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The Grinder goes undefeated to take Stop #3 of On The Ball Ladies Tour in Texas

April Larson

April Larson, aka The Grinder, has come a long way from winning her first pro event, back in August of 2016. She’d represented the USA that year in the Atlantic Cup Challenge, a Mosconi Cup-type event for junior competitors, and won her fifth BEF Junior Nationals title earlier that summer. The victory on the North American Pool Tour’s Summer 10-Ball Classic rendered her literally speechless, when she was handed the winning check. She’d actually been fascinated by the trophy and when she’d collected that, had completely forgotten about the money that went along with it, presented to her sometime later by NAPT’s Adrianne Beach.

Now, she’s the house pro at Stixx and Stones Billiards in Lewisville, TX and is in the midst of trying to duplicate her best earnings year (2018) since that first win, six years ago. She’s just a little more than half-way to her 2018 earnings at the table, having won three events so far this year, and it’s only May. In February, she was runner-up to Mary Rakin in the 7th Annual Texas Open’s Ladies 10-Ball event, before winning both the Ladies Division of the Scotty Townsend Memorial and the 2022 Midwest Ladies Open in March. In April, she chalked up a 9-ball challenge victory over Melissa Helland.

This past weekend (May 14-15), Larson signed on to the On the Ball Ladies Tour for its third stop of the year and went undefeated through a field of 29 entrants to claim the title. The $2,000-added event was hosted by Skinny Bob’s in Round Rock, TX.

Larson’s trip to the winners’ circle was almost derailed, or to be more accurate, sidetracked early. She defeated Edwidge Cavanna 7-2 in the opening round before having to battle through two straight double hill matches, against Nicole McDaniel and Michelle Yim, which set her up for a winners’ side semifinal against Kim Sanders. Chris Fields, in the meantime, who’d face Larson twice before all was said and done, opened with a 7-2 win, as well, against Ruth Paine and advanced to down Ximena Duarte 7-4 and Ming Ng, double hill, to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Jennifer Kraber.

Larson, apparently having had quite enough of double hill matches for the day, shut Sanders out and advanced to the hot seat match. She was joined by Fields, who sent Kraber to the loss side 7-2. Larson gave up only a single rack to Fields and claimed the hot seat.

On the loss side, Kraber picked up Jenna Bishoff, who’d lost her opening round match to McDaniel and went on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Mille Almarez 7-5 and Michelle Yim 7-3. Sanders drew a rematch against Cristina Schneider, whom she’d sent to the loss side in the second round and was in the midst of a four-match, loss-side run that included most recent wins over Ming Ng 7-3 and Angie Payne 7-2.

Bishoff and Schneider had their loss-side winning streaks ended by Kraber and Sanders, in completely different ways. In advancing to the quarterfinals, Sanders gave up only a single rack to Schneider. Bishoff fought Kraber to a 13th deciding game before Kraber prevailed to join Sanders in those quarterfinals.

Sanders then defeated Kraber 7-4, only to be downed by Fields in the semifinals 7-2. Though Fields would do considerably better against Larson in the finals than she had in the hot seat match, Larson edged out in front near the end of the final match, claiming the event title 7-5.

As may be noted in the accompanying photo, Larson remembered her check this time.

The next stop (#4) on the On the Ball Ladies Tour is scheduled for the weekend of July 24-25 and will be hosted by Betsy’s Billiards in Austin, TX. 

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Gerson Martinez & Mary Rakin Tam Crowned Texas Open 10 Ball Champs

Gerson Martinez (Pool Action TV)

Skinny Bob’s Billiards & Sports Bar in Round Rock, TX was the venue for the 7th Annual Texas Open 10 Ball Championships. 

Produced by Cue & A Promotions, this event featured three divisions – the $2,000 added Scotch Doubles, the $2,000 added Ladies 10 Ball and the 10,000 added 10 Ball Open. A total of $15,750 was added to the prize fund.

Local sponsors included Mints Amusements, Hanshew Jump Cues, Austin Pro Siding, Windows & Roofing, GAF, DigitalPool.com and ABC Supply Co., Inc.

The tournament began on Wednesday night with a $500 added 10 Ball mini tournament. This $25 entry single elimination race to three event had a full field of 64 players. Hailing from Sarajevo, Bosnia, Sanjin Pehlivanovic took the cheese. Defending US Open Pool champ Carlo Biado took second while Lima, Peru’s Gerson Martinez and Roland Garcia each tied for third place.

Following a players meeting and auction, play commenced on Thursday afternoon in the Jack & Jill Scotch Doubles 10 Ball Championship. Twenty three teams posted $125 entry fees to play in this double elimination, race to seven event. 

Continuing his hot streak, Carlo Biado and his partner, Mary Rakin Tam took first place over Alex Pagulayan and April Larson.

Thursday evening also featured the $500 added Banks Ring Game. At the end, Denmark’s Mickey Krause, John Morra and Manny Chau did a three-way chop of the cash.

Carlo Biado and Mary Rakin Tam (Pool Action TV)

Friday began with both a $500 added Open Ring Game and a $250 added Ladies Ring Game. John Morra won the Open Ring Game and the Ladies was won by Jenna Bishoff.

Later that evening, a players meeting and auction kicked off the main event. 125 players paid their $150 entry fees into this double elimination, race to seven with alternate break format. Play began the following day.

Meeting in the first round, Roland Garcia edged out Josh Roberts 7-6 and Alex Pagulayan defeated Evan Lunda 7-3.

Second round action saw Lee Vann Corteza spank John Gabriel 7-2 as Gerson Martinez squeaked by Sergio Rivas 7-6. Robbie Capito eked out a 7-6 win over recent Music City Open champ Shane Wolford, Singapore’s Sarik Sayed trounced local favorite Justin Espinosa 7-2 while Pagulayan toughed out his match with Pehlivanovic 7-5. 

In the third round, straight shooting veteran Tommy Sanders shot down Blaine Barcus 7-3 as did Biado over Krause with an identical score. Gerson Martinez sent Lee Vann west 7-4 while Sean Black upset the legendary David Matlock 7-5.  John Morra blistered Shane McMinn 7-2 while Manny Chau sent Michael Yednak packing 7-3. Fellow Houstonians Roberto Gomez and Tommy Tokoph duked it out with Tommy emerging the victor 7-3 and Sayed lost to Pagulayan 7-4.

Matches in the fourth round saw Sanders bow to Krause 7-4 and Chris Reinhold lose to Gerson Martinez by the same score. Morra toasted Sean Black as did Chip Compton versus Nicholas De Leon – both matches were 7-3. Sending another Houstonian to the one loss side, Tokoph bested Chau 7-5 – Capito went down to Pagulayan 7-4.

Round five had Gerson Martinez mowing down Krause 7-4 and Tokoph easing past Christopher Teves 7-3. With identical 7-1 scores, Pagulayan bested Souto as did Tokoph over Christopher Tevez.

Now down to four players on the winners side, Gerson Martinez defeated Morra 7-5 while Pagulayan beat Tokoph 7-3. Both Alex and Gerson moved into the hot seat match as their opponents headed west.

Saturday evening saw the players meeting and auction for the Ladies 10 Ball event. A full field of 32 players posted a $100 entry – same format as the Open 10 Ball.

Notable first round matches included perennial favorite Ming Ng’s victory over Kelly Durbin 7-5 with both Kim Sanders edging out Mary Avina and Margaret Fox over Tam Trinh 7-6. 

Second round action saw Jenna Bishoff eke out a win over Jennifer Kraber 7-6 as Mary Rakin Tam defeated Ng by the same score. Sanders defeated Emily Sumrall 7-3 and Melissa Rushton took care of Fox 7-4.

After skunking her two previous opponents, April Larson had a bit of a tougher time with Kim Pierce – April won 7-3. Tam sent Bishoff packing 7-5, Chris Fields pummeled Rachel Hurst 7-1 and Rushton notched another win over Sanders 7-5.

Down to four on the winners side, Tam sneaked past Larson 7-5 and Fields beat Rushton 7-4. Both Tam and Fields advanced to the hot seat match. Mary handily beat Chris 7-2 and claimed her seat in the finals. Chris headed west to await an opponent.

On the one loss side, Bishoff defeated Rushton 7-4 while Larson eliminated Trinh 7-5. Larson won her match with Bishoff 7-4 leaving Jenna in fourth place. April then defeated Chris 7-2 to move into the finals. Chris finished with a third place finish.

Since this was true double elimination, April would have to defeat Mary twice to claim the title. However, it was not to be as April was relegated to a well-deserved second place finish and Mary went undefeated to claim her first Texas Open 10 Ball title!!! 

Meanwhile, the Open 10 Ball was winding down to its last few players! In the hot seat match, Gerson Martinez mowed down his last opponent to lock up his berth in the finals. Pagulayan lost 7-4 and headed to the other side of the chart to await an opponent.

Lee Vann Corteza ended Tommy Tokoph’s hopes for the title 7-3 as John Morra did the same to Jonas Souto 7-3. Lee Vann and John locked horns and battled it out to a 7-6 result. Leaving Lee Vann in fourth place, Morra’s next opponent was fellow Canadian, Alex Pagulayan. Also a tough one, John emerged to take on Gerson for the title. Alex finished in third place.

Again, as this was true double elimination, Morra would have to defeat Martinez twice to win the title. The match started out close until John pulled away to close out the first set 7-4. The final set was also close but this time, Gerson pulled away to put him one game away from the title – 6-4. John clawed back to win another game but that was it. Gerson won the final game & the title leaving John with a well deserved runner-up finish!  

Congratulations to both Gerson Martinez and Mary Rakin Tam – this year’s Texas Open 10 Ball champions!!!

PoolActionTV.com would like to thank owners Kim and Tracy Sanders as well as their General Manager, Shayla Neris, and their staff for rolling out the red carpet for all of the players and fans.

Thank you to Tournament Director Jason Hill for doing an exemplary job juggling all the various events.  

We’d like to thank Blake Kamiab, Clint Palaci and David (“Doc”) Reyes for running the DFW Tour setup broadcasting the ladies event on our free channel. 

We’d also like to thank Larry Schwartz, Michael Yednak, Alex Pagulayan, Mary Kenniston and Ray Hansen for their expert commentary.

And, last but not least, we’d like to thank our sponsors and fans. Our sponsors include JB Cases, Hanshew Jump Cues, StraightPoolEye, Lomax Custom Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Aramith, Simonis, Durbin Custom Cues, the Action Palace of Dayton, OH and the Fort Worth Billiards Superstore of Fort Worth, TX. 

Our next event is the 5th Annual Scotty Townsend Memorial in West Monroe, LA featuring three divisions – Pro One Pocket, Open 9 Ball and Women’s 9 Ball. The dates are March 1st-6th. Hope to see you there!!!

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Fisher goes undefeated to claim Diamond Open Ladies title

Allison Fisher

It seemed to be pretty clear right from the start, or at least as clear as it can ever be in the often-unpredictable world of professional pool, that Allison Fisher was going to claim the Hanshew’s Ladies 9-Ball title at the inaugural Diamond Open. She arrived at one of the winners’ side quarterfinals, having not given up a single rack to any of her first three opponents. Her fourth was Jeanette Lee, who was making her first professional appearance since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer seven months ago. Fisher went on to complete a seven-match, undefeated run to claim the title, downing Russia’s Kristina Tkach in the finals. The $3,000-added Hanshew Ladies event drew 38 entrants to The Rack & Grill III in Aiken, SC.

Once Fisher got by Katherine Cool, Ashley Rice and Sonya Chbeeb, she turned her attention to the winners’ side quarterfinal that was easily the most anticipated match of the entire six-day Diamond Open that featured the return of Jeanette Lee to the tables. In a match, detailed in an earlier post, Fisher downed Lee 7-2 and advanced to a winner’ side semifinal against Mary Tam. 

Monica Webb, in the meantime, looking for her first major win (of which we are aware) since she won the Women’s Austrian Open, seven years ago, got by Kelly Cavanaugh, Jennifer Berzinski and Janet Atwell to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal versus Caroline Pao. The eventual runner-up, Kristina Tkach, had won her opening match versus Pia Filler and then fell, double hill, to April Larson in the second round. Pao sent Larson west just prior to meeting up with Webb.

Fisher got into the hot seat 7-2 over Tam and was joined by Webb, who’d sent Pao over 7-5. Fisher claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Webb and waited for Tkach to finish her loss-side run.

That run, by the time it met up with Pao, had eliminated Lily Pham, Tam Trinh, Bethany Sykes and in her final match of the event, Jeanette Lee 7-2. Tam picked up April Larson, who followed her winners’ side loss to Pao with loss-side victories over Chris Fields 7-4 and Janet Atwell 7-5.

Tam ended Larson’s tournament run 7-1, and in the quarterfinals, met up with Tkach, who’d downed Pao 7-3. Tkach took the quarterfinals 7-1 Tam and then spoiled Webb’s potential second shot at Fisher by defeating 7-4 in the semifinals.

Tkach, who admitted to being tired when she played with Fedor Gorst as a partner in the Scotch Double final against Van Boening and Fisher the night before, had to have been even more tired at this point on late Sunday night in the Ladies event. And it wasn’t, she had said earlier in the day, just about participating for the last five days, but as she put it, with a bit of laugh, “the whole year.” Regardless of the outcome of the Ladies final on this night, in this place, it would be her 15th cash finish in 10 months, beginning with her win at the Michael Montgomery Memorial in Texas that she won in January, through five wins, two runner-up finishes (one with partner Gorst in the Scotch Doubles the night before) and an appearance, most recently at the US Open 9-Ball Championships.

That and the loss-side run that had brought her to the finals did not, however, put much of a crimp in the style of her competitive spirit. The problem was that she was running into something of a legend, known, almost in spite of her generally easy-going demeanor, as the Duchess of Doom. Tkach fought said Duchess to a 13th and deciding game, but ‘doom’ descended in the final rack and Fisher claimed the title. 

Fefilova Wins Women’s VG 9-Ball Day Four And Final Bracket Bye

Round robin play is complete at the Women’s Poison VG 9-Ball Championship, and the players in the final single elimination bracket are now known.

Belarus’ Margaret Fefilova was the winner of the final day of round robin play, with an overall 2-1 record. Fefilova’s one loss was to Japanese champion Chihiro Kawahara, but Kawahara finished with the same 2-1 record after losing to German Pia Filler. Fefilova’s record of fifteen racks ran was enough to earn her the top position in the group.

Filler entered the final match of the day against USA’s Mary Rakin and found herself with her back up against the wall late in the match. Needing to run three of her last five racks against the ghost, Filler was able to navigate two of four to leave a final rack to determine if she would earn one of the two wildcard spots in the final bracket. The pool gods turned their back on Filler in that final rack though, as she had back to back fouls on the break for not getting three balls past the headstring, Those fouls left Filler and Rakin tied and since the final outcome of their match would not play into the roster for the final bracket, both ladies agreed to call it a day.

The final bracket will see Bulgaria’s Kristina Zlateva face wildcard Kelly Fisher and Germany’s Ina Kaplan taking on Turkey’s Eylul Kibaroglu. The winners of those two matches will face Japan’s Yuki Hariguchi and Fefilova respectively.

The single elimination matches will see each lady playing the ghost in a match against an opponent doing the same thing. Those matches will be races to four, best two out of three sets.

Each competitor is guaranteed $300 in prize money for making the final bracket, with first place earning $2000 in prize money.

Play will begin at 10:00 AM EST on Tuesday.  Watch the online coverage at https://www.facebook.com/CueItUpPodcast for all of the details and the streaming coverage of the matches.

Ina Kaplan Over Fisher On Women’s VG 9-Ball Day Three

Day three of round robin play is complete at the Women’s Poison VG 9-Ball Championship, and day three saw another surprise as World Champion Kelly Fisher dropped her match against Germany’s Ina Kaplan 5-3. Kaplan played her best 9-ball when facing Fisher, running 52 balls in eight rounds of play, while Fisher only managed 40 balls total.

Kaplan is now guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s single elimination bracket, joining day one winner Kristina Zlateva and day two winner Yuki Hiraguchi. The top two runner-up finishers from the round robin stages will also make the single elimination bracket and Fisher’s record of fourteen racks ran on day three keeps her in contention for one of those wildcard spots.

Day two’s runner-up Wei Tzu Chien only ran twelve racks in round robin play and she is now eliminated from wildcard contention. Turkey’s Eylul Kibaroglu ran fifteen racks as the runner-up on day one and is now locked into one of the wildcard spots. Fisher will now have to sweat the final day of round robin play, hoping that the day’s runner-up doesn’t run more than fourteen racks.

Day four of this event will feature another all-star field of players with Margaret Fefilova from Belarus, America’s Mary Rakin, Japanese Champion Chihiro Kawahara and Germany’s Pia Filler.

All of the ladies will be competing in 8 racks of 9-ball against the ghost, hoping to run more balls than their opponent. The top finisher in the four player group will earn her place in the final bracket, with two wildcards who don’t win their groups also making the final bracket.

Play begins at 9:00 AM Eastern Time and can be followed online at https://www.facebook.com/CueItUpPodcast

Fisher, going undefeated, wins third straight WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge

Kelly Fisher

The Dragon Boat Festival may have been in progress in Taiwan during the event, but the ‘beast’ on display at the WPBA’s third Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge (June 21-June 26) was the UK’s Kelly Fisher. As they’d done in the second Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge (June 1-6), Fisher and Taiwan’s Wei Tzu-Chien met in the finals of this one and for the third straight time, Fisher emerged as the event champion. Fisher had to win five on the loss side to face her in the finals of the previous event, but this time, she and Tzu-Chien battled twice; once, vying for the hot seat and then, in the finals. Fisher won both times, chalking up the second- and third-highest scores of the event (126, 125) while Tzu-Chien chalked up the event’s highest score (130) in the semifinals.

As the two played in the hot seat match on Thursday (June 25), Tzu-Chien was reportedly dealing with a highly distracting scenario in Taiwan, which was celebrating its annual Dragon Boat Festival, featuring all sorts of costumed mythical beasts and spectators having a grand time in the local bars. While the camera focused on the table showed no evidence of the gathered crowd, Tzu-Chien was competing in the midst of a lot of distractions. Fisher, not to be outdone in the distraction department, was playing in an un-air-conditioned room, where the temperature was hovering just above the 80s; a circumstance that played itself out on her brow occasionally.

As with previous events, each rack bore the potential for a player to earn either 10 points (for a runout with ball-in-hand after the break) or 15 points (for a runout played without ball-in-hand after the break). A miss in a rack would score the number of balls pocketed prior to the miss. All matches, until the finals, featured 10 racks. Until the semifinals, Fisher was the only player among the event’s 16, to score over 100 points for a single rack. There were 24 total matches played and only six scores over 100; four of them by Fisher and two by Tzu-Chien. Prior to the finals, Fisher averaged 109.75 points per 10 racks. Tzu-Chien, who was awarded a bye in the opening round, reached the semifinals with an average of 88.6 points per rack, but upped that percentage to 99, when she scored 130 points in those semifinals.

Fisher’s path to the hot seat went through LaLe 111-19, Dawn Hopkins 90-81 and in a winners’ side semifinal, Monica Webb 113-98. After her opening round bye, Tzu-Chien defeated Mary Rakin Tam 97-93 and then, in their first of two, she downed Jennifer Barretta 88-76, in the other winners’ side semifinal. Fisher claimed the hot seat with what was, at the time, the event’s highest score 125-81. She ran all 10 racks; five of them with ball-in-hand after the break and five, including the last two, without.

On the loss side, Baretta picked up Hopkins, who, after her defeat at the hands of Fisher in the second round, had defeated Kia Burwell 53-47 and Kris Bacon 75-26. Monica Webb drew event director Angela Janic, who’d been sent to the loss side by Baretta in the second round, and had gone on to eliminate Cheryl Baglin 53-26 and Mary Rakin Tam 67-64.

Baretta, who still sits atop the WPBA’s year-to-date seeding and ranking list (where Wei-Tzu Chien is #3 and Kelly Fisher is #5), defeated Hopkins 87-57, as Webb was busy eliminating Janic 89-48. Baretta and Webb locked up in a nail-biting quarterfinal that eventually sent Baretta (96-93) to the semifinals against Tzu-Chien.

Tzu-Chien found some kind of second, or possibly third gear in those semifinals. She went on to score what would prove to be the event’s highest single score, downing Baretta 130-27 for a second and (including the previous event) third shot against Fisher.

To no avail as it turned out. Together, they chalked up the event’s second and fourth highest score; Fisher checking in with her fourth 100-plus score and the event’s second highest, downing Tzu-Chien 126-103. Fisher ran 10 racks of the 13 in the final, seven of them with ball-in-hand after the break and three, without. Unlike their previous match in the finals of the second event, Wei Tzu-Chien actually finished ahead of Fisher (generally known as “Kwikfire”) in the finals of this one.

“You were faster than me,” Fisher said, chatting after the match. “How come?”

“Because you’re slow,” said Tzu-Chien.

“Slowfire,” commented Fisher.

“You did it again,” said event director, Angela Janic, congratulating Fisher after the finals. “There’s no question that you dominate this format. This thing is made for you.”

“That’s because I’m not any good at safety play, or getting out, or kicking,” said Fisher with a laugh.

The WPBA’s 4th Virtual 9-ball Ghost Challenge will take place July 19-23 and be followed on the weekend of July 31-August 2 with a Tournament of Champions, featuring the top eight players from the four events.

The WPBA thanked all of its fans for watching and supporting this event over the past week, its tournament director, Angela Janic, its behind-the-scenes technical guru Jennifer Hamilton (who celebrated her birthday on the day of this event’s final), its players, scorekeepers and guest commentators.

Fisher downs Baretta twice to win first WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge

There was reportedly very little trouble finding members of the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) who were anxious to play some competitive pool with each other, albeit from the comfort of their own home and/or pool room. Based on an idea brought up by Dawn Hopkins, Angela Janic, a relatively new member of the WPBA, volunteered to organize and coordinate the organization’s first (and definitely not the last) Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge during the week of May 10-16. While so-called ‘ghost’ matches and isolated streaming events have been cropping up on the Internet since the restrictions brought on by the pandemic began, this was something relatively new; a 16-entrant, double elimination tournament with prize money that pitted players from around the globe against each other, playing against the ‘ghost,’ a ‘player’ normally only encountered in practice, when a player is alone.

From her home pool room in Dumfries, Scotland, Kelly Fisher went undefeated through the field and downed Jennifer Baretta, playing from her pool room in Brooklyn, NY (Skyline Billiards), twice; once, battling for the hot seat and again, in the finals. Talking to both players, it was apparent that winning or losing wasn’t among the things that resonated in their minds about playing in the tournament.

“It was really good fun,” said Fisher. “I really enjoyed it.”

Baretta had played some ‘ghost’ matches in a recent USA vs. Europe matchup and found the experience to be “kind of nerve wracking.”

“But now,” she said, “I want to play more of them.”

“In practice, I play the ghost all the time,” she added. “I play a race to 7, but I play so that if I miss, I have to kick and/or bank (subsequent balls).”

This WPBA event was based on playing 10 racks, per player, per match. Players were allowed to begin shooting after their break with ball-in-hand. Essentially, each ball was worth one point, though if you ran the rack, you’d get an extra point for 10 points total, available per rack. There were 15 points available for a rack if you chose not to take advantage of ball-in-hand after the break. A number of the 30 matches ended before one of the competitors had completed the 10 racks, because one player had scored enough points to make ‘catching’ that player impossible.

Fisher’s path to the winners’ circle ran through Lonnie Fox-Raymond and April Larson, before coming up against Monica Webb in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Baretta downed Eugenia Gyftopoulos and Canada’s Suzanne Peters to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Dawn Hopkins.

With Allison Fisher and LoreeJon Hasson commentating on the live stream, Kelly Fisher defeated Webb 104-70. Baretta sent Hopkins to the loss side 83-69. In the hot seat match that followed, Fisher chalked up the event’s highest score of 120, when she ran all 10 racks, four of them which she ran without benefit of ball-in-hand at the start.

Upon her arrival on the loss side of the bracket, Dawn Hopkins picked up an immediate rematch against Mary Rakin Tam, whom she’d defeated in the opening round and who was working on a three-match, loss-side winning streak during which she’d eliminated Cheryl Baglin, April Larson and one of the event’s significant organizers, Angela Janic. Webb drew Line Kjorsvik, who’d lost her opening round match to April Larson and was also working on a three-match, loss-side winning streak that had eliminated Lonnie Fox-Raymond, Ewa Mataya Laurance and Suzanne Peters.

Rakin Tam and Kjorsvik advanced to the first money round, the quarterfinals. Tam defeated Hopkins 74-60, as Kjorsvik downed Webb 79-58. Kjorsvik then eliminated Tam 90-75.

The semifinals of this event – Kjorsvik versus Baretta – had a way of demonstrating the best that this particular format had to offer viewers. At the end of their 9th rack, the two were separated by a single point; Baretta ahead by one at 74-73. Baretta refused the ball-in-hand option after her break of the final rack, looking to chalk up 15 points instead of just 10. Unfortunately, she only added three balls to her score; missing the fourth ball and finishing her 10 racks with a score of 77. All Kjorsvik had to do was sink five balls. With two of the five down, she found herself hooked and forced to make a jump shot, which she missed to finish at 74.

In the finals that followed, with the racks-necessary extended to 13, and Jeremy Jones in the streaming ‘booth,’ commentating, Baretta was ahead by seven points after four racks, 45-38. Though Baretta would extend her lead by opting out of ball-in-hand in the 5th rack and running the table to hit 60 points, while Fisher had her 5th rack stopped at 6 balls, the tables started to turn, as Fisher started to pick up speed, reminding everyone of her “KwikFire” nickname.

They would both run racks #6 & 7 without ball-in-hand, leaving Baretta out in front by 16 (80-64). Fisher would go on to opt out of ball-in-hand for racks # 8, 9, 10 & 11 and ran all four, leaving her at 124 when she was through. Baretta, now working two racks behind Fisher, picked up only three in rack #8, and though she ran racks #9 & 10, she was, for the first time since her fourth rack, no longer in the lead, but behind Fisher by six at 109-103.

Fisher closed out her run with two break and runs, opting for ball-in-hand in both to finish her 10 racks with 144 points. In order to defeat Fisher, Baretta, at the time, was preparing to break her 11th rack and would have had to play all three of her last racks without ball in hand. Two without and one with ball in hand (assuming she ran the table) would have left her one point shy of Fisher’s 144 total. Baretta missed a shot in the 11th rack and conceded the victory, punctuating the concession by going down on her knees and bowing. Fisher extended a hand to shake and all smiles, the two of them traded an across-the-ocean-via-Internet handshake.

In some ways, the entire event, to include how quickly it came together and successfully it occurred came as a bit of surprise. Angela Janic thanked particularly Jennifer Hamilton for her work on the live stream, noting that Hamilton had “kept us all organized and just did a fantastic job.”

“Thanks, too,” Janic added,” to everybody on the WPBA, the board and all the players. I had just sent messages out and asked people for help and everybody just jumped in and said yes. I’d read names but there are just too many of them.”

According to Janic, another edition of the WPBA’s Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge will occur on Memorial Day weekend (May 31-June 6) and while no names have been confirmed for participation, she expects another field of 16.

“Nothing’s going to change much,” she said of the upcoming event. “It’ll probably get a little easier.”

After the imaginary handshake, and Janic thanking her for her participation, Fisher added her thanks to all those who’d been involved.

“It was such short notice and it happened so quickly,” said Fisher. “You did an absolute fantastic job putting it together and running it smoothly.”

“It was great for the sport and great for the WPBA,” she added. “Thank you very much for doing this for us.”

Ussery wins GA stop on the J. Pechauer SE Open 9-Ball Tournament

(l to r): Bernardo Esteban & BJ Ussery

Taking a bit of a break from the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, BJ Ussery traveled to Georgia over the September 21-22 weekend to compete on the J. Pechauer SE Open 9-Ball Tour. Though he was not afforded the opportunity to compete against its tour director Tommy Kennedy (who normally participates, but did not on this stop), Ussery did go undefeated through a field of 43 entrants on-hand for the $1,000-added event, hosted by Mr. Cues II in Atlanta, GA.
 
Ussery missed competing against another renowned competitor, a West coast player who is reportedly now living in Georgia, Mary Rakin, who signed on to the event. She would end up in third place, missing the opportunity to face Ussery twice; both times, thwarted by the eventual event runner-up, Bernardo Esteban.
 
As Esteban was at work sending Rakin to the loss side 7-3 in one winners’ side semifinal, Ussery was busy with Kenny Nguyen in the other one, sending him over by the same 7-3 score. In their first of two, Ussery grabbed the hot seat 7-5 and then waited on Esteban’s return.
 
On the loss side, Rakin picked up Jeff Hooks, who’d recently defeated Sill Van Rooy 7-5 and Ron Gilbert 7-3. Nguyen drew Jason Jones, who’d shut out Elvis Newman and eliminated Raed Shabib 7-2.
 
Rakin advanced to the quarterfinals 7-3 over Hooks. Jones joined her after a 7-2 victory over Nguyen. Rakin had one more step to take and Jones battled her for it to the very double-hill end. She advanced for a second shot against Esteban in the semifinals.
 
Esteban upped his game by a rack, downing Rakin 7-2 in those semifinals, for his own second shot against Ussery in the hot seat. Ussery, though, upped his game as well. Racing to 9 in the finals, he gave up only a single rack and claimed the event title.
 
Tour director Tommy Kennedy thanked the ownership and staff at Mr. Cues II, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Simonis Cloth and Mueller Recreational Products. The next stop on the J. Pechauer Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for October 24-26, will be the 5th Annual Dismal Swamp Thing, to be hosted by Colonial Cues in Elizabeth City, NC.

Bryant comes from the loss side to defend WPBA Blue Emu title at Borderline Billiards in TN

Crowning achievements for (l to r) Kyoko Sone & Brittany Bryant with Janet Atwell

It began on Thursday, May 30 with a preliminary tournament made up of 30 lower-ranked players from the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) and ended on Sunday night, June 2 with the crowning of defending champion Brittany Bryant, who had to come from the loss side (five matches) to meet Kyoko Sone in the finals of the WPBA’s Signature Tour Stop, the Blue-Emu Southern Open. The $10,000-added event drew a total of 62 entrants, including Janet Atwell to her venue, Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN.

The event was not exactly a proverbial ‘walk in the park’ for the WPBA’s #4-ranked player. Bryant won the event, having won less than 60% of the games she played in it (70-49; 58.8%). The seven opponents she faced in races-to-8 chalked up an average of five racks against her. She got by Kelly Cavanaugh, Jessica Barnes and Mary Rakin by an aggregate score of 24-7, but against her other four race-to-8 opponents (LoreeJon Hasson, Allison Fisher, Melissa Little & Jennifer Baretta) she chalked up an aggregate of 32-26, or 55%. Not surprising necessarily, given the upgrade in the competition over those four matches. And then, of course, there was the third-round, 4-8 loss to Gail Eaton, which really did a job on the ‘numbers.’ Without that loss, Bryant would have finished with an overall game-winning average of just over 60% (62.8), rather than less.

“I go to every event to win it,” said Bryant, “but I didn’t go with any expectations this year. “There were actually a few more players who were higher up (in rankings) than there were last year when I won it.”

The ‘First Stage’ double elimination bracket yielded 16 players who advanced to the Final Stage; eight from the winners’ side and eight from the loss side of that bracket. Among those who emerged from that bracket was runner-up Kyoko Sone, who lost her opening round match, double hill to Mary Rakin. Rakin advanced to defeat Kelly Isaac 7-5 and become one of the eight winners’ side competitors to advance to the Final Stage. Sone moved to the loss side, where she defeated Toni Esteves and Janet Ritcey, both 7-2, to become one of the eight loss-side competitors to advance to the final stage.

The other winners’ side competitors to advance to the Final Stage were Jennifer Berzinski, Jessica Human, Hiroko Makiyama, Ashley Burrows, Stephanie Mitchell, Kia Sidbury and Billie Billings. The other loss-side competitors to advance were Autumn Duncan, Kelly Isaac, Susan Wilbur, Julie Cooper, Angela Janic, Stephanie Goens, and Catherine Tschumper.

Moving into the Final Stage, beginning on Friday, May 31, the 16 arrivals from the preliminary bracket faced 16 players more or less in the middle of the WPBA rankings (approximately #17-#32). The winners in this opening round of Final Stage play advanced to meet the WPBA’s top 16 players, who had been awarded opening round byes.

Of the WPBA’s top 16 players who waited until Friday evening to begin competing, only three failed to advance on the winners’ side past their opening match; Jessica Barnes (WPBA-ranked #16) was defeated 8-2 by Kyoko Sone, Gerda Gregerson (#8) lost to Mary Rakin 8-6 and Emily Duddy (#10) joined them on the loss side following an 8-3 defeat at the hands of Naomi Williams. Among the more notable matches in this round of play, and the only one to go double hill was the battle between Allison Fisher and Russian teenager Kristina Tkach, who, a week earlier, had been the only female to compete in the Open/Pro event of the 9th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial in New York City (she finished in the tie for 5th place). She was defeated by Fisher here and went on to win two loss-side matches before being eliminated by Line Kjorsvik.

A final round on Friday night brought the field down to the winners’ side quarterfinals. Kyoko Sone had sent Line Kjorsvik to the loss side and on Saturday night, faced Mary Rakin, who, after her victory over Gregerson, had sent hostess and WPBA-ranked #9 Janet Atwell over. Brittany Bryant, who’d defeated Loree Jon Hasson was to meet up with Gail Eaton, who’d gotten by Melissa Little. Fisher followed up her win over Tkach with a victory over Jia Li and on Saturday night, faced Naomi Williams, who had just survived a double hill battle against Helena Thornfeldt.  The last of the winners’ side quarterfinals pitted Jennifer Baretta against Monica Webb.

These matches elicited the winners’ side semifinals, which began immediately afterwards. Sone, who’d downed Rakin 8-5 met Eaton, who’d sent Bryant to the loss side 8-4, as Fisher, who’d defeated Williams 8-3 met Baretta, who’d gotten by Webb 8-5.

“I have to give Gail so much credit,” said Bryant of her only loss in the tournament. “I have never seen her play that well. I was down 7-1, took a break, composed myself and got it to 7-4.”

“I wasn’t disappointed,” she added. “I didn’t play poorly and Gail took control when she needed to.”

Sone advanced to the hot seat match 8-3 over Eaton. Fisher and Baretta, almost predictably, fought to double hill before Baretta prevailed to join Sone in the hot seat match. Sone downed Baretta 8-4 to claim the hot seat and waited on what turned out to be Bryant’s fateful return.

Meanwhile, back at the loss-side ranch, Bryant and Melissa Little were laying in wait for Fisher and Eaton, respectively. Bryant had defeated Jessica Barnes 8-2 and Mary Rakin 8-3 to draw Fisher. Little had won four loss-side matches, including a double hill win over Naomi Williams and an 8-4 victory over Kjorsvik to draw Eaton. Little made it five in a row with an 8-5 win over Eaton and advanced to the quarterfinals. Bryant joined her after surviving a double hill fight against Fisher.

“I expected to go back and forth with Allison,” she said. “It was actually the first time I had ever beaten her. I ended up breaking and running at double hill to win it.”

Bryant followed her double hill win over Fisher with a double hill win over Little in the quarterfinals and for the second time, she finished with a break and run. In the semifinals, Jennifer Baretta came within a game of giving Bryant a third straight, double hill challenge, but Bryant edged out in front at the end to win it 8-6.

“I was up 6-2 in that match and she came back (to almost tie it),” Bryant said. “And then, there was a big game swinger, when she could have tied it at 6-6, but I won to go up 7-5. She won a game and I won the next game to win the match.”

The finals between defending champion Bryant and Sone came within a game of going double hill, as well, but for the second time in a row, Bryant edged out in front at the end to win it 10-8 and claim the 2019 Blu-Emu Southern Open.

“We didn’t make a lot of mistakes,” said Bryant of the final match. “She broke and ran the opening game and we had a few safety battles. I was up 6-2 and she started to make a comeback.”

As with the semifinal match against Baretta, Sone had the opportunity to tie things up at 6-6.

“She missed a key 8-ball to tie it up (at 6-6),” she said, “so it was 7-5 and I won the next three.”

WPBA representatives thanked Janet Atwell and her Borderline Billiards staff for hosting the event, as well as sponsors Simonis Cloth, Aramith, Diamond Billiard Products and Outsville.com. The next WPBA event, scheduled for August 8-11, will be a $10,000-added Signature Event, to be held in Fairfield, IL. Further details will be available soon. Bryant said that she plans to be in attendance.

Bryant goes undefeated to take WPBA title at Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards

Brittany Bryant, Janet Atwell and Mary Rakin (Photo courtesy of Barbara Lee)

It’s hard to know just how exactly the proverbial ‘luck of the draw’ can impact a tournament field. Is there ever an easy path through a strong field? Does early ‘luck of the draw’ influence a player’s ability to face increasingly difficult competition? With ‘no’ as the answer to the ‘easy path’ question, one would think that getting a few relatively ‘easy’ matches under your belt before facing any heavy hitters would have to be of benefit. On the weekend of October 18-21, Canada’s Brittany Bryant went undefeated through a field of strong opponents to win the WPBA BLU-EMU Southern Open Signature Tour Stop.
 
With a Fargo Rate of 663, Bryant opened the tournament with matches against opponents whose ratings were in the 500 range, slowly graduating to matches against higher ranked opponents, and then, in the finals, squaring off against Mary Rakin with exactly the same rating of 663. The $10,000-added event drew 64 entrants to Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN.
 
That said, it didn’t take Bryant long to get into the thick of things. Following victories over Autumn Duncan (Fargo Rating 585) 7-2 and Bonnie Arnold (553) 7-3, Bryant faced the Texas Tornado, Vivian Villarreal, sporting a higher Fargo rate of 685 (the top Fargo-rated female in the US). They locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Bryant against Jia Li (654) and a second double hill fight, which Bryant won, advancing to a winners’ side semifinal match against Karen Corr (722; as an Irish competitor, Corr is not on the US Top 10 list, and doesn’t appear among the top 10 World List, dominated by seven Chinese women, whose ratings range from 782 to 744).
 
Meanwhile, Line Kjorsvik (675) was running her own gauntlet of top-notch talent. She defeated Ji-Hyun Park, Jeannette Lee, Ashley Rice and Helena Thornfeldt to draw (out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak) Allison Fisher (724). Fisher had sent Bryant’s eventual finals opponent, Mary Rakin, to the loss side in the second round.
 
Bryant downed Corr 7-3, and in the hot seat match, faced Kjorsvik, who’d survived a somewhat predictable double hill match against Fisher. Bryant claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Kjorsvik and waited for Rakin to complete her nine-match, loss-side winning streak that would bring her into the final match.
 
Six matches had put Bryant in the hot seat, and while they included those back-to-back wins over Villareal, Li, Corr and Kjorsvik, the run paled (somewhat) in the face of what Rakin accomplished to meet her in the finals. Wins over Kaylin Wykoff and Maureen Seto put Rakin into the first money round (17th-24th) against Gerda (Hofstatter) Gregerson. A subsequent win over Dawn Hopkins led to five straight wins over Thornfeldt, Jennifer Baretta, Corr, Fisher and Kjorsvik.
 
She defeated Thornfeldt 7-4 and Baretta 7-3 to pick up Corr, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Fisher drew Jia Li, who’d defeated LoreeJon Hasson 7-5 and Melissa Little 7-4 to reach her.
 
Rakin defeated Corr 7-5 and in the quarterfinals, faced Fisher, who’d eliminated Li 7-2. Rakin and Fisher locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Rakin to the semifinals against Kjorsvik. A second straight double hill fight, won by Rakin, gave Rakin her shot at Bryant in the finals.
 
The finals, according to FargoRate, was a 50/50 proposition. Rakin had the intangible of momentum and recent wins over higher ranked competitors going for her, though two straight double hill wins over quality opponents might have taken a little out of her. Bryant had the wait, which can sometimes work for you with a little rest or against you, in terms of going a little cold at the table. By the same token, her own list of recently defeated quality opponents suggested that either way, it was going to be a good match between two quality opponents who had more than earned their way into the finals. Bryant won it 7-4 to claim the event title.