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Garza goes undefeated to take first return stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Obbie Cirilo, Bobby Garza and Michael Delawder

While much of what we know about success in the pool world is associated with skill, experience and attitude, there is evidence that a player’s general health can be an important factor. Take the case of Florida’s Bobby Garza, for example. He’s co-director, with Janene Phillips, of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour and has been competing on the tour since it was formed in 2015. It’s where and how he and Phillips first met. Garza’s record at the tables, as recorded here on AZBilliards, began in 2008, when he finished in the tie for 9th place at a stop on Tommy Kennedy’s J. Pechauer Southeast 9-Ball Tour. In all that time, from those days to these days, he failed to record a single major victory anywhere, although he did win events on Tony Crosby’s Florida Tour, which went unreported.

In February of this year, just ahead of the pandemic’s arrival, Garza went under the knife for a second hernia operation (the hernia had returned after the initial operation in 2018) and in the process of preparation, the doctors informed him that he should get his Type II diabetes under control. He was unaware that he had the disease. Checking back through medical records for results of blood work over the years revealed, as he’d been told, that it wasn’t something that had developed overnight; that it had been going on for a few years and that he just hadn’t been told. He took the advice about getting it under control, consulted with a new doctor and after a successful operation began a regimen of medication which assisted him in losing 40 pounds. Almost immediately, he began kicking butt at the tables.

“It made a tremendous difference in my game,” he said.

He went out to Las Vegas in March to compete in the eventually aborted-by-the-pandemic BCAPL World Championships and finished in the tie for 5th among 90 entrants in the singles event. He came home to Florida, won two local (unrecorded) tournaments and on the weekend of August 1-2 went undefeated to win his first Sunshine State Pro Am Tour event in 23 recorded tries (he may have competed on the tour more times, but if he failed to cash, his efforts would have gone unrecorded). And to punctuate his first tour win, he won his last two matches, hot seat and finals, double hill. The $1,330-added event ($580 of it from a Predator raffle) drew 64 entrants to Racks in Sanford, FL.

In the Coincidence department, Garza would face long-time friend Obbie Cirilo in the finals of this event. Cirilo had won the last, pre-pandemic stop on the tour (Feb. 1-2). At that event, Garza shared the 5th place tie with Nicolle Cuellar, who, on this weekend, would become the winner of the tour’s first Ladies event; a $350-added (plus Acme case to winner) event that drew 25 entrants (see separate report). Cuellar assisted Janene Phillips in running the ladies’ event, so this tour stop was actually won by two of its co-tour directors.

Garza not only finished with two double hill wins, he started with two, as well, against Christopher Campos and Manuel Montas. Subsequent victories over Evan Huynh 7-3 and Steve Wiggam 7-5 put him into a winners’ side semifinal against Mike Kohn. His eventual hot seat opponent, Mike Delawder, started with a double hill win over Anthony Meglino and then downed Jason Sheerman 7-2, Robert Batson 7-5 and Julio Burgos 7-3 to draw Ameet Kukadia in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Garza got into the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Kohn. Delawder survived a double hill battle against Kukadia to join him. The battle for the hot seat went double hill, and as Garza recalled, it was more of a mentai challenge than the eventual finals turned out to be.

“To go undefeated in any event is spectacular,” he said, “but I think I was more excited winning that hot seat match; getting over that ‘hot seat’ match hurdle, and figure ‘Hey, I’m guaranteed at least 2nd place.”

In the deciding game, Delawder broke and was running to the 4-ball, when he encountered a planning problem for position on the 5-ball. He opted for a bank shot in the hopes of improving his position for the 5-ball and missed the 4-ball.

“You have no idea how relieved I was to see him miss that bank,” said Garza. “He’s one of the best (at that) in the country.”

Garza stepped to the table and ran it to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Kukadia picked up Justin Hall, who’d lost a double hill battle to Justin Toye in the third winners’ side round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him as far as the semifinals. He’d most recently eliminated Vic Zaman 8-1 and Robert Batson 8-3. Kohn drew a rematch against Obbie Cirilo, who’d been sent over by Kohn in the third round and was in the midst of his own loss-side winning streak of seven matches that would put him into the finals. He had most recently eliminated Justin Toye 7-3 and survived a double hill battle versus Greg Pugh, Jr.

Hall shut Kukadia out for his slot in the quarterfinals. Cirilo joined him following a 7-2 win over Kohn. Cirilo and Hall battled to double hill in those quarterfinals, before Cirilo advanced to meet and eventually defeat Delawder in the semifinals 7-5.

Though it’s clear from the double hill battle that followed, that Cirilo was invested in winning it, it is also true that Cirilo couldn’t have been happier for his friend Garza when he dropped the 9-ball that sealed the 9-8 win and Garza’s first tour victory. According to Phillips, who has actually known Cirilo longer than she’s known Garza, Garza has a nickname by which he’s known to a majority of the pool players in his Florida backyard. It’s not a nickname we’ll spell out for you here, but Phillips noted that Garza’s health-related improvement at the tables has not gone unnoticed.

“He’s back,” said Phillips, “to being Bobby ‘MFG.”

“I see a tremendous difference in my game because of the (resolution) of health issues I was unaware I had,” said Garza, adding that one major difference he noted was his re-found ability to maintain focus, both at the game and shot level. “I can hold my focus now until I actually make contact. The healthier you are, the better focused you are.”

Phillips and Garza thanked Pedro Botta and his staff at Rack’s for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Group, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Billiard Products, Central Florida USA Pool League, X-treme Pool (which streamed selected matches of the event) and AZBilliards. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour is to be determined. Phillips and Garza are discussing safety protocols and other issues with the potential host to clarify procedures and solidify the date. Check the tour’s Facebook page for further information.

Cirilo downs veteran Richko in finals to win Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s season opener

(l to r): Jason Richko, Nick Applebee & Obbie Cirilo

Rose, White and Mitchell announced as 2019 Player of the Year, Top Junior and Top Female
By all accounts, Obbie Cirilo doesn’t get out on the tables much. As of this past weekend, February 1-2, he’s chalked up exactly two cash finishes in his (recorded) pool career, which began, as far as we know in January, 2018. Both cash finishes were event victories and both, including this past weekend, were on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. His opponent in the hot seat and finals of this Sunshine State Pro Am season opener, Jason Richko, hasn’t been at the tables much recently either. He entered the tournament with only five cash finishes in the same amount of time; no event wins, but all on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. Richko, however, has a history that dates back 20 years to what’s been recorded in our database as his first cash finish anywhere; 13th at the Planet 9-Ball Intergalactic Open in Tampa that year (2000).
So. .  the newcomer and seasoned veteran battled twice in the $1,450-added event which drew 64 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL. Richko won the first of the two, but Cirilo came back from a semifinal win to defeat him in the finals and claim the title.
Victories over Hayleigh Scarberry, Mark Nowicki, Joe Scarborough and Mitch Keiser brought Cirilo up to a winners’ side semifinal match against Nick Applebee. Richko, in the meantime, got by Gregory English, Marvin Llamas, Joselito Martinez and Raymond Linares to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal match versus Justin McNulty.
Cirilo downed Applebee 7-2 to earn his spot in the hot seat match. Richko earned his with a 7-1 victory over McNulty. In their first of two, Cirilo and Richko battled to double hill before Richko prevailed to claim the hot seat.
Applebee moved to the loss side and picked up Bobby Garza, who’d been sent over in the event’s second round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had most recently included back-to-back, double hill victories over Linares and Llamas. McNulty drew Nicholle Cuellar, who’d been defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal by Applebee and gone on to defeat Dave Stern 5-2 and Trenton White, double hill, in a match that featured the event’s top female finisher (Cuellar) and top junior (White).
McNulty downed Cuellar 6-3, and was joined in the quarterfinals by Applebee, who’d ended Garza’s streak 5-2. Applebee and McNulty locked up in a double hill fight that eventually did send Applebee to a semifinal matchup against Cirilo. Cirilo put a stop to Applebee’s short, loss-side run 5-3 and turned his attention to a rematch against Richko in the hot seat.
Cirilo was battling for his second victory on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, and only his second cash finish in two years. He completed the task, downing Richko 9-6 in the finals to claim the season opening title.
Tour awards 2019 Player of the Year, Top Junior and Top Female Player
[photo id=51590|align=right]The event also featured awards for the tour’s 2019 best players. Nathan Rose, who finished at the top of the 2019 tour standings was named Player of the Year. Trenton White, who finished second in the standings was the tour’s Top Junior player, while Stephanie Mitchell finished as the tour’s top female, 6th in the overall standings.
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, who donated the cue, the raffle of which – won by Ethan Tinsley – added $450 to the prize fund, and $300 worth of gloves. They also thanked sponsors Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Central Florida USA Pool League, Diamond Products, Kamui, AZBilliards and Kodi Allen “for always helping to sell the tickets.”
The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 7-8 at Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL, will feature two non-point events. There will be an Open One Pocket event and a 9-Ball Amateur event for competitors with Fargo Rates of 600 or under.  

Kennedy, Cirilo win 10-Ball Invitational/9-Ball Open events on Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Mubarak Sulaiman, Obbie Cirilo & Steve Knoll

Tommy Kennedy and Obbie Cirilo claimed respective titles in a two-event weekend – January 13-14 – on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. Kennedy won five matches on the loss side to meet and defeat host location owner, Jose Del Rio in Sunday’s 10-Ball Invitational, while Cirilo, who went undefeated, and Mubarak Sulaiman split the top two prizes in Saturday’s 9-Ball Open to avoid a final match that would have commenced in the vicinity of 3 a.m., Sunday morning. The $1,000-added 9-Ball Open event drew 57 entrants, while the $300-added 10-Ball Invitational drew 17 entrants to Stroker’s Bar and Grill in Palm Harbor, FL.


Cirilo and Sulaiman would have met twice in the 9-Ball Open, had they both not opted out of playing a second, final match. Cirilo opened his undefeated run by giving up only two racks over his first two matches; one each to Bill Bloom and Kyle Bova, before Tommy Kennedy put up a fight in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Cirilo won that match 7-5 and drew Bobby Garza in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Sulaiman won his first three matches by an average score of 7-5, which included a double hill win over Donny Mills in the third round, and advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Steve Knoll.


Sulaiman downed Knoll 7-5, and in the hot seat match, faced Cirilo, who’d sent Garza to the loss side 7-4. Cirilo chalked up what proved to be his last win (7-5) over Sulaiman, and sat in the hot seat, essentially waiting for the decision to opt out of a final match.


On the loss side, Knoll picked up Kennedy, while Garza drew Robert Batson, who’d lost a double hill fight against Knoll in the second round, and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to come to an end.


Knoll eliminated Kennedy 5-3, as Garza ended Batson’s loss-side streak 5-2. Knoll downed Garza 5-3 in the quarterfinals, and then, by the same score, was eliminated by Sulaiman in the semifinals. That, as the saying goes, was all she wrote, as Cirilo and Sulaiman agreed to a split of the top two prizes.


Trenton White and Kodi Allen split $40 as the top two junior finishers in the 9-Ball Open event.


[photo id=48644|align=right]Kennedy wins five on the loss side to meet and defeat DelRio in 10-Ball Invitational finals


Tommy Kennedy played two more matches on the loss side of the 10-Ball Invitational than he had in the previous day’s 9-Ball Open. Those extra two matches put him into the finals, where he downed Jose Del Rio to claim the event title.


Kennedy was defeated 7-2 by Stephen Richmond in the second round of the 10-Ball event, which advanced Richmond to a winners’ side semifinal against Jason Richko. Del Rio drew Dale Stanley in the other winners’ side semifinal. Del Rio survived a double hill battle against Stanley to advance to the hot seat match. He was joined by Richko, who’d sent Richmond west 7-4. Del Rio and Richko battled to a 13th deciding game before Del Rio claimed the hot seat, and waited on the return of Kennedy.

On the loss side, Kennedy opened his trek back to the finals with victories over Tim Parisian and Onur Berber, which set him up to face Stanley. Richmond drew 9-Ball Open winner, Mubarak Sulaiman, who’d gotten by one of the event’s three top-finishing juniors/women (who split $90), Kodi Allen and Donny Mills to reach him.


Kennedy shut Stanley out and in the quarterfinals, faced Sulaiman, who’d eliminated Richmond 6-2. Kennedy then spoiled Sulaiman’s bid for a second runner-up (and possibly more) finish with a 6-4 win in those quarterfinals.


Kennedy gave up only a single rack to Richko in the semifinals and then, with momentum wind at his back, had the audacity to down his host – Stroker’s owner Del Rio – 9-2 in the finals to claim the 10-Ball event title.


Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza awarded $90 (total) to the two junior and single female top finisher in the 10-Ball Invitational (Carrie Vetrono, the female, and for the second time, Kodi Allen and Trenton White as the juniors). They thanked Del Rio and his Stroker’s staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Kamui, Jacksonville Roofing USA,, AZBilliards and Play the Game Clothing Co. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the February 10, will be hosted by Waldo’s Billiards in Daytona Beach, FL.