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Kennedy and Meglino split the top two prizes on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Tommy Kennedy, Anthony Meglino and Justin Gilsinan

They were the last two standing at the season finale of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour in December, 2019 and this past weekend (March 5-6), they were the last two standing at the $1,000-added, second stop on the 2022 Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, which drew 38 entrants to Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café at Winter Park, FL. Neither of the events featured a final match because at the end, reported as 3 a.m. in both cases, Tommy Kennedy in the hot seat and Anthony Meglino, coming back from a few matches on the loss side (both times), opted out of a final and split the top two prizes. Kennedy, in the hot seat, was the official winner both times.

It was, thanks in part to the pandemic, Kennedy’s first win since that 2019 event on the same tour. He’d won an event on his own Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour in August of that year. Meglino, on the other hand, had chalked up six event victories in that time frame, four of them on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, and three of them in 2021, which turned into his best recorded earnings year, to date. Meglino is well on his way to making 2022 better than last year at the tables.

Kennedy opened his campaign with wins over Michael Anderson, David Nguyen and Raymond Linares, advancing to a winners’ side semifinal against former tour director of the New York City area’s Predator Pro Am Tour and now, transplanted Floridian competitor, Tony Robles, who, in the preceding winners’ side quarterfinal, had sent Meglino to the loss side, double hill. In the meantime, Justin Gilsinan, winner of this past January’s Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championship, had defeated Michael McGuire, Brent Mireles and KC Donahey to meet up with Justin Toye in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kennedy sent Robles to the loss side 7-5 and in the hot seat match, was joined by Gilsinan, who’d survived a double hill battle over Toye. Kennedy claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Gilsinan.

On the loss side, Robles picked up a rematch against co-tour director of the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, Bobby Garza, who, after that 7-1 loss had embarked on a five-match, loss-side streak that had recently eliminated Donahey 5-3 and Monthep Hongsyok, double hill. It was Toye who picked up the battling-back-to-the-finals Meglino, who’d followed his loss to Robles with wins over Orlando Dixon 5-1 and Raymond Linares 7-3.

Garza and Robles locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Garza to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Meglino, who’d defeated Toye 7-3. Meglino allowed Garza just a single rack in those quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals against Gilsinan.

Gilsinan didn’t give up his potential second shot against Kennedy in the hot seat easily. He fought for it right down to the 13th deciding game, but Meglino closed out what proved to be the last match of the event. He and Kennedy agreed on the split as the sun was painting thin, early colors in the horizon skies over Winter Park, FL.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Faheem Zia and the staff at Cue-Phoria Billiards and Cafe for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiards Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZ Billiards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, Eastern Billiards and Andy Cloth. Phillips went on to thank her co-tour director Garza for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing and Andy Cleary for his graphics. She also noted and thanked Brent Mireles, Jimmy Antonietta and Tony Robles for their commentary on the stream.

The next event on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of April 9-10, will be a $1,500-added event hosted by Brewlands North in Lakeland, FL.

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White and Joey Tate go undefeated to win Pro Am/18 & Under Boys division at Stop #2 of JIC

Joey Tate, Trenton White and Nathan Childress

Bethany Tate, Hess and Leinen take 18 & Under Girls, 13 & Under Girls and Boys titles

“And they’re off!!” says a voice emanating from some mythical PA system, followed, seconds later, by “Rounding the first turn, it’s ‘GoGetEm’ in the lead . . .”

If you think of competition in each of the five divisions comprising the Junior International Championships (JIC), sponsored by Viking Cues, as a series of eight horse races, Stop #2 in the 2022 series is like a snapshot of the junior competitors, just after they’ve broken out of the gate and are headed into the first turn of a mile-long race. Not a lot of useful information in that snapshot in terms of how it will all play out as they round the final turn and head for home in the fall, but it’s compelling to watch as they jockey for position. 

The five divisional events drew a total of 112 entrants to Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral, FL, with a great deal of crossover, including in the ProAm division, which saw nine girls from both age groups make up just over 22% of the 40-entrant Pro Am field. As intended by JIC tournament director and On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna, this group of young competitors do not flinch at playing above their normal ‘pay grade,’ whether that be defined by age or gender. The ferocity of competition, even as viewed in the snapshot of the series’ ‘first turn,’ is fierce. None of the five winners from Stop #1 repeated as winners in Stop #2. Some of the Stop #2 winners had not chalked up a win in the first season.

Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Gianna Fiore

Some of the ‘ponies’ in their separate divisional races are hot on each other’s trail. In the 13 & Under Girls race, Sophia Mast and Skylar Hess are running neck and neck. They met twice in the season opener; in their opening match, won by Hess, and again, in the finals, won by Mast. They met twice last weekend, too, and once again, in their opening matches of the 10-entrant event. They fought to double hill before Mast prevailed, moving on to a winners’ side semifinal against Asia Gillespie, and from there, to the hot seat match, which she won, downing Gianna “Mini Banks” Fiore 7-5. Hess came back through five matches on the loss side, including a 7-5 win over Savannah Easton in the quarterfinals and a 7-1 victory over Fiore in the semifinals. In the finals, this time Hess prevailed 9-5. Hess was also the top finishing young woman (9-12) in the 40-entrant ProAm division (the largest field at Stop #2).

The winner and runner-up in Stop #1 of Season Two in the ProAm division (Landon Hollingsworth and Joey Tate, who were also winner and runner-up in Season 1’s 18 & Under Boys division championship) become runner-up (Tate) and among the eight competitors who tied for 17th (Hollingsworth). Trenton White, who had yet to win an event in the series (either season) went undefeated to claim the Stop #2 ProAm title. He got by five opponents, including a double hill win over Justin Toye and a winners’ side semifinal, 7-5 win over Kashton Keeton to give Joey Tate a shot at him in the hot seat match. White won their first of two ‘rounds’ 7-5.

On the loss side, two veterans of the JIC series, Riley Adkins and Nathan Childress, faced each other in the quarterfinals. Childress, who’d entered last season’s 18 & Under Championships as the #1-ranked player in the division, downed Adkins 7-4 and then fell to Tate by the same score in the semifinals. White took Tate down a second time, in the finals 9-6, to claim Stop #2’s Pro Am title.

White fared well in the 18 & Under Boys division, as well, finishing in the tie for 5th/6th, but Tate went undefeated in that event and never faced White, which, from Tate’s perspective, was probably just as well. Tate advanced through to the hot seat match, where he defeated Ivo Lemon 7-5. White was eliminated in the 5th/6th matches by Hollingsworth 7-5, who went on to defeat Dustin Muir 7-3 in the quarterfinals. He was eliminated 7-4 by Lemon in the semifinals, which, again from Tate’s perspective, worked out just fine. Tate claimed the 18 & Under Boys title, downing Lemon a second time, 9-5.

Sofia Mast, Bethany Tate and April Gonzaez

‘Favorites’ in the 18 & Under Girls race fall to a (medium) ‘longshot’

With Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Kennedy Meyman (winner of this division last month) in the 16-entrant, 18 & Under Girls division, they’d have shown up on a ‘toteboard’ as a group of three ‘favorites’ in Stop #2’s race. And at the end of four rounds of match play (around the final turn and headed for home), Sophia Mast was in the lead. . uhh, hot seat. She’d not faced Hess, which, from her perspective, was probably just as well, but she had sent Meyman to the loss side in the opening round, survived a winners’ side semifinal, double hill fight against Bethany Tate, and shut out April Gonzalez in the hot seat match.

Bethany Tate (15) had entered her winners’ side semifinal match against Mast, looking at the distinct possibility that she could face her 11-year-old sister, Noelle, in the hot seat match. It failed to materialize when Mast sent Bethany to the loss side and April Gonalez sent Noelle over. The sisters arrived on the loss side of the bracket at the same time, again looking at the distinct possibility of facing each other, this time in the quarterfinals. Bethany did her part, eliminating Courtney Hairfield 7-5. Noelle was eliminated by Precilia Kinsley, though not before she’d forced a 13th single game, for all of the proverbial marbles.

In the quarterfinals that followed, Bethany and Kinsley also battled to double hill, before Bethany prevailed, advancing to eliminate the competitor who’d sent her sister to the loss side, April Gonzalez (7-5) in the semifinals. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see Noelle rooting for her sister to cross the finish line first, as Bethany and Sofia Mast stepped to the table for the finals. And it worked. Bethany and Mast came to within a game of double hill, but Bethany chalked up her first JIC win 9-7.

D’ Angelo Spain, Hank Leinen and Roman Boone

Absent last month’s winner and runner-up in the 13 & Under Boys division, Hank Leinen stepped up to go undefeated and become yet another junior competitor to win a first division-event title. D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain finished as runner-up. They met first in a winners’ side semifinal, won by Leinen 7-3.

Meeting up with Leinen in the hot seat match was Roman Boone, who’d sent Gaige Wells to the loss side 7-4 in the other winners’ side semifinal. Leinen claimed the hot seat 7-2 and waited on Spain’s return from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Spain, after eliminating Landon Dunlap 7-2, advanced to a quarterfinal versus Jayce Little, who’d defeated Wells 7-1. Spain and Little locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Spain to a semifinal win over Boone 7-3. The 13 & Under Boys final pitting Spain against Leinen came within a game of double hill, but in the end, Leinen edged out in front to claim the division title 9-7

Ra Hanna and all of his support ‘crew’ thanked the owners and staff at Diamond Billiards, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues. The next stop on the Junior International Championships (#3), which will see the competitors stretch their ‘legs’ through the long straightaway on the far side of the track (stops #3 through #7), is scheduled for March 25-27 and will be hosted by The Rack and Grill III in Aiken, SC.

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Toye goes undefeated to win Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour Championship

David Uwate, Justin Toye and Pedro Botta

By almost any measure, Justin Toye’s title-winning run through a field of 77 entrants on hand for the season finale of the Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour (the Tour Championship) was a fight from start to finish. Of his seven opponents, only one of Toye’s opponents chalked up less than five racks against him. And in almost any race to 9, when opponents are closer than four or five racks, almost anything can happen. Runner-up Pedro Botta’s path to the final was even more fraught with ‘close match’ challenges, at least until he got to the loss side, where he won seven matches and only two of his opponents chalked up more than four against him. The 77 entrants who signed on to compete, joined an event that added $3,500 to the purse; $1,000 from the host location, Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL, $2,000 from title sponsor Predator, $300 from the Central Florida USA Pool League and $200 from Skills for Rent, LLC.

After a bye, Toye opened up with three straight 9-6 wins over Mike McPhilomy, Tony Whitman and Randall Mcluckie. He then sent Michael Xiarhos, Sr. to the loss side 9-5 to draw Serafin Serrano in a winners’ side semifinal. Botta, who’d won three on the winners’ side versus George Saunders (9-7), Jose Baez (9-7) and Bret Agler (9-5), got sent to the loss side 9-6 by Justin Gilsinan, who followed him over when he was defeated by Serrano in the following round 9-5. David Uwate, in the meantime, got by Ash Chewkaskie 9-6, Norm Klinkosh 9-2, Malcolm Dodson 9-5 and Marcos Bielostozky 9-7 to pick up Derek Laprairie in the other winners’ side semfinal. 

Toye downed Serrano 9-7 and in the hot seat match, met up with Uwate, who’d sent Laprairie west 9-6. Toye claimed the hot seat over Uwate 9-2 and waited for Botta to complete his seven-match, loss-side winning streak.

It was Serrano who drew Botta on the loss side, four matches into his loss-side run that had included recent wins over Ameet Kukadia 7-4 and Jerry Alverez, double hill. Laprairie picked up Andrew Cleary, who’d lost his opening round match to Tom Decker 9-7 and was working on an impressive eight-match, loss-side winning streak of his own that had recently included three straight double hill wins over Malcomb Dodson, Xiarhos, Sr. and Nate Beal.

Laprairie ended Cleary’s run 7-2, while Botta was taking his next step toward the finals 7-3 over Serrano. Botta downed Laprairie, double hill in the quarterfinals, and then spoiled Uwate’s bid for a second shot against Toye 7-2.

As befitted their separate seven (Toye) and 12-match (Botta) struggles to reach the finals, those finals were, for quite a while, too close to call. Toye pulled out ahead and won by two 11-9.

In their subsequent press release, tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza were enthusiastic about the players who’d played and the sponsors who’d assisted in a myriad of ways, to the success of the 2021 tour and the Tour Championship itself. 

“What a great weekend for our finale of the year,” they noted.

They went on to thank the ownership and staff of Rack’s Billiards for their hospitality and title sponsor Predator Cues “for everything they do, not just for us, but players and events everywhere.” They also thanked Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Skills for Rent, LLC, Central Florida USA Pool League, Diamond Billiard Products and AZ Billiards. They noted contributions from stream commentators Jimmy Antonietta, Kristian Dimitrov and Garza, as well as the assistance of Niki Cuellar and Katie Bowse.

The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour will be the 2022 season opener. Scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 5-6, the event will be hosted by Stroker’s Bar & Grill in Palm Harbor, FL. 

Toye wins nine on the loss side, downs Link in finals on Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour

Jesse Link, Justin Toye and Mike DeLawder

The finalists on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour’s 8th stop last weekend (August 21-22) were both looking for their first major victory. Jesse Link went undefeated to the hot seat at this $500-added event that drew 37 entrants to Q Ball Billiards in Jacksonville, FL, while Justin Toye spent most of his time (9 out of 10 matches) on the loss side of the bracket. They both had to get by veteran competitor, Mike Delawder in the final three matches of the tournament for the chance to face each other in the finals. Both did so. Toye won the extended single race-to-9 final to claim the event title.

After an opening round bye, Toye got locked up in a double hill battle versus Logan Lane that sent him on his loss-side journey, while Link and Delawder embarked on their shorter trips to the hot seat match. Link downed Landon Fox, Eric Neeld, Bill Norrish and Tommy Pauley to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against David Grossman. Delawder, awarded a bye, then defeated Michele Neeld, John Souders and Christian Daniels to reach the man that had sent Toye to the loss side (Logan Lane).

Link moved into the hot seat match 7-5 over Grossman and was joined by Delawder, who’d sent Lane to the loss side 7-2. Link claimed the hot seat 6-4 over Delawder and waited on Toye.

Meanwhile, on the loss side, Toye was mowin’ ‘em down. He gave up a total of only four racks in his first four games versus Landon Fox (0), Cris Baumgart (1), Brett Agler (2) and Jack Smith (1) before running into Christian Daniels, who gave him a loss-side, double hill run for his money; unsuccessfully as it turned out. Toye advanced to defeat Randall McLuckie 5-2 and picked up Grossman, over from his winners’ side semifinal loss. Lane drew Kristian Dimitrov, who was working on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had just eliminated Tommy Pauley 5-2 and Matt Deweese 5-1.

Toye did his part to assure his rematch against Logan Lane with a 5-2 victory over Grossman. Lane cooperated by surviving a double hill battle against Dimitrov. Toye ‘thanked’ Lane for the extra three matches added to the number of matches he needed to claim the event title, by allowing him only a single rack in their quarterfinal rematch.

Toye moved on to meet and defeat Delawder 5-2 in the semifinals for a shot against Link, waiting for him in the hot seat. He took full advantage of the opportunity he was given and downed Link 9-5 to claim his first event title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the ownership and staff at Q Ball Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Kamui, Diamond Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Central Florida USA Pool League, Skills for Rent & AZ Billiards. Stop #9 on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of October 9-10, will be a $1,000-added Open 9-Ball event, hosted by Brewlands in Lakeland, FL.