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Corr and Miller split top two prizes in JPNEWT season finale

Karen Corr, Bethany Sykes, CC Strain and Briana Miller

Tour director Linda Shea officially hands tour reins to Briana Miller

Though it lacked the formality of any sort of official transfer of power, the season finale of the 2022 J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) was significant as the last event at which Maryland’s Linda Shea would preside as its tour director, a title she has held for 14 years. This was announced and for all intents and purposes begun back in July when it was first reported that beginning officially with the season opener of the 2023 JPNEWT season, Pennsylvania’s Briana Miller would be the tour’s new director. Beginning with the fifth stop on the 2022 tour, Shea and Miller have been working side by side, co-directing the last seven stops on the tour. It’s been a transfer of power unlike anything that could be dreamed of in a political arena; an incoming US Senator, for example, working side by side with the incumbent to ‘learn the ropes’ of the job, while at the same time, beginning to exert a measure of influence, actually acting as the in-power Senator to accomplish specific policy objectives, so that when the time came, he/she could hit the ground running, to the benefit of the entire country. 

Day by day, month by month over the past five of them, Shea and Miller have worked together toward this past weekend, Shea’s last tournament as its director. Miller has, in consultation with various long-standing members of the tour, including Shea, begun to change things, bringing a new ‘look’ to the tour Web site, seeking out new rooms, making plans to include more ‘bar box’ events, investigating ways of marketing the tour, initiating a new event format to the JPNEWT mix and making plans to grow the tour beyond Shea’s leadership. At this past weekend’s season finale, for example, Miller, Shea and other tour competitors were engaged in a combination round-robin, single-elimination format event that hadn’t been experienced by them on the tour before.

The $500-added season finale drew 26 entrants to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD this past weekend (Dec. 3-4). Both Briana Miller and Karen Corr went undefeated through both stages to arrive at a final match and then opt out of playing it, choosing instead to split the top two cash prizes. More on the event itself later.

There was also an unofficial, low-key ‘transfer of power’ moment at the event, during which Shea, who, like the incoming tour director, Briana Miller, competed in the event itself, was presented with a trophy/plaque, recognizing and commemorating her 14 years of service to the tour. 

The new round-robin/single-elimination format offered existing and potential future competitors on the tour an opportunity to play more pool. Previously, the JPNEWT was adhering to standards that by rule, aligned them with the WPBA; in game choice (9-ball), format (double elimination) and without handicaps. According to Shea, some of the previous WPBA requirements have been relaxed to accommodate such format (and other) changes. But throughout most of Shea’s tenure as tour director, it meant that a newcomer to the tour might, as an example, travel some distance to compete, find themselves up against two tour veterans in an early draw and be headed home before mid-afternoon of the first day. With the round robin format as a beginning, such a player would, for their entry fee money, play all day, win or lose. Two losses wouldn’t disqualify her from further competition, although she wouldn’t likely be moving on to the single elimination phase of the event.

“I enjoyed it,” said outgoing tournament director, Shea. “With its (round robin format) races to 4, you had to come out concentrating hard.”

“Getting to four doesn’t take much,” she added, “and I liked it in the sense that you had to come out focused.”

And she did. There were five ‘flights’ of round robin matches, four of them with five competitors and one with six. Shea won all four of her round robin matches, advancing with nine others to the single elimination phase of the event. 

Also advancing to the event’s second stage undefeated were incoming TD Briana Miller, Bethany Sykes and Eugenia Gyftopoulous. Advancing on the strength of 3-1 records were Ada Lio, Carol V. Clark, Kia Burwell, June Prescop and Karen Corr. Cecilia Strain advanced with a 3-2 record and a better, overall game-winning percentage than two other competitors with 3-2 records in the round robin phase. Shea, Miller, Corr, Burwell, Sykes and Gyftopoulous were awarded opening-round byes in the single-elimination bracket.

In the two matches that comprised the opening round of single-elimination play, Clark defeated Prescop 7-3 and Strain got by Lio 7-4. In the quarterfinals, Sykes defeated Clark 7-5, Corr downed Gyftopoulous 7-3 and Miller eliminated Burwell 7-2. Shea and Strain battled to double hill before Strain advanced to meet Miller in one of the semifinals. Corr and Sykes squared off in the other one.

In their first match of the event, in the round robin phase, Sykes had handed Corr what turned out to be her only loss in the tournament 4-2. Corr came back in the event semifinals to win their second match 7-4. Meeting for the first time (in this event), Miller defeated Strain 7-4 as well. It was at this point that Corr and Miller opted out of a final and split the top two cash prizes. It was also the final match held under the auspices of Shea, whose reign as JPNEWT TD came to something of an unofficial end. The opening of the tour’s 2023 schedule will be solely under Briana Miller’s direction.

“I haven’t been the director for the last few months, really,” said Shea. “I just helped her, introduced her to the people and assisted.”

“It felt good,” she added of her thoughts following the end of her official TD duties, noting that there were no sad thoughts about her ‘retirement’ from director status. “None at all. I get to just play now. I get to come in and not have to be there two hours early. I might even play in the Super Billiards Expo next year.

“I’m happy that Briana was interested in the position,” she went on to say. “I think she’s going to do a good job and it’s going to be great.”

Shea knew when it was over that she was leaving the tour in good hands. Though she admitted to a twinge of sadness that she was saying goodbye to the role of tour director, she was, overall, thankful for it.

“Very true,” she said. “Yes.” 

In parting, Shea offered thanks to all of the players and tour assistants with whom she has worked over the past 14 years, and those who participated in her TD ‘swan song.’ She, along with Briana Miller thanked tour sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cue and George Hammerbacher, pool instructor and commentator on the tour’s live streams. Information on the JPNEWT 2023 schedule will appear on the tour’s listing, to be found in the “Tours/Events” tab on the AZBilliards Web site. 

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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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Shea goes undefeated to win second round of her two-stop battle against Friend on JPNEWT

Kathy Friend, April Hatcher, Carol V. Clark, Linda Shea, Melissa Jenkins, Melissa Mason, Kassandra Bein, and June Prescop

When the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour got back underway in August, Linda Shea advanced all the way to the hot seat, only to have Kathy Friend, whom she’d sent to the semifinals, come back and defeat her in the final match. This past weekend (Sept. 19-20), the final matchup was the same although Friend’s path to it was significantly different. So was the outcome. Friend won five on the loss side to face Shea in their second final match in a row, but Shea hung on to complete an undefeated run and win her second stop on the shortened 2020 tour. The event drew 20 entrants to First Break Bar & Grill in Sterling, VA.

Following an opening round bye, Shea sent Christie Hurdel 7-5 and Melissa Jenkins 7-4 to the loss side to draw Carol V. Clark in one of the winners’ side semifinals. April Hatcher, in the meantime, had defeated Rumi Brown 7-4 and then gave up only three total racks in 17 games against Ceci Strain (1) and Teri Thomas (2) to face June Prescop in the other winners’ side semifinal. Prescop was responsible for sending Friend to the loss side 7-5 in a winners’ side quarterfinal.

Shea downed Clark 7-5 and in the hot seat match, faced Hatcher, who’d sent Prescop to the loss side 7-4. Shea prevailed to claim the hot seat 7-3 over Hatcher.

On the loss side, Friend opened her trip back to the finals with a 7-3 win over Lai Li and a 7-2 victory over Melissa Mason to draw Clark. Prescop picked up Melissa Jenkins, who, following her defeat at the hands of Shea, had eliminated Ceci Strain 7-5 and Kassandra Bein 7-3. 

Friend and Prescop advanced to their quarterfinal rematch. Friend defeated Clark 7-5 and Prescop just did survive a double hill fight against Jenkins. Friend prevailed 7-3 in the rematch and then went on to down Hatcher 7-5 in the semifinals.

As might have been expected, Shea and Friend locked up in a tight battle that went double hill. Shea dropped the final 9-ball to claim her second 2020 event title on the tour. The win also solidified Shea’s hold on the #1 spot in the tour standings. With Kia Burwell finishing in the tie for 13th, Friend’s second-place finish allowed her to move into the #2 spot. Burwell slipped a single place, down to #3, while Lai Li, who finished in the tie for 9th place, moved down a spot to #4.

Shea thanked the ownership and staff at First Break Bar & Grill, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, angle aim Art (Britanya E. Rapp) and Turtle Rack. The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for Oct. 10-11, will be hosted by Eagle Billiards in Dickson City, PA.