole Albergaria. The $750-added event drew 13 entrants to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD, the same site where Corr had last lost an event on the JPNEWT. Triple Nines added the $500 to the general money-added coffers and $250 more for the entry fee to the “Sledgehammer” Open. A raffle cue netted $160 to supplement Albergaria’s travel expenses to that event.  

Following her opening-round victory over Corr, Miller advanced through Kia Burwell 7-5 (the tour’s current #3) to draw Char Dzambo in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Albergaria, in the meantime, got by Kathy Friend 7-3 and Lynn Richard 7-1 to pick up Judie Wilson.

Miller defeated Dzambo 7-3 and in the hot seat match, faced Albergaria, who’d sent Wilson to the loss side 7-3. Miller claimed the hot seat 7-1.

On the loss side, Dzambo drew Karen Corr, who’d previously eliminated Carol V. Clark, Lynn Richard and tour director, Linda Shea (#2). Wilson picked up Burwell, who’d defeated Kathy Friend 7-4 and Calala Jackson 7-1 to reach her.

Corr advanced to the quarterfinals 7-3 over Dzambo and would have been joined by Burwell, who’d eliminated Wilson 7-2. But Corr withdrew from those quarterfinals, sending Burwell to the semifinals, where she was defeated by Albergaria 7-2.

In their second of two, Albergaria, playing in her first event of the JPNEWT season, downed Burwell 7-2 for a second shot at Miller. Albergaria improved on her 7-1 hot seat performance and came within a game of forcing a 13th deciding game. Miller, though, claimed the event title 7-5.

Current and soon-to-be tour directors Linda Shea and Briana Miller thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues and stream commentator, George Hammerbacher. The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of September 17-18, has been cancelled. The tour will return to the tables on the weekend of October 8-9 at Eagle Billiards in Dickson City, PA.

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Current and future JPNEWT tour directors battle in finals at Champion Billiards

Linda Shea and Briana Miller

As the current (Linda Shea) and future (Briana Miller) director of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour began the process of switching places that will culminate with the start of the 2023 season, they met in Frederick, MD this past weekend (Saturday, July 16), renewing a rivalry that began when Miller was a teenager and Shea had just begun her tenure as the tour’s director (see report on the ‘peaceful transition of power’ outlined in our News archives; Friday, July 15). As the two were no doubt consulting on and sharing in the varied chores that comprise the work of tour director, they also met in the tournament itself, twice; hot seat and finals. Miller won both matches, completing an undefeated run that marked her fourth victory of the season. Shea, who’d won the only event at which Miller did not compete (Stop #4; Stop #3 was cancelled), moved ahead of Kia Burwell in the tour standings. The event drew 16 entrants to Champion Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, MD. 

Miller, who would go on to win four out of every five games she played in the event (35-8) defeated Melissa Mason 7-2 and Susan Kimble 7-1 to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Shanna Lewis. Until she encountered Miller, Shea had faced her most challenging opponent (by score) in the opening round, when Lynn Richard chalked up four against her. Shea then defeated Judie Wilson 7-3 and drew Kelly Wyatt in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Miller and Shea advanced to the hot seat match by identical 7-2 scores; Miller over Lewis and Shea over Wyatt. Miller allowed Shea only a single rack in the hot seat match.

On the loss side, Lewis picked up Judie Wilson, who’d followed her loss to Shea with two straight double hill wins; over Melissa Mason and then, the #2-ranked competitor on the tour, Kia Burwell. Wyatt drew Lynn Richard, who’d followed her loss to Shea with victories over Susan Kimble and Melissa Jenkins, both 7-5.

Wyatt downed Richard 7-5 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Lewis, who’d shut Wilson out. Lewis then eliminated Wyatt in those quarterfinals 7-2. 

Both of the semifinalists, Shea and Lewis, were looking for a rematch against Miller, waiting for one or the other of them in the hot seat. Shea earned the privilege, downing Lewis 7-2.

Miller defeated Shea a second time, this time 7-2, to claim her fourth 2022 JPNEWT title.

Shea and Miller, who was no doubt participating in this part of the process, thanked the ownership and staff at Champion Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues and George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor, Baltimore, MD). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of July 30-31, will be hosted by Shooters Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. 

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Shaw and Kelly take Pro Championship titles on closing night of the SBE

Jayson Shaw and Kelly Fisher

Bruner and Malm capture Amateur titles

The Annual Super Billiards Expo (SBE), like other tournaments of similar size and length, has a way of building momentum and speed as the week of it goes by. This varies slightly, depending on whether you’re a spectator or a player. As an example, Kelly Fisher, who emerged from a 63-entrant field and went on to become the undefeated WPBA Women’s Pro Players Champion on Sunday, played a single match on Thursday (she’d been awarded an opening round bye) and didn’t play again until Saturday, when she played twice. On Sunday, already among the event’s 16 players to enter the single-elimination phase, she played three times in a row to claim the title. Jayson Shaw, who went on to become the undefeated, 73-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event winner had the same experience. In both cases, the Thursday and Friday experience was a little slower. The Saturday and Sunday experience seemed to flash by like proverbial greased lighting.

The Amateur Players Championship, which featured four short of 1,000 entrants (by far, the most heavily attended event) began on Wednesday and like the Pro events, ended on Sunday. That single-elimination process began with a lot of layover time for the competitors; time which narrowed and eventually, went flying by. Its champion, Chris Bruner, though, was used to it. As a participant at the SBE for about 20 years, he’d finished third at the last one and over the years, had five or so finishes of 5th or better. But playing in the APA, he’d also been a veteran of similar, large-entrant fields, requiring days and days of non-stop pool, or in the early going of such competition, waiting for the non-stop pool to begin.

“It’s tough,” he said, “but with things like the APA Nationals in Vegas, you get used to those long days. You get accustomed to it; the mindset that you have to chill out, relax and go play your game.”

“I’ve been doing it for so long that in the last five or six years, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do,” he added. “Get as much rest as you can, get enough sleep, and just take it day by day.”

Bruner ended up winning 10 matches and only lost two sets. Only once did he compete against someone he knew; Brent Hensley, with whom he has been friends for a long time. To him, the reward had less to do with the $5,000 in cash that he received as the Amateur Champion, than it was about, after all of the years he’d been attending, finally winning it. 

“I’m still on Cloud Nine,” he said, about three hours after the event had ended, around 6:30 on Sunday night. “I’ve been so close for so many years.”

A field of 166 entrants competed in the Women’s Amateur Players Championship. Tina Malm went undefeated through that field to claim the title, downing Ashley Benoit in the finals.

By Saturday night, the WPBA’s 63-entrant Women’s 9-Ball Professional Championship had whittled down to its 16-entrant single elimination phase. The 16 women advancing (in fact, the entire field of the event) featured many of the most highly recognizable names in women’s pool and with the exception of two from the UK (the Fishers, Kelly and Allison), all were from the North American continent; two, being Canadians (Brittany Bryant and Veronique Menard). Among the 47 who did not make the cut were a few junior competitors – Skylar Hess, Savannah Easton and Hayleigh Marion – along with Jeri Engh, who, in her 80s, was the event’s oldest participant. Women of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were well-represented, along with the presence of, though not participation on the part of the tournament’s director, Linda Shea. Along with Kia Burwell and Caroline Pao, who did become two of the final 16, and C.C. Strain, who acted as the tournament director for all of the SBE’s Amateur events, tour members Ada Lio, Kathy Friend, Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Judie Wilson and Shanna Lewis competed.

On Sunday morning, the final eight paired up in four quarterfinal matches. The marquee pairing among them featured the Fishers, who’d last met in the finals of the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic last month. Joann Mason-Parker took on Caroline Pao, Jennifer Baretta faced Kim Newsome and Canada’s Veronique Menard matched up with Teruko Cucculelli.

In races to 11, Kelly Fisher defeated Allison Fisher 11-8 and Joann Mason Parker downed Caroline Pao 11-2. “9mm” Baretta shot down Kim Newsome 11-6 and Cucculelli eliminated Menard 11-9. In the semifinals that followed, Kelly Fisher defeated Mason-Parker 11-4 and in the finals, met Baretta, who’d defeated Cucculelli 11-4.

Fisher and Baretta traded racks through the first five games, after which Kelly was ahead 3-2. She added a rack, off Baretta’s break for a two-rack lead before Baretta came back with two to tie things for the third time at 4-4. Fisher won seven of the next eight games to claim the title.

Look for a report on the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship and the top finishers from the eight Amateur events in a separate report on these pages. 

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Earl the Pearl tops Friday night battles in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Players Championship

Earl Strickland

Fishers still alive in the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. 

He’d played twice already. On Friday night at 9:30, Earl Strickland stepped to the tables of the Super Billiards Expo’s arena in search of his second win in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championship. On Thursday, after a bye, he’d lost his opening match, double hill, to Alan Rolon Rosada and at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, downed Tyler Henninger 9-6. Both matches were very lightly attended. Modest crowds, dotting the three-level risers to either side of the 16 tables, laid end to end, side by side.

Friday night, though, was different. This was weekend-is-here Earl the Pearl time. And he got himself an audience. While there were certainly people in the crowd of some 200 or so spectators who were itching to see a show; not a pool show necessarily, but an Earl show, as only he can bring it. Instead, they got the professional ‘Earl’s here to win’ show, full of rock-solid shooting that saw him take control of a 2-2 match and win six in a row before some of the audience had even settled in. People (though not many) started leaving, like baseball fans leaving a stadium when the score is 12-0 in the seventh inning, wanting to get ahead of the traffic jam. Those who remained were switching their attention between what was left of Earl’s match and what was going on at the tables on either side of him (Shannelle Lorraine and Ada Lio were playing south of him, while Jesus Atencio and Mason Koch were battling it out north of him). 

Gomez managed to chalk up three racks and the remaining crowd went wild. Very quietly and not for long.

Earl finished off Gomez, quickly, only giving up one more rack and moved to the lobby outside the arena where folks gathered around the hand-written brackets to see who was coming up against who in today’s (Saturday) matches. Earl was scheduled to play Bart Czapla at noon, in a match that will determine whether he advances to the 16-player, single elimination phase of the event. The first round of that phase will play out at 6 p.m.

Earl was among those looking to see what was coming up next, and he took the opportunity to play to the audience that had been relatively quiet during his win over Gomez. They were lined up two or three deep around him, cameras at the ready, as he gave them a genteel comedian to play with. Standing for one shot with a broad grin on his face, he said that the woman to his left was prettier than he was, riffing on this to talk about his sagging limbs and a “face that looked like a truck hit me and then backed up.” Manifestly not true, but it got a laugh. He embellished on that central joke for a while before moving on to chat with spectators who’d obviously been paying strict attention to his match as it played out; questions and comments about shot situations and potential solutions, back and forth.

Jayson Shaw, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking to advance to the final 16 today, as well (2:30 p.m. against Billy Thorpe), joined the throng gathered around him and it took about two seconds for them to launch into a discussion about the tables and how they ‘played’ in a given match.

“I hit this shot,” said Shaw at one point, “that went into the hole and bounced out. The cue ball jumped up onto the rail, travelled all the way down table, jumping over the side pocket and then went back on the table, giving me a straight shot at the 4-ball.”

Lives of the legends playing out in one of their homes away from home.

There’ll be 32 competitors in the Players Championship facing advancement to pool’s version of the Sweet 16 today. Among those 32, on the winners’ side of the bracket, will be Thorsten Hohmann, Warren Kiamco, Ralf Souquet, Fedor Gorst, Darren Appleton and Shane Wolford.  In addition to Strickland, other loss-side competitors looking to make the cut and who’ll have to play two rounds to do it (or not), will be Danny Olson, Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Joe Dupuis, Landon Hollingsworth, BJ Ussery, Jr. and Bucky Souvanthong. As of noon today, the potential for Strickland to face Rosado a second time remained alive, as Rosado stepped to the tables, looking for advancement beyond Eric Roberts.

The two Fishers continue to play for advancement to the final 16 of the WPBA Pro Players event 

Competition at the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship will dominate the afternoon schedule at the pro player arena. All 16 women who step to the tables at 2:30 p.m. today, haven’t played a match since Thursday; half of them on Thursday afternoon and the other half on Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, the Fishers, Allison and Kelly, squared off in a game of 8-ball that was not part of the official proceedings and did not involve cue sticks, felt cloth or actual pockets. Instead, they settled into another kind of table to play an 8-Ball Pool Board Game that’s on display and being pre-sold (prior to publication) to attendees at the SBE from a vendor booth surrounded by cue manufacturers. Kelly is acting as the game’s Brand Ambassador and has been at the booth where it’s being demonstrated a number of times, playing against, among others, Darren Appleton, who reportedly broke and ran the first game of it he played. 

While the game doesn’t employ any of pool’s tactile qualities with cues or aiming skills (there are basically no missed shots if you’ve lined up the cue and target properly), it does manage to offer a degree of strategy and tactics, very similar to the kinds of decision-making involved in the actual game of 8-ball. There are opportunities for bank shots (played out on strict horizontal/vertical target paths) safety play and you can scratch, for example, all of which plays out in ways unique to the board game.   

Though new to the game, Allison won the single game against Kelly. They could play a real game of 9-ball against each other before the end of the women’s tournament, but only, for starters, if both of them advance to the event’s final 16. Kelly, who’s only played a single match so far, defeating Jessica Barnes on Thursday night, was to play Liz Taylor at 2:30 today and if successful, would play the winner of an Ashley Burrows/Emily Duddy match in the opening round of the single-elimination phase at 8:30 p.m. Allison, who played two women from the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) on Thursday (Judie Wilson and Kathy Friend) will be facing Angela Janic at 2:30 and if successful, will also play at 8:30, against the winner of a Monica Webb/Kim Newsome match (check the SBE Web site for streaming options).

Other competitors, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking for a slot among the final 16 women, include Emilyn Callado, Brittany Bryant, Caroline Pao and LoreeJon Brown. On the loss-side of the bracket, at noon today, also looking for advancement to the final 16, will be,  among others, Janet Atwell, Jennifer Baretta, and both Kia Burwell and Judie Wilson, representing the JPNEWT. Matches at 6 p.m. on the loss-side of the bracket will determine the eight loss-side competitors among the Sweet 16.

Super Seniors get underway, as Amateur Ladies, Seniors continue, with Juniors in the wings 

The original Super Seniors tournament, with long lines hoping for a waiting-list entry, gathered early this morning, while the 996-entrant Open Amateur event looked to enter its Final 16 phase at 1 p.m. today. The four-brackets of the Amateur Ladies event is still ongoing, as is the (plain, so to speak) Seniors tournament. Two junior competitions (17U & 12U) are set to begin today, as well. 

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Briana Miller takes season opener on J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour

Briana Miller and Caroline Pao

She’s back.

After almost three years in which she had failed to record any sort of a payout in any pool tournament (that we know of), Briana Miller returned to Pennsylvania from St. Charles, MO, where she’d attained a degree in finance, thanks to a pool-related scholarship to Lindenwood University. She got a job upon graduation and then, later, just beyond the height of the pandemic, was allowed to transfer and do that job remotely, back at home in Allentown, PA. Just this past weekend (March 5-6), Miller went undefeated to chalk up her first win on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) in five years. Her last two recorded payouts came during the 2018 and 2019 Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Championships in which she finished 9th and 5th, respectively.

Miller’s last win on the JPNEWT, in November of 2017, featured two, back-to-back victories (hot seat and finals) over Tour Director Linda Shea. In a circumstance that at the time, we described to be “as rare as a teenager that doesn’t play video games,” Miller shut Shea out in both matches. Like that event, the tour’s 2022 season opener, with its 29 entrants, was hosted by Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

“It’s great to see her out and playing again,” said Shea after this past weekend’s event. “I loved it. She’s all grown up now; nice and settled and doing well. Her game showed it. She shot the lights out.”

It was, all told, a big come-back weekend for Miller that happened to accompany a turning point for the JPNEWT, as well. Their season opener capped an overall effort to revitalize the tour. Their 2022 season has begun with a new ‘look.’ They’ve partnered with a new streaming company – TTMD Streaming (ThinkTechMD) – which has brought a degree of professionalism and new vitality to the streaming services, including such improvements as multiple camera angles, the ability to do instant replay and steady commentary from the familiar face and voice of pool instructor George Hammerbacher and Wayne Everhart, owner of TTMD. The company has also undertaken to improve the tour’s presence on varied forms of social media and have been instrumental in creating a new tour Web site.

“They were very professional,” noted Shea of TTMD Streaming’s presence at the tour’s season opener, “and I’m looking forward to a great union with them.”

“Not only that,” she added, ‘but feature this: we held an amateur event, as well, for 450 and below Fargo rates that I’ve been trying to grow for two years. TTMD’s on board for our first event of the season and they get 25 women to participate. The most I ever got was eight. They worked that very hard and for sure, get all the credit for that 450 and under event. They even put four players in the main event, sponsored them.”

The winner of the ‘450 and under’ event was Lynn Richard, who came from the loss side (three matches) and claimed the title, with Linda Cheung as runner-up. There was also a preliminary, 17-entrant ‘chip tournament’ on Friday night, March 4, with races to one that proved immensely popular. 

“It was a lot of fun,” said Shea. “Only 17 people (mixed genders, won by Pete Boyer), but it was a blast and they want it to come back every week.”

In main event, Millers runs a gauntlet of some of the better-known competitors on the tour

In spite of what Miller encountered as a lot of new faces, she ended up facing people that she knew, beginning with Lai Li and following with Judie Wilson and Linda Cheung, which brought her to a winners’ side semifinal against another familiar face, Eugenia Gyftopoulos. Kathy Friend, in the meantime, got by Melissa Jenkins, Alyssa Solt and survived a tough double hill challenge by Caroline Pao before advancing to her winners’ side semifinal against Ada Lio.

Friend downed Lio 7-3 and met up with Miller, who’d sent Gyftopoulos to the loss side by the same 7-3 score. Miller claimed the hot seat, her first in a long while, 7-2.

On the loss side, Lio picked up Linda Shea, who’d lost her opening match to Shanna Lewis and embarked on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was almost derailed by Melissa Mason’s double hill challenge in the second, losers’ side round. Shea survived that, advancing to eventually eliminate Linda Cheung and Kia Burwell. Gyftopoulos drew Caroline Pao, who, following her defeat at the hands of Friend, had eliminated Lewis 7-4 and Judie Wilson 7-1.

Pao defeated Gyftopoulos 7-5, as Shea was busy getting by Lio 7-3. It set up a classic JPNEWT quarterfinal match between two of the tour’s most enduring event champions; Pao and Shea. Pao won this round of that ongoing rivalry 7-4 and then, dropped Friend 7-3 in the semifinals.

The finals of the 2022 season, pitting Pao against Miller, was, by almost any standard, a classic of the tour’s long-standing and still ongoing history. Behind them, at this event, were quite a few former JPNEWT champions; Shea, Burwell, Friend, Lewis, Lai Li and in absentia, the memory of Karen Corr. Ahead of them, as is always the case, was the table in front of them. Miller completed her undefeated run with a 7-4 victory over Pao to reclaim her spot among the tour’s best.

She’d taken a break and had now come back, to her hometown and pool. 

“After I graduated (in 2018, from Lindenwood), I felt like a needed a break,” she explained. “I’d been playing since I was eight (but) felt as though I wasn’t having as much fun anymore. So, I shifted my focus to other things.”

As for future plans, she’s keeping her expectations and specific plans on a ‘tight rein,’ so to speak. A sort of one day at a time approach.

“I think I’m going to stick with the JPNEWT for right now, to get back into the swing of things,” she said, adding that her ‘future’ eye is extended forward a little, toward future WPBA events and CSI’s Predator Pro Series, as examples. She’s considering attending this year’s Super Billiards Expo, but more likely as a spectator and to get reacquainted with some of the women she’d come to know over the years. “I might just go and say ‘Hi’ to everyone.

“I’m not at that level of play (to be) in a Pro event yet,” she added. “I’ll just get out there when I’m ready. Right now, I’m just playing pool to have fun.”

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Cues, ThinkTechMD for their streaming and social media services, as well as Gina Cunningham (real estate agent of Keller Williams Integrity) and George Hammerbacher.

The next event on the JPNEWT, scheduled for April 9-10, will be hosted by Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA.

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Beltrami-Nester goes undefeated to claim MD State Open Amateur Women’s Championship title

Loye Bolyard, Nicole Beltrami-Nester, Tina Malm and Rick Scarlato, Jr.

Varias goes undefeated to win concurrently-run Open Drop-In Tournament

As it turned out, the ‘undercard’ in Maryland this past weekend (Feb. 12-13) drew more entrants than the main event. On the Hill productions held the Maryland State Open Amateur Women’s Championships 9-Ball event, for competitors with a Fargo Rate of 625 and under, at Brews and Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD and as something of a bonus event, decided to run an Open ‘Drop-in’ Tournament at the same time. The Open Drop-in tournament drew 33 entrants, which required a single preliminary match, while the Ladies Championship, which drew 30, awarded a bye to two of its first-round competitors.

Both winners – Nicole Beltrami-Nester in the Ladies event and Jimmy Varias in the ‘Drop-in’ – became occupants of their respective hot seats and had to contend with strong and long loss-side bids by competitors who challenged them in the finals. Tina Malm lost her second winners’ side match and won seven on the loss side to meet Beltrami-Nester in the Ladies final. Branden Williams lost his opening match and won eight on the loss side to meet up with Varias in the ‘Drop-in’ event.

Eugenia Gyftopoulos

Nicole Nester entered the MD State Ladies 9-Ball Championship after a strong previous year. Her recorded earnings in 2021 were her second-best since she started showing up on the payout lists of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour in 2011. She cashed in a single event that year, finishing 5th at a stop in November. Her best year was 2013, when she cashed in six JPNEWT events and was 5th in that year’s MD State Women’s Championship. Safe to say, she’s off to a real good start in 2022.

She won three out of every four games she played through her first three matches, downing Dawn Stickler (1), Judie Wilson (3) and June Prescop (2) to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Kelly Daniel. Eugenia Gyftopoulos, in the meantime, got by Rachel Walters (4), Debra Pavan Peterman (2) and Jane Im (2) to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal versus KanKan Yu.

Beltrami-Nester downed Daniel 6-1, while Gyftopoulos sent Yu to the loss side 6-2. Beltrami-Nester claimed the hot seat 6-1 (upping her game-winning percentage by three points) and waited for Malm to finish her long haul on the loss side.

On that loss side, Yu picked up a rematch against Colleen Knauff-Shoop, whom she’d sent to the loss side, double hill, in the winners’ side second round. Knauff-Shoop was working on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated June Prescop 6-4 and Christina Madrigale 5-2. It was Daniel who drew Malm, four matches into her loss-side winning streak with wins #3 and #4 against Jane Im, by forfeit, and Theresa Tascarella 7-4.

Colleen Knauff-Shoop

Knauff-Shoop won her rematch against Yu 6-3 and in the quarterfinals, faced Malm, who’d defeated Daniel 7-3. Malm stopped Knauff-Shoop’s loss-side run at five, with a 7-3 win in those quarterfinals and then gave up just a single rack to Gyftopoulos in the semifinals. Beltrami-Nester completed her undefeated run with a shutout over Malm in the finals and claimed the event title.

Varias opens 2022 campaign with an undefeated run

Like Beltrami-Nester, Jimmy Varias was coming off a strong year; his best-ever since he started recording cash payouts in 2013. Two 2021 runner-up finishes, in the Dynaspheres Cup 10-Ball event in August (losing to Jayson Shaw in the finals) and the MD State Bar Table 8-Ball Championships in September (losing to Dylan Spohr in the finals), led the pack of cash finishes last year. Also like Beltrami-Nester, it’s safe to say that he’s off to a real good start in 2022.

His path to the winners’ circle started with a shutout over Clint Clayton, an 8-2 win over Justin Pelech and an 8-6 win over Joseph Wright, Jr., which brought him to a winners’ side semifinal against Bryan Jones. Steve Fleming, a strong, veteran Mid-Atlantic competitor, got by Andres Kinones 7-2, Paul Krimes 7-5 and shutout Greg Schuler to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Rick Winpigler. 

Fleming advanced to the hot seat match 7-2 over Winpigler and was joined by Varias, who’d defeated Jones 8-2. Varias claimed the hot seat 8-3 over Fleming and like Beltrami-Nester, waited for an opponent (Branden Williams, in his case) to complete a lengthy trip on the loss side of the bracket.

Five matches into his loss-side trip, including another shutout over Schuler and a 7-2 win over John Moody, Sr. brought Williams to Jones. Winpigler picked up Glenn Loveland, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal to Jones and then, defeated Paul Krimes 6-6 (Krimes racing to 7) and Joseph Wright, Jr. by shutout.

Winpigler downed Loveland 7-4, and in the quarterfinals, faced a rematch versus Williams, who’d eliminated Jones 7-1. In those quarterfinals, Williams redeemed his earlier double hill loss to Winpigler and defeated him 7-4.

Williams completed his loss-side-of-the-bracket trip with a 7-5 victory over Fleming. Varias handed Williams his second loss in the finals 8-3 to claim the ‘Drop-in’ portion of the weekend events.

Tour directors Loye Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues for their hospitality, as well as sponsors AlleyKat Cue Sports, AZBilliards, Aramith Balls, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region, Safe Harbor Retirement Planners, Whyte Carbon Fiber Cue Shafts and MB Cues.

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Burwell downs Shea in JPNEWT season finale at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD

Kia Burwell and Linda Haywood Shea

We noted last month that you couldn’t ask much more of a regional tour than to have the top two players in the tour standings meeting up in the finals of an event, as Linda Shea and Kia Burwell did in Front Royal, VA on the weekend of Nov. 6-7. Shea and Burwell did it five times on the 2021 tour, including the season finale this past weekend (Dec. 4-5), and though Burwell ended the 2021 season having won four of those ‘final’ encounters, it was Shea who ended the season at the top of the tour standings. Shea stayed atop the tour standings because in one event that she won, Burwell finished fourth and in the events that neither of them won, Shea finished ahead of Burwell. Each had competed in all 10 of the tour’s 10 stops in 2021. The tour finale this past weekend drew 15 entrants to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

They met first in the second round of this one, which meant that one of them was going to compete in two more matches than the other. Shea had shut out Cecilia Strain in the opening round, as Burwell was busy sending Kelly Daniel to the loss side 7-3. To no one’s surprise the second-round match between them went double hill before it was decided. Burwell prevailed and advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Mary Watkins. Judie Wilson, in the meantime, who entered the event in 5th place in the tour standings and would finish in 3rd, got by Teri Thomas 7-4, and Shelah Joner 7-3 to draw Ada Lio in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Burwell and Wilson advanced to the hot seat match with identical 7-5 wins over Watkins and Lio, respectively. Burwell claimed the hot seat with a 7-2 win over Wilson and waited for Shea to complete her loss-side run.

On the loss side, it was Lio who picked up Shea, who’d followed her defeat at the hands of Burwell with wins over April Hatcher 7-4 and a shutout over Teri Thomas. Watkins drew Carol V. Clark, who came in at #7 in the standings and would finish at #5. Clark had been shut out by Lio in a winners’ side quarterfinal and had survived a double hill battle against Kelly Daniel and eliminated Jane Im 7-3.

Clark advanced to the quarterfinals 7-4 over Watkins. Shea, in the meantime, spoiled a potential Clark/Lio rematch by outlasting Lio in a double hill fight that advanced her to meet Clark in the quarterfinals.

Shea defeated Clark 7-2 and then, by the same score, Wilson in the semifinals. Shea advanced to a season-ending, second shot at Burwell, waiting for her in the hot seat. Burwell finished the 2021 JPNEWT season with her fourth tour victory in her last six attempts, downing Shea 7-4 to claim the event title.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality and ongoing support for the tour. She also thanked title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Bitzel and Associates PTPA Physical Therapy, George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor, Baltimore) and angle aim Art (Britanya E Rapp) for the live stream.

Taylor comes back from down-by-four in finals to defeat Pao on JPNEWT

Liz Taylor (Jay Chiu)

There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Caroline Pao signed on to the April 10-11 stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT), looking for her seventh straight win on the tour, dating back to 2019. Of course, everyone else who signed on was looking for a win as well, including Liz Taylor, who’d finished in 3rd place, behind Pao and Nicole Nester in the tour’s season opener last month (March 6-7).

As she’d done in March, Pao was forced to seek this past weekend’s event title from the loss side. In fact, this time out, she was forced to win three on the loss side just to get into the finals. Liz Taylor had sent her over and though Pao would come back to challenge her in the finals, Taylor completed an undefeated run to claim her first event title since she’d gone back-to-back last November, winning the VA State Ladies 8-Ball Championship and a week, later, Stop #10 on the 2020 JPNEWT. The event this past weekend drew 19 entrants to Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA. 

Taylor and Pao were on something of a collision course from the start. Pao got by Suzzie Wong, Shelah Joner and Christine Pross (7-2, 7-3, 7-3), as Taylor, awarded an opening round bye, shut out April Hatcher and then downed Kia Burwell 7-5. This set them up to face each other in one of the winners’ side semifinals. In the other winners’ side semifinal, the tour director, Linda Shea, squared off against Judie Wilson, who, following a bye, had chalked up two 7-4 victories against Nicole Nester and Kelly Fox.

A third straight 7-4 win put Wilson into the hot seat match for the first time since 2018 (her best recorded earnings year, to date), when she fought for it twice; once, in April, against Burwell (then, Kia Sidbury) and then, versus Shea in December. Taylor and Pao, in the meantime, battled to double hill, before Taylor prevailed. Taylor put the hammer down in the hot seat match, giving up only a single rack to Wilson.

On the loss side, Pao picked up Kelly Fox, who, following her defeat at the hands of Wilson had eliminated Sharon O’Hanlon 7-3 and Kris Consalvo-Kemp 7-4. Shea drew Pross, who followed her loss to Pao with victories over Rachel Walters 7-5 and Carianne Merkle 7-3. 

Pao advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Cox and met up with Shea, who’d defeated Pross 7-5. Pao eliminated Shea 7-3 in those quarterfinals and then, Wilson 7-4 in the semifinals.

Taylor got off to a bit of a rocky start in the extended-race-to-9 final. If she reached 7 racks first, it’d be over. If Pao reached 7 first, the race extended to 9. With the momentum of her three loss-side matches, Pao jumped out to an early lead that was four racks by the end of the 6th game, 5-1.

Taylor chipped away at that lead, winning four of the next six (7-5), but couldn’t stop Pao’s extension of the match to nine games. She did, however, stop Pao from completing any more games. Taylor won four in a row to claim the event title.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked Russ Urffer and his Markley Billiards’ staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Bitzel and Associates PTPA (Physical Therapy), George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor), and, for the livestream, angle aim Art (Britanya E Rapp). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of May 15-16, will be hosted by First Break Bar & Grill in Sterling, VA.

Shanna Lewis gets by Lai Li twice, double hill, to win JPNEWT season opener

Shanna Lewis

Pool tournaments will often play host to competitors who, for one reason or another, have been away from the game for a while. Depending upon the skill level they’d attained before they stopped competing, how long they’ve been away and the overall competitive level of the field they enter upon their return, the result could go either way. The competitor could go ‘two and out,’ if they’re seriously out of practice and stroke, or they could make it seem as though pool’s like riding a bicycle, where one can more or less pick up where they left off.

Shanna Lewis, whose last reported cash payout in a pool tournament was at a Q Master Billiards Mid-Atlantic Women’s 9-Ball Open in 2015 (9th place), returned to the tables this past weekend (March 7-8) to compete in the season opener of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour. Lewis chose the ‘like riding a bicycle’ option and went undefeated through the field of 31, downing last year’s runner-up in the Tour Championship standings, Lai Li, twice. The $500-added (by Coins of the Realm), NAPT Div. II Semi-Pro event drew 31 entrants to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

Her own assessment of her TAFT (time away from table) was more in the vicinity of 10 years. It was an absence prompted by a decision to focus on the business career side of her life. She’s back, now, still working on the business side of her career, but with some flexibility to spend more TAT (time at table). While acknowledging that she’s returned with her skills more or less intact, she noted that it wasn’t as easy as it looked from the nature of the undefeated run and her two victories over Lai Li might indicate.

“Yeah, there were times during the tournament when I was thinking, ‘Yeah, this is great,” she said, “but there were other times when I felt like I couldn’t put a ball in the hole that was a straight shot.”

That said, Lewis was back on the bicycle right from the start, winning 14 of her first 17 games. She gave up only one rack to Judie Wilson and then two to Melissa Mason before running into Elaine Wilson, who, in essence, by chalking up five racks against her, applied some brakes to Lewis’ bicycle. It dropped Lewis’ game-winning percentage by 10 points in a single match. Lewis won, though, and advanced to face Teri Thomas in a winners’ side semifinal.

Lai Li, in the meantime, had opened with a 7-1 victory over Charlynn Dzambo, defeated Kelly Wyatt 7-4 and downed the tour’s 2020 champion, Linda Shea, 7-4 in a winners’ side quarterfinal.  The draw wasn’t getting any easier as Li advanced to face Kia Sidbury in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Lewis got into the hot seat match with another 7-1 victory, over Thomas, and faced Li, who’d sent Sidbury to the loss side 7-4. In their first of two, they battled to double hill before Lewis prevailed to sit in her first hot (bicycle) seat in a while.

On the loss side, Nicole Nester and Sharon O’Hanlon were working on modest three-match, loss-side winning streaks that had begun when they’d lost their winners’ side quarterfinal match to  Teri Thomas and Kia Sidbury, respectively. Nester and O’Hanlon both won two loss-side double hill battles; Nester, versus Colleen Shoop and Eugenia Gyftopoulos; O’Hanlon, over two ‘powerhouse’ opponents – Nicole King and Tour Director, Linda Shea. They did not, however, draw rematches because Nester drew Sidbury and O’Hanlon drew Thomas.

Nester advanced to the quarterfinals 7-4 over Sidbury, as Thomas eliminated O’Hanlon 7-3. Nester then downed Thomas 7-3 in those quarterfinals, before herself being eliminated in a double hill fight versus Li in the semifinals.

A second, slightly longer double hill fight, Li’s third straight, ensued in the finals. Lewis won it 9-8 to claim the title to JPNEWT’s 2020 season opener.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Coins of the Realm, The Turtle Rack (www.mezzusa.com), Baltimore City Cues, and the live stream, sponsored by Britanya E. Rapp, billiards artist (angle aim Art). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of April 4-5, will be hosted by Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA.

Li goes undefeated, downing Sykes twice to win JPNEWT season finale

Bethany Sykes & Lai Li

The finalists in the season finale of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were both in the midst of their best earnings year to date and were looking for their first win on the tour. Though Bethany Sykes was the State of Virginia’s 8-Ball Champion almost exactly a year ago, had chalked up a win on the gender-mixed Action Pool Tour in January and a month later, had won the Division II Championship on the (presently) all-female North American Pool Tour in February, she had yet to win an event on the JPNEWT. Lai Li, her opponent in both the hot seat match and finals, was looking for her first regional tour win ever and found it, as she went undefeated to win the tour’s season finale on the weekend of Nov. 16-17. The $500-added (by Coins of the Realm) event (Stop #8) drew 22 players to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

The victory elevated Lai Li one spot on the Tour Standings list to #2. Tour director Linda Shea, who, for obvious reasons, has competed in all eight of the tour’s stops, finished 3rd in the season finale to retain her spot at the top of the tour standings. Caroline Pao, who won the three stops in which she competed and finished 3rd in the tour standings, did not compete in the season finale.

Following victories over Ceci Strain 7-1, Teri Thomas 7-3 and Melissa Jenkins 7-4, Lai Li advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Anita Sowers. Sykes’ trip to the hot seat match was almost derailed at the outset. After being awarded an opening round bye, Sykes drew Eugenia Gyftopoulos, who battled her to double hill before finally giving way for Sykes to advance. Sykes went on to down Kelly Wyatt 7-5 and advance to her winners’ side semifinal match against Judie Wilson.

By identical 7-5 scores, Li and Sykes defeated Sowers and Wilson and advanced to the hot seat match. Li took the first of their two matches 7-5 and waited on her return.

On the loss side, Sowers picked up tour director Linda Shea, who’d been sent to the loss side by Judie Wilson in a winners’ side quarterfinal and had then defeated Serafina Concannon 7-5 and Sharon O’Hanlon 7-3. Wilson drew a rematch against Kia Sidbury, whom she’d defeated in an early round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had most recently included victories over Carol V. Clark 7-3 and a double hill win over Melissa Jenkins.

Shea defeated Sowers 7-3 and in the quarterfinals, faced Sidbury, who’d had a successful rematch against Wilson 7-4. Shea then ended Sidbury’s loss-side streak 7-5 in those quarterfinals.

Sykes, though, ended Shea’s four-match, loss-side trip with a 7-3 victory in the semifinals. Li, apparently unaffected by the wait, defeated Sykes in their second match, the finals, 7-3.

Tour director Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Coins of the Realm, Mezz USA, Baltimore City Cues, and for the live stream, Britanya E Rapp with angle aim Art. The tour will be back at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD for their 2020 season opener on the weekend of March 7-8, 2020.