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Ryan Lineham is last man standing in 1,021-entrant SBE Open Amateur at 2024 SBE

Ryan Lineham with sponsor Elvis Rodriguez

An AZ ‘tip of the hat’ to Cecilia (C.C.) Strain for logistical control of the SBE’s largest fields 

While a great deal of the pool community outside of The Greater Philadelphia Expo in Oaks, PA last weekend was focused on the 118-entrant Diamond Open Pro Players Championship, most of the activity in the Expo Center during that week centered on the activity of nearly 2,000 amateurs who gathered to participate in seven different events; 1,901, to be precise. 

Just a little over half of those 1,901 were engaged in a single tournament, The Open Amateur Tournament, which drew 1,021 entrants, requiring utilization of 16, 64-player brackets. And every last one of those competitors, right from the start, were competing in what was the equivalent of the loss side in a double-elimination tournament; in another words, one loss and you’re out. Another set of words for that is single-elimination, which is fine if you’re playing in a group of between 16 and 32 players because you know when you start that you only have to win three matches (with 16) or four matches (with 32). Each individual listed in the 16, 64-player brackets knew that just for starters, they’d have to win five matches in a row, just to win the single bracket and then, win four more matches to become the 30th Annual Super Billiard Expo’s Open Amateur Champion.

That title went to Ryan Lineham of Coventry, RI but with so much to cover, we better get started with Bracket #1 of the 16. Maybe not . . .

There were six other Amateur Player events; A Seniors event (50+) which drew 381 players, a Super Senior event (65+) with 251, a Women’s Division with 184, two juniors event; one for 17 & under (56 entrants) and one for 12 & Under (47 entrants). There was also a 32-entrant, Pro Am event, open to one and all.

There were very few moments throughout the entire weekend (April 11-14), when there weren’t 100s and 100s of pool matches going on at any given moment. This is a regular, commonplace part of the annual Super Billiards Expo. All of the above does not take into account the activities of the TAP League’s Rally in the Valley, an annual team event open only to TAP League members, who form teams on-site at the SBE or have won in TAP League Nationals. 

Rachel Walters with sponsor Steve Dunkel

So, on to (some of) the details. Ryan Lineham, the SBE’s 2024 Open Amateur Champion, has been competing in cash tournaments in the New England area for about a dozen years. His best (recorded) earnings year was in 2018, when he won The Perfect Spot Open Men’s Amateur event in Nanuet, NY and finished third in that year’s Ocean State 9-Ball Championships in Rhode Island. Among the Final 16 in the Open Amateur event at the SBE (in races to 5, best of three sets), he got by mid-Atlantic pool veteran Chris Bruner, Bob Madenjian, local player Derek Schwager in the semifinals and downed another mid-Atlantic veteran in the finals, Danny Mastermaker 5-1, 5-4.

The Seniors event crowned Maryland’s Pat McNally as its champion. McNally chalked up a few wins on a local circuit back in the early ‘aughts;’ ’02, ’03 and ’04, winning two events on the New England Players Tour back then. In the last of those three years, he finished third at a Northeast 9-Ball Open XVI that was won by (now) Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour director, Mike Zuglan. McNally entered the event’s quarterfinals (final eight) and downed Gary Kiersey, took down John Vitale in the semifinals and finished with a 5-3, 5-3 win over Pennsylvania’s Tim Tanana to claim the title.

The Super Seniors contingent of 251 consisted of four, 64-player brackets whittle down to two players each, who advanced to the event semifinals. Ace Aughtry took out James Edwards, as James Sanders ended Tom Waters bid in the other semifinal. Aughtry claimed the title, taking the best-of-three-set final 4-3, 1-4, 4-0.

Pennsylvania’s Rachel Walters, who was Delaware State’s Ladies Bar Box 8-Ball Champion in 2023, in addition to cashing in a few stops on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) that year, took the top prize in the SBE’s Women’s Division. From that division’s four, 64-entrant brackets, Walters advanced to down another JPNEWT veteran, Tina Malm, as Marie France Blanchette eliminated Harley King in the other winners’ side semifinal. Walters claimed the Women’s title 4-1, 3-4, 4-0 over Blanchette.

Niko Konkel with Mom Shannon

Winston-Salem, NC’s Niko Konkel, who’s been making a name for himself as a junior competitor over the past few years, worked his way through the 56-entrant, all-gender field, that included the Tate sisters, Bethany and Noelle, and a host of his fellow competitors on the Junior International Championship series of events, to include Eddie Vondereau and Grayson Vaughn. He met and defeated a JIC veteran, D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain in the event semifinal, as Tanner King was busy eliminating Noelle Tate in the other semifinal. Konkel claimed the title 5-1, 5-3 over King in the final.

The younger set (12 & Under) saw Hayden Ernst, another veteran of the JIC series, take the title from 46 others who competed. Ernst downed Roman Boone in one of the semifinals as Johnny Hammontree eliminated Gavin Matthew. Ernst gave up only one rack over two sets in the final. He gave that one up in the opening set and closed the door with a 5-0 win in the second set to claim the title.

The combination amateur/pro event (ProAm), which, in a way, invites a kind of ‘wannabe’ crowd to take on the more experienced, ‘been there, done that’ crowd. The event drew 64 entrants and saw Nicholas Tofoya claim the title over Jonathan “Hennessee from Tennessee” Pinegar. Tofoya worked his way through the field to meet and defeat Ricky Evans in one of the semifinals, as Pinegar was working on the elimination of New England competitor Kevin Guimond in the other semifinal. In two, races to 6, double-hill matches Tofoya claimed the ProAm title.

Hayden Ernst

Finally, a word here about the folks who put this monumental series of amateur events together and keeps it motoring forward through who knows what kind of aggravation can and probably does occur. We here at AZ tend to hear more regional tournament director gripes than normal because we hear about them more often. And these are folks that are generally dealing with numbers between 32 and 64 (usually). The bigger events, with and without pros, might, on a good day, get 128 pool players in a room (as the Diamond Open Pro Players Championship did at this SBE), but that is just a little more than 1/10th of the multiple events that C.C. Strain has to deal with for the entire weekend of the SBE. And she does it with style, grace and a staff of folks around her that draws its energy and unflappable demeanor from her. They are quite well aided by a central arrangement of desks that is placed on platforms, high enough to keep the crowd at a distance while allowing it to step up and ask the hundreds of hundreds of questions that it brings to that table in a given 15-minute span. There are those who would contend that the SBE Amateur events could not happen without her. There are very few who would argue the point, nor as of this writing, anyone who is making any attempt to challenge her for the job.    

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Shaw wins final battle versus Appleton in Open NineBall Pro Players Championship

Jayson Shaw

Nearly 2,000 entrants, with some event crossovers, compete in Amateur events

As of March 31, three weeks before the Super Billiards Expo opened its doors, the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship was designated as an Official Nineball World Ranking event, and while it did not literally draw its entrance field from everywhere, there was a very evident sense of international competition. The final 16 featured representation from the US (five) and 11 competitors from seven foreign countries – Austria, Germany (2), Russia, the UK (2), Canada (2), the Philippines and Hong Kong (2). The international ‘feel’ of the event was most evident in what was easily among (if not “the”) most anticipated matchup of the four-day event, between the UK’s Jayson Shaw and Russia’s Fedor Gorst. The matchup, which occurred in the single-elimination quarterfinals, lived up to its billing, as the two battled to double hill before Shaw advanced. More on this later, along with the final matchup between Shaw and Darren Appleton, which waited until the 17th of its potential 21 games before Shaw pulled away to win the next two and claim the title. 

There were quite a few “wish I coulda been there” matches throughout the event’s four days, up to and including matches among the final 16, which were, for obvious reasons, witnessed by the SBE’s largest crowds in the Pro arena. Pre-single-elimination, there was the double hill battle between Shaw and Billy Thorpe, which moved Shaw into the final 16, the Fedor Gorst and Ralf Souquet (new school/old school) match that sent Gorst to the final 16, and Appleton’s two straight double hill matches; one win (Jeff Beckley) and one loss (Mhet Vergara), which sent “Dynamite” to the loss side, where a single win, over Bucky Souvanthong, sent him (Appleton) to the final 16. And, as always, any match featuring Earl Strickland as a competitor is always entertaining, whether because of exuberant antics or just plain rock-solid shooting.

The Shaw/Gorst match followed a Shaw “Sweet 16” victory over John Morra 11-6 and a Gorst win over Thorsten Hohmann 11-8. Gorst opened with two straight racks and kept that as a minimum lead until rack #17. By the 12th rack, Gorst was leading by four. Two straight racks that featured Shaw dropping a combination shot that dropped the 9-ball cut that lead in half. Gorst went three-up at 9-6, but Shaw came right back with a break and run that reduced it to two again.

Off a Gorst break, Shaw narrowed the lead to one until that 17th rack, when Shaw came within one. Shaw broke the 18th, but turned the table over briefly, before, with a second chance, he dropped a 3-9 combination that yielded the match’s first tie. Gorst dropped two balls on his break, but Shaw came through to get on the hill with his first lead of the match. Gorst, with a scratch-on-the-break assist from Shaw, made it interesting by winning the 20th, double hill rack.

Gorst broke dry in the deciding rack, but Shaw turned the table back over to Gorst, who promptly scratched shooting at the 2-ball. Shaw ran to the 8-ball and Gorst conceded the game and match. 

Moving into the semifinals, Shaw drew Mario He, who’d earlier defeated Jonathan Pinegar 11-7 and Oscar Dominguez 11-9. Appleton’s path to the finals from the final 16 started out against Earl Strickland. He got by him 11-6 and then downed Joseph Spence 11-3. In the semifinals, Appleton drew Billy Thorpe, who’d recently eliminated Robbie Capito 11-9 and Souquet 11-8. 

Shaw downed He 11-7, as Appleton was busy dispatching Thorpe 11-4. The all-UK battle was on.

In the early going of the finals, it appeared as though neither of them was going to win a rack off their own break. Appleton won the lag, broke dry and Shaw ran the table to take a 1-0 lead. Shaw broke, dropping two balls and scratching. Appleton set up a 1-9 combination to tie it up. They went back and forth like this, winning the other’s break to a single game lead for Shaw at 4-3.

Shaw broke the 8th rack, dropped one, and after giving the table back to Appleton briefly, won the rack, his first off his own break, to take the game’s first two-game lead. He made it a three-game lead (his first of two), before Appleton chalked up two in a row to make it 6-5. Shaw used a terrific jump shot at the 2-ball to maintain his run of rack #12. On Appleton’s break of rack #13, he dropped one ball, but almost immediately gave the table to Shaw, who missed hitting the 1-ball, completely. Shaw saw an obvious 1-9 combination awaiting Appleton’s arrival at the table, so, gentleman that he was, he picked up the cue ball and placed it in the position it needed to be for Appleton to make the combination. He did so without handling the cue ball Shaw had set for him.

Shaw dropped two balls on the break of rack #14 and used another terrific jump shot to jumpstart his third win off his own break and then, off Darren’s break, established his second three-rack lead at 9-6. Appleton fought right back, winning the next two and including his own terrific jump shot at the 1-ball that started his 8th game win.

Ahead by a single rack at 9-8, Shaw broke and ran the 18th (his fourth win off his own break) to reach the hill first. Darren broke the 19th rack, sinking one ball, but couldn’t see the 1-ball. He pushed (the one and only time that happened all match) and Shaw finished the game to claim the event title. 

Amateur events draw 35 shy of 2,000 entrants

Not including the two junior events for ages 17/Under and 12/under, the total entrants for which were not recorded, the nine amateur events of the 2022 SBE drew a total of 1,965 entrants (with some crossover between events). This brought the total number of participating pool players to 2,101. The two Pro events (73 Open and 63 Women) thus represented just 6% of the total number of players who competed this year. Trying to detail 9 events, especially the 996-entrant Open Amateur would be unwieldy, so we offer some information about and congratulations to the 94% percent who were the largest participating contingent of pool players at the 2022 SBE.

6-Ball Amateur Players Championship (200) – 1st Danny Mastermaker, 2nd Fred Goodman III, 3rd Jared Demalia/Daniel Dagotdot

Early Bird Super Seniors (58) – 1st Ike Runnels, 2nd Martin Ciccia, 3rd Al Muccilli/Flaco Rodriguez

Open Amateur (996) – 1st Chris Bruner, 2nd Pat McNally, 3rd Jomax Garcia/Derick Daya

Senior Amateur (364) – 1st Raymond McNamara, 2nd Chris Sutzer, 3rd Javier Perez/Efrain Morales

Super Seniors (149) – 1st Gene Rossi, 2nd Ed Matushonek, 3rd Frank Sorriento/Ace Aughty

Women’s Amateur (166) – 1st Tina Malm, 2nd Ashley Benoit, 3rd Nicole Nester/Bethany Tate

Junior (12 & Under) – 1st Jim Powell, 2nd D’Angelo (“Jaws”) Spain, 3rd Noah Majersky, 4th Evan Demelo

Junior (18 & Under) – 1st Brent Worth, 2nd Payne McBride, 3rd Landon Hollingsworth, 4th Yan Pena

ProAm BarBox (32) – 1st Joe Dupuis, 2nd Alan Rolan Rosado, 3rd Bart Czapla/Joey Tate

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Earl Strickland Claims His Second Maryland State Bar Table Championship

Rick Scarlato Jr., Earl Strickland, RJ Carmona, Tony Long and Shaun Wilkie (Photo by Erwin Dionisio)

Maryland State events are quickly becoming the premiere event and the Maryland State 9 Ball Bar Table Championship March 17th – 18th was no exception. With another full field event of 128 players, $1000 added by McDermott cues, first place paying over $5900, and a stacked field with every big name you can possibly imagine, it’s no wonder there’s a buzz about the On the Hill Productions tournament. The home room of these tournaments, Bank Shot Bar and Grill in Laurel, MD, was brimming with green-clad players gunning for the top spot this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, everyone hoping for a bit of luck. Earl Strickland was more than lucky, winning the “pot o’ gold” and claiming his second MD State victory. 
Strickland was the star of the show as usual, entertaining fans between matches with endless stories and replayed layouts. He was like a Shakespearean actor with a skull in his hands, retelling dramatic matches with famous opponents, waving and illustrating the drama to captivated listeners. On the table, Earl simply dominated, going undefeated with only one opponent getting to the hill before the finals (Adam Kielar). 
Of crowd favorites, Earl was of course the largest, then Jason Kirkwood, a bar table champion whose reputation preceded him. The luck of the Irish was not with Kirkwood though, as he was brought down unexpectedly by Leeroy Taylor (7-6), and only won one more on the B-side before his run was ended by Eddie Abraham (7-6), leaving Kirkwood in the top 32 but out of the money. Leeroy went on to finish 9-12, surely leaving some green with envy as he wasn’t an anticipated challenger.
The spectators kept hope with their next favorite in line to win, Shaun Wilkie, a professional player who consistently places in the top of any field he enters. True to this expectation, Wilkie immediately downed Danny Basavich, otherwise known as Kid Delicious (7-4). Wilkie could not get past Strickland (7-4) later in the bracket, however, and went to the B-side Sunday to knock down Reymart Lim (7-5), before falling to Tony Long (7-2), taking 4th in this strong event.
By Sunday, only monsters remained. The green shirts had dissipated, leaving more of a quiet intensity to the play rather than festivity. Reymart finished 5th/6th after the mentioned loss to Wilkie, but not before taking down Zippler (7-5), Brett Stottlemeyer (7-3), and Pat McNally (7-5) among others. Kenny Ruttmann (Russian Kenny) went on a tear on the B-side which was ended by Paul Cogle Sunday, and Tom Zippler ended Cogle’s run a few rounds later. An exhausting tournament for those making it to this point, but all were in the money and were hungry for their shot. 
Speaking of exhaustion, Tony Long may have had the longest (pun intended) journey to get to his 3rd place finish but on the way he ended more runs than a pulled hamstring. Long lost 2nd round to Joe Chester (7-4) and then won an incredible 9 matches in a row. Among those Long knocked out were Greg Sabins (7-1), Chris Wilburn (7-5), Adam Kielar (7-5), Joe Wright (7-4), and Steve Fleming (7-5), before RJ Carmona put a stop to Long in a hill-hill semifinal. 
On the way there, Carmona RJ cleared the top of the A-side brackets, with no opponent getting to the hill until his hotseat match with Strickland. He downed Steve Fleming (7-4), Leeroy Taylor (7-5), Joey Mastermaker (7-1), Paul Oh (7-3), Stosh Sheldon (7-2), and in the first round, Kenny Ruttmann (7-5). His first matchup with Strickland did not go smoothly though. Carmona lost a quick 7-2 in the hotseat match before recovering on the B-side. 
The Philippine native travelled from Virginia Beach with the Greg’s Not So Pro Shop crew to put up an impressive hill-hill set in the finals against the Hall of Fame legend, even though the true double-elimination format meant that RJ would’ve also had to win a second set to claim the title. The odds were against Carmona, facing a five-time US Open and two-time world champion, but it didn’t seem to phase him.  
The final match got off to a funky start, with RJ scratching on the break, leaving a guaranteed 2-9 combination shot, but ball in hand on a 1-8 combo up table. In an effort to control the 1ball, Earl failed to pocket the 8-ball, and conceded the game. RJ then tacked on another game after a fluke scratch by Earl. Another scratch on the break swung things towards Strickland, who took that game and the next, making 3 balls on his break. Score 2-2, RJ broke dry, leading to a safety game and ultimately a miscue. Earl took that game and the next, taking the lead 4-2. The scratches were a large factor in this matchup at this point.
RJ answered next rack with a much-needed break and run, clearing the air of mistakes. He then also took advantage of a dry break by Earl, running that out. 4-4, RJ broke, made the 1-ball and got hooked getting to the 2. After a messy back and forth, RJ stroked a beautiful 7-ball to get to the 9, score 5-4 RJ. Earl then broke and ran to even things up, 5-5, then closed the next one after RJ accidentally hooked himself mid-rack.
Earl, now on the hill, tried to play safe off the 2-ball, but scratched. RJ seized the opportunity and ran out. Now hill-hill, RJ broke, made the one, and bumped the 2 into a difficult position against the side of the pocket behind a ball. Knowing he couldn’t afford a mistake, RJ decided to play safe by just rolling the cueball against the 2, executing beautifully. Earl somehow not only made a good hit but made the 2. From there, he ran down to the 8, where RJ threw in the towel (literally), conceding the match. 
Earl Strickland now owns two Maryland State titles, with Klenti Kaci and Dennis Orcullo each owning one also. Strickland, a North Carolina native who currently resides in the Philadelphia area, is revered as one of the greatest pool players to have ever played. Congratulations go out to him and RJ Carmona for their thoroughly entertaining play. 
On the Hill Productions would like to thank Bank Shot Bar and Grill, McDermott Cues, Simonis Cloth, Navigator Tips, Phillippi Custom Cues, Aramith Pool Balls, CBR TAP Leagues, and all the players and spectators that made this event successful. A special acknowledgement to Lights Out Billiards Apparel in addition to sponsoring, but also for donating 10% of their proceeds from this event to a fundraiser run by Greg’s Not So Pro Shop, benefitting a young child in the Philippines that needs a heart operation. 
To watch the streamed matches from this event and more, find Ground Zero Scott (Adict2speed) on Youtube. Also follow On the Hill on Facebook, keeping your eye out for the next event at Champions Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, the first big table event for the crew. These events fill up fast, so jump at any chance if you can!