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From the loss side, Rodriguez chalks up first Sunshine State Pro Am Tour victory in three years

Mike DeLawder, Trenton White and Ricardo Joel Rodriguez

Barnes goes undefeated to claim concurrently-run Ladies event

One did it the hard way, while the other opted for the shorter, arguably more difficult easy way. Ricardo Rodriguez, looking for his first win on the Sunshine State ProAm Tour in three years, lost his third winners’ side match at this past weekend’s (Oct. 8-9) tour stop He then won seven straight on the loss side before downing Trenton White in the finals to claim the event title. Jessica Barnes took the shorter route in the concurrently-run Ladies event, winning five in a row and downing Nicole Cuellar twice to claim the ladies’ title.

The $1,500 added main event drew 60 entrants to Brewlands Bar & Billiards North in Lakeland, FL. The $500-added Ladies event drew 16 entrants to the same location.

Rodriguez’ path took him past Marcos Bielostozky and George Saunders, both 7-5, before he ran into a double hill match versus Desi Derado that he lost. Mike DeLawder and Trenton White, in the meantime, worked their way forward toward their hot seat match; White advancing through Mike Xiarhos, Jr., Leon Micco, Dale Stanley and Konnor McFayden to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Robert Noon, while DeLawder sent Anthony Cruz, co-tour-director Bobby Garza, and both Manuel Montas and John Souders (both double hill) to the loss side to draw Ameet Kukadia in the other winners’ side semifinal.

DeLawder came within a game of being forced into his third straight double hill fight, but just did edge out in front near the end to defeat Kukadia 7-5. White joined him in the hot seat match after surviving his double hill struggle against Noon. White shut Delawder out to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, it was Kukadia who drew the finals-bound Rodriguez, who’d just eliminated junior competitors Kaylee McIntosh 7-2 and Konnor McFayden 7-4. Noon picked up David Singleton, who’d defeated John Souders 7-3 and survived a double hill match versus Garza to reach him.

Rodriguez defeated Kukadia 7-5 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Noon, who’d put Singleton on the wrong side of his second straight double-hill match. Rodriguez took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Noon and then, by the same score, denied DeLawder his second chance against White.

Rodriguez waste little time. He took the finals against White 9-5 to claim the event title

Nicole Cuellar, Sofia Mast and Jessica Barnes

Barnes gets into a 7-3 groove to the hot seat match

Jessica Barnes seemed to decide that since she had gotten herself into a groove of some kind that she should probably stick with it. She defeated her first three opponents on her way to the Ladies win by the same 7-3 score, defeating co-tour-director Janene Phillips, Erica Pennington and, in a winners’ side semifinal, the Pink Dagger (aka junior competitor Sofia Mast). Nicole Cuellar, in the meantime, got by Sandra Micco, Cami Becker and in her winners’ side semifinal, Margie Soash 7-1.

Cuellar knocked Barnes out of her 7-3 groove in the hot seat match, but it wasn’t enough. Barnes survived Cuellar’s double hill challenge to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Soash picked up and was defeated by Helen Caukin 5-1, as The Pink Dagger drew and eliminated Kaylee McIntosh by the same score. Mast defeated Caukin 5-2 in the quarterfinals, only to have her brief, loss-side run upset by Cuellar’s desire for a rematch against Barnes. Cuellar won that battle 5-1. Barnes downed Cuellar a second time, 9-5, to claim the Ladies title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Larry Wathall and his staff at Brewlands “for taking great care (them) all weekend,” as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Kamui Brand, Diamond Billiard Products, Jamison Daniels, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Dr. V’s Custom Shop and Central Florida Pool League. ‘Shout outs’ were extended to Bobby Garza and Lights Out Streaming for providing great stream and commentary, along with Jimmy Antonietta, Rob McLaren, Mike D and George Saunders for their commentating and  Adam Hanas for helping run the boards. 

In light of the fact that the tour had a junior competitor among the final three in both of this past weekend’s events (Trenton White and Sofia Mast) and because, like so many others,  who enjoy watching these young competitors succeed in their early pool careers, Phillips and Garza thanked Asia Cy for donating an entry fee to a junior lady, Leah Holler and wished to make mention of two local individuals who are “doing great things for the junior competitors’ –  Danielle Fee with Shooting for the Stars and Eddie Altman with Junior Billiards Scholarship Fund. If you’d like to help support a junior program, reach out to either of these organizations.

The next and final stop of the year for the Sunshine State ProAm Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 26-27 and hosted by Racks Billiards in Sanford, FL will feature two events; a $1,000-added Open One Pocket event and a $2,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Championship. 

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Linares and Mills go head-to-head in season opener of Sunshine State Predator Pro-Am Tour

Raymond Linares, Donny Mills and Rich Schau

Raymond Linares recorded his best earnings year at the tables in 2021. His second-best occurred 10 years ago, one year before he won the American College Unions International Collegiate Men’s Championship in 2013. He’s started 2022 by chalking up his first tour victory this past weekend (Feb. 5-6) on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour’s season opener. Opposing him in both the hot seat and finals was Donnie Mills, who also had a good 2021 at the tables, although not even close to his best earnings year, which happened in the same year (2009) that Linares first started showing up on payout lists of Florida tournaments like the Seminole Tour. They’re familiar combatants on the Florida felt (to others and each other) and graced spectators at their most recent battles for a regional tour title with a good show. The $2,300-added event drew 63 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL.

Linares opened his bid for the title by giving up only seven racks to his first four opponents;  Ronnie Mercer (1), Manuel Montas (0), Rich Schau (4) and Michael McGuire (2). He advanced to a winners’ side semifinal versus Konner McFayden. Mills, in the meantime, gave up just a single rack to three of his first four opponents; one each to James Green, Nathan Rose and Marcus Murillo. In the second round, though, Mike Delawder had given him the proverbial ‘run for his money,’ chalking up six racks against him and forcing a deciding game that did eventually advance Mills to a winners’ side semifinal against Jerry Arvelaez. 

Linares advanced to the hot seat match 7-3 over McFayden and was joined by Mills, who sent Arvelaez to the loss side 7-4. Mills claimed the hot seat with a surprising (to a few) 7-3 win over Linares and waited for him to come back from the semifinals.

On the loss side, McFayden picked up Rich Schau, who’d followed his third-round loss to Linares with three loss-side wins that had recently eliminated Marcus Murillo 7-2 and Robert Batson 7-1. Arvelaez drew a rematch versus Trenton White, whom he’d sent to the loss side in the third round 7-4 and who’d just chalked up loss-side wins #3 and #4 against Bobby Garza and Han Berber, both 7-3, to earn the rematch.

Schau downed McFayen 7-1, as White was wreaking his vengeance on Arvelaez with his sixth in a row, 7-2. Schau stopped White’s loss-side streak at that sixth win, defeating him 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Schau and Linares battled to double hill in the semifinals before Linares prevailed for a second shot at Mills.

In the finals that followed, Linares jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, which, after watching Mills chalk up the rack that made it 5-2, prompted stream commentator and event competitor, Bobby Garza to note that Mills seems to have a preference to starting out slow.

“I think (Mills) likes to start out from behind,” Garza said. “He finds his stroke midway, catches up and then destroys his opponent.”

Just after the midway mark of the two-hour match, Mills chalked up his first two-in-a-row and seemed to be making Garza’s point, as he pulled within two at 6-4. Mills made it three-in-a-row to draw within one at 6-5, they traded racks to 7-6 and then began a wild rack #14 that featured Mills’ attempt at a 5-9 combination, resting near a corner pocket. The 9-ball didn’t drop, but the 5-ball went three rails and did. Shortly afterwards, Mills shot at the 7-ball and watched it rattle in the hole. He then watched Linares step to the table and take aim at the same 7-ball and a clear opportunity to finish the rack and reach the hill first. The 7-ball didn’t drop, but the cue ball took a ‘cross country’ trip to the opposite end of the table and did. Mills didn’t miss the three balls left and it was tied at 7-7.

Mills took his first lead in the match, winning rack #15, but Linares roared back to chalk up rack #16 with a 5-9 combination. Linares had the break and took full advantage of the opportunity. He dropped three balls on the break and ran the table to claim his first 2022 title on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour.

In the event that featured three junior competitors, seven ladies, and six USAPL players that attended at a reduced entry fee, the top junior finisher, Trenton White and the top lady finisher, Jeannie Seaver, took home $50 each. 

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Westbrook-Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, and Eastern Billiards. Janene thanked Bobby for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing USA and Andrew Cleary for his graphics. The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 5-6, will be the $1,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Classic, hosted by Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café in Winter Park, FL.

Davis, Jr. comes from loss side & behind in finals to win Sunshine State Pro Am One Pocket

Montas wins concurrently-run, 600-and-under Fargo Rate 9-ball event 

(l to r): Mike Davis, Mike Delawder, Anthony Meglino & Pedro Botta

Fresh off his fourth victory at the 7th Annual NC State Open 9-Ball Championships (March 1-2) in Hickory, NC, Mike Davis, Jr. traveled about 555 miles southwest, to sign on to the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s second 2020 stop; the $500-added One Pocket part of it, that drew 16 entrants to Racks Billiards in Sanford, FL. Sent to the loss side in a winners’ side semifinal, Davis returned to meet the man who’d sent him over (Mike Delawder) and defeat him in an exciting, double hill final match.

In a concurrently-run, $1,000-added ($500 from Racks Billiards & $500 from Predator Cues) event for Fargo Rates of 600 and below that drew 56 entrants, Manuel Montas went undefeated to claim that title.

It was a four-match march to the One Pocket hot seat for Delawder and a seven-match march to the title for Davis. Delawder got by Justin Gilsinan and Pedro Botta, before sending Davis to the loss side 3-1 in a winners’ side semifinal. Anthony Meglino, in the meantime, downed George Saunders and Adam Wheeler to face Kyle Bova in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Delawder beat Davis 3-1 and in the hot seat match, faced Meglino, who’d shut Bova out. Delawder claimed the hot seat by shutout and waited for Davis to finish his three-match, loss-side trip.

Davis began his trip back to the finals with a shutout over James Sandaler, who’d eliminated Bobby Garza and Adam Wheeler to reach him. Bova was defeated double hill by Pedro Botta, who’d previously eliminated George Saunders and Nathan Rose.

Davis dropped Botta into 4th place with a 3-1 quarterfinal victory and got his second shot at Delawder, following a shutout over Meglino in the semifinals.

The race was extended to 4 in the finals and early on, things weren’t looking to good for Davis, Jr. Delawder reached the hill at 3-0 before Davis was able to respond, but when he did, he came back strong, winning four in a row to claim game, set and match.

Montas and Kukadia split top prizes, with undefeated Montas claiming 9-ball title 

Ameet Kukadia, Manuel Montas and Cody Ingle

With a Fargo Rate differential of two points, Manuel Montas (596) and Ameet Kukadia (598) played against each other once in a straight-up race to 7 in the 9-ball tournament. Montas won that single matchup and as the undefeated occupant of the hot seat claimed the event title, when he and Kukudia agreed to a split of the top two prizes.

Montas’ path to the hot seat went through Muhammand Ali, Jeffrey McDonald, Francisco Gika and Brent Mireles to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal versus Guy Skehan Jackson; a 596 (Montas)/531 (Jackson) matchup. Three of the four matches that Kukudia (598) played to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Cody Ingle (546) went double hill and the fourth one was an ‘almost.’ He won his second round match against Lenny Reid 7-5, but he had to play a 13th deciding match against Evan Huynh, Katie Bowse and Kristian Dimitrov to reach Ingle.

Montas and Jackson battled to double hill before Montas advanced to the hot seat match. Kukadia gave up only a single rack to Ingle and joined Montas in what would prove to be the title match, battling for the hot seat. Montas won it 7-3.

On the loss side, Jackson picked up Stan Delonjay, who was working on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had included recent wins over Kristian Dimitrov 5-1 and Vernet Lasrado 5-3. Ingle drew Evan Huynh, who, after his double hill defeat at the hands of Kukadia, was working on a six-match, loss-side streak that was also about to end and had recently included victories over Larry English 5-2 and Brent Mireles 5-1.

Jackson and Ingle ended the loss-side streaks of their respective opponents by the same 5-2 score; Jackson over Delonjay and Ingle over Huynh. Jackson and Ingle then battled to double hill in the quarterfinals. Ingle prevailed and had his modest, loss-side streak ended by Kukadia 5-2 in the semifinals.

The decision to split the cash involved with the top two prizes was negotiated and reached. As the undefeated occupant of the hot seat, Montas became the official winner.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the ownership and staff at Racks Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Products, Kamui, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch it To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, and the live streaming of the events by Xtreme Pool. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for April 25-26, will be hosted by Brewlands in Tampa, FL.