Archive Page

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. 

Go to thread

Fisher stays atop WPBA rankings with come-from-the-loss-side win at Sledgehammer Open

Kelly Fisher, Janet Atwell and Kristina Tkach

The late Helena Thornfeldt remembered in heartfelt 1st Annual event named in her honor

She was nicknamed the Sledgehammer because of her powerful break. Whenever conversations about Helena Thornfeldt broke out among friends and competitors at the 1st Annual WPBA Cherokee Sledgehammer Open, named in her honor this past weekend (Wed., Oct. 19 – Sun., Oct. 23), more than just a few of the gathered women had cause to remember it; the loud whack of initial contact and the way the balls spread out as though desperate for space beyond the rails to dissipate the energy of it. It had taken over two years for the pool community’s widespread respect and admiration for the late Helena Thornfeldt to arrive at a gathering in her honor. The WPBA Hall of Famer died in August of 2019 and though Janet Atwell, in an attempt to organize a 2020 event, began work on it almost immediately, COVID had other ideas, that persisted.

This past weekend, Atwell’s room, Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN had one of Thornfeldt’s favorite things, sunflowers, on prominent display. A table was set aside to hold a variety of individual and collections of photos. The trophies that were handed to the winner, Kelly Fisher and runner-up Kristina Tkach were accompanied by two actual sledgehammers, made by Robert Ingold of Team SuperShaft. Atwell is working on the creation of a permanent wall plaque at Borderline Billiards with engraving space for the event’s present and future winners, along with a pair of crossed sledgehammers. The event began on Wednesday with words from Janet Atwell and a video made by Bonnie Arnold that featured, among other things, Thornfeldt singing a karaoke version of Born to be Wild. The event officially opened with the National Anthem sung by Christina Druen.

“I think it was an emotional event for everyone,” said Atwell. “Some went through some struggles with it.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Kelly Fisher. “A very emotional event, that first night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”

Kelly Fisher

“We all missed her really,” she added, “and we hadn’t had a chance to show that or feel that, as a family, together. I know that for myself, during that final and a during a few other close matches as well, I could just imagine Helena saying things to me. I went outside at one point to get a breath of air and Monica (Webb) said something to me that Helena would have said and I got kind of fired up there. So for me, personally, she was definitely a presence in my heart and mind.”

Among those in attendance, including Fisher, Tkach and Atwell of course, was Jeannette Lee, who had, in a 2017 interview, called Thornfeldt “the best female straight pool player in the world.” Lee joined Atwell as a member of a ProAm team (one of many) that played a social tournament on opening night, full of blatant sharking and fun. Monica Webb, who ran a restaurant business with Thornfeldt for a number of years, was there, as well. So, too, was the WPBA’s Peg Ledman, a personal friend of Thornfeldt. Not present, though there in spirit, was Allison Fisher, who was in England being awarded an MBE title (a Member of the British Empire) for her “contributions to sport,” many of those, from Britain’s point of view, earned as a snooker player there. The event also featured a strong contingent of (now) relatively well-known junior competitors like Hayleigh Marion (for whom Borderline Billiards is a home room), Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and recipient of a great deal of attention, 12-year-old Savannah Easton.

The $10,000-added Sledgehammer Open drew a total of 80 entrants to Borderline Billiards, 32 of them drawing byes exempting them from Stage One competition. The 48 others, 16 of whom drew opening round byes in Stage One, played in a double-elimination bracket until there were eight on each side of it. Stage Two awarded byes to the top 16 in the WPBA standings, as the double-elimination bracket got underway, and . . . they were off. 

Headlining the eight competitors who advanced to Stage Two from the winners’ side of the Stage One bracket was Sofia Mast, one of the 16 who’d been awarded opening round byes in Stage One. Her first opponent was Savannah Easton, setting up an early junior marquee matchup. Mast advanced on the winners’ side 7-2, while Easton would move to the loss side, winning three by an aggregate score of 21-5 and advancing to Stage Two. Also advancing on the winners’ side of the Stage One bracket were Kathy Friend, Jaye Succo, Nathalie Chabot, Christy Norris and the Callado sisters, Eleanor and Emilyn. Along with Easton, loss-side competitors advancing to Stage Two were junior competitors Skylar Hess and Precilia Kinsley, along with Nicole Albergaria, Dawn Oldag, Kim Housman, Lisa Cossette and Casey Cork.

Kristina Tkach

The opening round of Stage Two, with Kelly Fisher (among others) idle with opening round byes. Kristina Tkach played and won her opening round against Casey Cork 8-3 and then downed Stephanie Mitchell 8-3 in a match that set her up to face Fisher. Savannah Easton opened the Stage Two part of her title bid with a successful, double-hill match versus J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) veteran Kia Burwell. Easton advanced to face another JPNEWT veteran and the #1-ranked American player in the WPBA rankings, Caroline Pao, where she (Easton), as they say, met her match; Pao winning the contest 8-5. Mast lost her opening Stage Two match to Meng-Hsia (Bean) Hung 8-2, and moved west for an eventual rematch against Easton. 

Fisher, in the second round, downed Eleanor Callado 8-3 and then, in a late match, fell to Tkach 8-6. Tkach advanced to the other winners’ side semifinal against Pao.

“She obviously had worked very hard and perfected that cut break and I just wasn’t getting my break going,” said Fisher. “She obviously played very well to beat me. I knew she was in good shape and thought “Oh, my!”

At the other end of the bracket, Margaret Fefilova, with relative ease, was working her way through the winners’ side for an eventual matchup against Jennifer Baretta in the other winners’ side semifinal. Fefilova got by Lisa Cossette 8-3 before running into what turned out to be her toughest opponent (as gauged by racks-against), Janet Atwell, who chalked up five against her. Fefilova moved on to down Ashley Rice 8-2 and record a shutout over the #3 competitor in the WPBA rankings, Brittany Bryant, which set her up against Baretta.

Fefilova got into the hot seat match with an 8-3 win over Baretta and was joined by Tkach, who’d sent Pao to the loss side 8-4. On Saturday night, Tkach claimed the hot seat 8-2 over Fefilova and would wait until Sunday afternoon to see who came back from the semifinals.

It was Kelly Fisher. But she wouldn’t play that semifinal until Sunday. In the meantime, Pao and Baretta had business to attend to on what was left of Saturday night. Baretta picked up Savannah Easton, whose improbable and impressive run among this roomful of professional female pool players was still happening as the bracket whittled down to its final six. Easton had followed her loss to Pao with a loss-side, double-hill win over Beth Fondell and then, looking to advance into the first money round (17th/24th), she had the opportunity to avenge her Stage One loss to Sofia Mast. She did so, in a match that appropriately came within a game of going double hill. Easton then eliminated Laura Smith and won a double-hill battle against Emily Duddy. She then downed Monica Webb 8-6 and Dawn Hopkins 8-3.

Larry Easton, Savannah’s father, no stranger to his daughter’s talent, turned to Atwell as he was watching this, as amazed as many of the spectators at how far his daughter had come, in a lot of ways.

“I don’t even know what to say,” he told Atwell.

“She’s got great cue ball control, thinks ahead and plays very smart for her age,” Atwell would comment later. “She’s very strategic and plays great safeties. She plays like an adult and (her career) is off to a great start.”

Pao, in the meantime, drew Fisher, who’d started what she called a “grueling Saturday,” playing five matches in a row from noon to 8:30. She played and eliminated Meng-Hsia Hung (at noon), Janet Atwell (2 p.m.), Susan Williams (4:30) and the WPBA’s #2-ranked competitor, Brittany Bryant (6:30), all 8-4. Fisher defeated Pao 8-3 (8:30), as Baretta elicited a variety of mixed emotions from all assembled by ending Savannah Easton’s run 8-1. There was a lot of spectator applause in the moment, some of it for both of them, but a lot of it for the talented junior.

“People were excited to see her play,” said Atwell, “and happy with her finish.”

In a quarterfinal battle appropriate to the circumstances, played the following morning, Fisher and Baretta went double hill before Fisher prevailed. In the semifinals, Fisher went back to the loss-side pattern she’d established and punching her ticket to the finals, defeated Fefilova 8-4. Fisher might have played six matches to be in the finals, but thanks to Tkach, it required eight, including a loss. The rematch came within a game of double hill, but not before Fisher found herself down 2-5 and later, 5-8; Tkach a rack away from the hill.

“I was spurred on by pure determination really and the will to win it,” she said of her comeback. “I told Helena, I looked at her picture and like that, ‘Come on, do this for you’ kind of thing and whether you believe in that kind of thing or not, it’s not about who or what it takes to spur you on, but doing whatever it takes.” 

“Whatever it was,” she added, “things turned around. I dug in my heels, hit a gear and took charge of the match.”

From 2-5 down, Fisher won eight of the last 11 games, including the last five in a row. Quite the gear, all things considered. Whether it was herself, Helena, or just the adrenaline of a final push to the finish line, Fisher brought it all to bear and claimed title to her close friend’s first and likely not the last memorial.

Helena Thornfeldt

The 1st Annual WPBA Cherokee Sledgehammer Open came about through the efforts of any number of people, all of whom host Janet Atwell thanked, from the players and spectators to the members of her staff. She also thanked event sponsors the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Brad Hendricks Law Firm (Little Rock, ARK), Patty and Walter Harper of Knoxville and the streaming services of DigitalPool with Upstate Al, Zach Goldsmith and a number of competitors who joined them in the booth.

Editor’s note: Helena Thornfeldt died on August 20, 2019 at the age of 52. Originally from Borlange, Sweden, she was living in Villa Rica, about 35 miles west of Atlanta, when she died. She had opened a new restaurant, Pizza Mania, 15 days before she passed. The “Sledgehammer” turned professional in 1994, was a three-time European straight pool champion and won the 2002 US Open Championship in New Mexico, downing Allison Fisher in the finals. In the year she was inducted into the WPBA Hall of Fame in 2017, she was ranked 9th among American pool players. We here at AZBilliards join with members of the ever-expanding pool community in mourning her loss and in the years to come, celebrating the life of such a vibrant, widely-admired and respected member of our community at an annual Sledgehammer Open.

Go to thread

Burwell wins first 2022 stop on J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour

Linda Haywood-Shea, Caroline Pao, Briana Miller and Kia Burwell

In a J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) stop in Pennsylvania, affected by a variety of factors, including other events, gas/lodging prices and distance, Kia Burwell chalked up her first 2022 tour win this past weekend (Oct. 8-9), downing both the tour-rankings leader, Briana Miller and the top American competitor on the WPBA rankings list, Caroline Pao in the process. She also won five of her seven total matches on the loss side to be in the event finals. While the $750-added event drew a short field of 12 entrants to Eagle Billiards in Dickson City, PA, it was not without its impactful matches among the tour’s top competitors; six of the tour’s top 10 were on-hand to jockey for tour-ranking position in the 8th of 10 stops on the 2022 tour.

Following a first-round bye, Burwell (#2) lost her opening match to Carol V. Clark (#6 on the tour) 7-5. Clark advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Miller (#1). Pao (#4), in the meantime, followed an opening round bye with a 7-3 win over tour director Linda Shea (#3) to pick up Rachel Walters in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Miller shut Clark out and in the hot seat match, faced Pao, who’d defeated Walters 7-3. Miller claimed the hot seat 7-3 over Pao and waited for Burwell to complete her loss-side run.

Two matches into her loss-side run, with victories over Shelah Joner 7-4 and Melissa Jenkins 7-2, Burwell drew Walters. Clark picked up Shea, who’d defeated Linda Cheung, double hill and Ashley Benoit 7-4 to reach her.

Burwell did her part to bring about a rematch against Clark in the quarterfinals, downing Walters 7-4, but Shea spoiled the ‘party’ by eliminating Clark 7-2. In a quite familiar scene, Shea and Burwell battled in those quarterfinals, Burwell coming out on top 7-3. 

Either way, the semifinals were going to yield a finals opponent for Miller that would not be enviable; Pao or Burwell. As it turned out, Burwell had to win two straight double hill battles to complete her run. 

No problem. She battled Pao to the hill before advancing to the extended-race-to-9 finals. There, she chalked up seven racks first to extend the race to 9 games and then, with Miller nipping at her double-hill heels, she finished up to claim the event title.

Co-Tour Directors Linda Shea and Briana Miller thanked the ownership and staff at Eagle Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues and stream commentator George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor, Baltimore, MD). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of November 5-6, will be hosted by On Cue Sports Bar & Grill in Front Royal, VA.

Go to thread

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.

Go to thread

Pao stops Miller’s four-event winning streak, comes from loss side to win JPNEWT stop in NJ

Briana Miller and Caroline Pao

Next up, WPBA qualifier to inaugural Helena Thornfeldt Memorial – The Sledgehammer Open 

As Briana Miller began the process of assimilating duties she will be performing as full-time tour director of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour in January, she signed on to compete in its latest event, looking to chalk up her fifth straight win since the 2022 season began in March at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. Current tour director Linda Shea won the only 2022 event in which Miller did not compete back in May. This past weekend (July 30-31), Caroline Pao, who’d been runner-up to Miller in the March season opener, battled her twice this time out, hot seat and finals; Miller, winning the first and Pao, claiming the title by winning the second. The event drew 19 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

During her absence from JPNEWT events since March, Pao had not been idle. She cashed in five events elsewhere, one per month, including three WPBA tournaments (Northern Lights Classic, Ashton Twins Classic and WPBA Masters), a stop on the Joss Tour and a 5th place finish at the SBE’s Women’s 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. She was looking for her first 2022 victory and found it in New Jersey. 

Pao opened her bid for that win with a 7-1 victory over Carol V. Clark and a 7-2 victory over Melissa Jenkins to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Kris Consalvo Kemp. Miller, in the meantime, got by Kathy Croom 7-3 and in a present/future TD match downed Linda Shea 7-4, to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal match against the tour’s #3 competitor, Kia Burwell.

Pao got into the hot seat match with a 7-1 victory over Kemp and was joined by Miller, who’d defeated Burwell 7-3. Miller claimed the hot 7-3.

On the loss side, Burwell picked up Kathy Croom, who’d lost her opening match to Miller and went on to defeat Ginny Lewis 7-2, Melissa Jenkins 7-5 and Susan Kimble 7-2. Ada Lio, who’d lost her opener to Shea and following victories over Anna Marks 7-2, Sheila Joner 7-1 and Alyssa Solt 7-3, won her rematch versus Shea 7-3 to draw Kemp.

Lio advanced to the quarterfinals 7-5 over Kemp and was joined by Burwell, who’d eliminated Croom 7-4. By the same score, Burwell defeated Lio in those quarterfinals. Both semifinalists – Burwell and Pao – were looking for a second shot at Miller in the hot seat and predictably, the battle that ensued went double hill. Pao prevailed.

With that pool-player’s friend ‘momentum’ in play, Pao came into the finals looking for her first 2022 title. She edged out in front of Miller in those finals, eventually extended the lead to four racks and claimed her first JPNEWT and 2022 title 9-5.

Shea and Miller thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues and George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor, Baltimore, MD). The next stop on the JPNEWT (#8), scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 13-14 at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD, will be a WPBA qualifier. The winner will receive entry to the WPBA’s $10,000-added Sledgehammer Open, a tribute to the late Helena Thornfeldt. That event, scheduled for Oct. 19-23, will be hosted by Janet Atwell at her Borderline Billiard’s room in Bristol, TN.

Go to thread

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. 

Go to thread

Miller wins her third on JPNEWT at Triple Nines

Kia Burwell and Briana Miller

She won the March season opener at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. She won the second stop on the 2022 J.Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) in Norristown, PA. The third stop in Sterling, VA had to be cancelled. Brianna Miller did not compete in Stop #4 and tour director Linda Shea won it to move ahead of her in the tour’s point standings by a slim 25 points. Miller regained her point standings lead this past weekend (Saturday, June 11) with her third victory on the tour, now having won all three of the tour’s events in which she has competed. Shea slipped down to third in the standings, finishing in 4th place this past weekend with a loss to Kia Burwell, who finished as runner-up to Miller and stepped into 2nd place in the standings. With competing events in the area paying homage to a pair of recently deceased members of the mid-Atlantic pool community, Stop #5 on the JPNEWT drew only 10 entrants to Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

Miller and Burwell met twice in this event; once in a winners’ side semifinal and again, in the finals. Miller, after being awarded an opening round bye, had defeated Kelly Wyatt 7-5 to draw Burwell, who’d gotten by Kathy Friend 7-5. In the meantime, Ellie Kaufman had defeated Kim Martin 7-2 to draw tour director Linda Shea in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Miller sent Burwell to the loss side 7-2, while Kaufman was doing likewise to Shea 7-4. Miller snagged the hot seat with a 7-2 victory over Kaufman.

On the loss side, Burwell picked up Shelah Joner, who’d lost her opening round match to Kelly Wyatt, downed Melissa Mason 7-2 and survived a double hill match against Kim Martin. Shea drew Friend, who’d defeated Judy Wilson 7-3 to reach her.

Burwell and Shea, winner and runner-up on the previous tour stop, advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating Joner and Friend, respectively, both 7-3. Burwell then dropped Shea into 4th place 7-5 and earned her rematch against Miller with a 7-3 victory over Kaufman in the semifinals.

By the look of things at the present time, the final match of the JPNEWT’s Stop #5 could be a harbinger of things to come. Their meetup in the finals moved them into 1st and 2nd place in the tour standings and seems likely to be repeated in the months ahead. Miller claimed the event title this time out, downing Burwell in the finals 7-5.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines 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 (#6), scheduled for the weekend of July 16-17, will be hosted by Champion Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, MD.

Go to thread

Shea goes undefeated to chalk up her first 2022 win on the JPNEWT

Linda Shea, Melissa Jenkins, Kelly Wyatt, Kia Burwell, Anna Marks, Kari Anderson

Tour director Linda Shea and Kia Burwell have been the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour Champion and runner-up for three of the last six years. They have met countless times at various stages of any given stop on the tour over those years and this past weekend (Saturday, May 21), they met once again in the hot seat and finals of 2022’s Stop #4, an event which drew 12 entrants to On Cue Sports Bar and Grill in Port Royal, VA. Shea won both matches to claim the event title.

“She’s been nipping at my heels over the past few years,” said Shea. “Sometimes, it may seem like it takes forever to get into the next level, but she has, and her game continues to increase along with her devotion to the sport.”

“I look forward to battling with her in the coming events,” she added.

The nature of the bracket (upper and lower matches) set them on a course to the hot seat match, right from the get-go. Shea opened her campaign with a shutout over Taylor Perkins, before moving into a winners’ side quarterfinal versus Alyssa Solt. Solt battled Shea to double hill before Shea prevailed, moving into a winners’ side semifinal against Kari Anderson, who’d also faced a double hill challenge in her winners’ side quarterfinal against Melissa Mason. Burwell, in the meantime, got by Kelly Wyatt 7-4 and Ashley Kaas 7-2 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Melissa Jenkins.

Burwell sent Jenkins to the loss side 7-2 and was joined in the hot seat match by Shea, who’d defeated Anderson 7-3. In their first of two, Shea claimed the hot seat 7-3.

On the loss side, Jenkins and Anderson ran into competitors who’d both won all (2) of the matches they’d played on that side of the bracket. Kelly Wyatt had eliminated Melissa Mason 7-4 and Alyssa Solt 7-5 to draw Jenkins, while Marks was working on the elimination of Ashley Kaas 7-4 and Carol V. Clark 7-2 to pick up Anderson.

Anderson and Marks fought to double hill before Anderson prevailed, advancing to the quarterfinals. Wyatt joined her after winning a match that came within a game of double hill at 7-5. Wyatt downed Anderson in those quarterfinals 7-4, before having her brief loss-side journey ended by Burwell, who gave up only a single rack in the semifinals that followed.

It was the sixth time that Shea and Burwell had met in the finals of a JPNEWT stop since June of last year. Burwell had won four of the five. Shea’s win in their fourth 2021 final occurred in the same location (On Cue Sports Bar & Grill in Port Royal, VA) where she won their sixth final this past weekend. Shea completed her undefeated run with a 7-2 victory over Burwell.

“I can’t say enough about this room,” said Shea of On Cue. “Great room, great equipment and their staff is the best.”

In the absence of Brianna Miller, who won the first two events of this year’s tour, Shea moved into the top slot in the tour standings. Burwell’s runner-up finish put her in third place, just behind Miller, at the ‘quarter-pole’ of the 11-stop 2022 tour.  

Go to thread

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. 

Go to thread

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. 

Go to thread