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The Scorpion wins tight, entertaining race to 30 over The Pearl in benefit for Tommy Kennedy

Photo courtesy Ron Park

Two of pool’s certified legends – Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer and Earl “The Pearl” Strickland – squared off against each other in a 9-ball race to 30 at Smokin’ Cues in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, September 13. Archer and Strickland played 58 of the possible 59 games that could be played in a race to 30. In the end, literally, Archer won it, 30-28, in an entertaining, mostly drama-free four-plus hours of terrific pool that towards that end was drawing about 2,000 viewers to UpState Al’s Facebook page to watch the live stream.

“It was a well-played match,” said Archer a few hours later. “It had everything in it. We each had our momentum swings, went through spells where things didn’t go so well. There were some tactical games and some great shots.”

“As a fan of pool,” he added, “I’d watch that match on video.”

Both players were mic-ed for the game, and while Archer was typically quiet and Strickland was typically talkative, the resultant ‘sound track’ was never distracting. Unlike other times, when even without a microphone, Strickland can get a little vocally boisterous, he stayed within himself and restricted commentary to the occasional gripe about his inability to get any luck or help from the actual table. Most importantly, Strickland didn’t distract himself by elevating any given moment into unnecessary drama that often, in his storied past, had led to contentious battles and distracted play that over the years had cost him a game and even a match or two. 

Though he couldn’t pinpoint when he’d last played against Strickland, Archer guessed that it might have been at a Turning Stone event four or five years ago. He also couldn’t remember exactly when or where he’d first played against Strickland, but figured that he (Archer) was a teenager at the time. He recalled, over the years, being on the wrong side of a few verbal incidents with Strickland.

“I used to take it personally,” he said. “I don’t take it personally anymore.”

The two-day event began on Saturday with a narrated, trick shot exhibition by Strickland, in which he dedicated a number of shots that he set up to historic players like Steve Mizerak and Willie Mosconi. It was Strickland at his best. Joking with the small crowd of about 30-40 people seated in chairs that ringed the two tables designated for Strickland’s ‘show’ and then, he and Archer played in one-on-one, best-of-three matches against spectators, who donated money for the cause that led to the organization of the whole event by Ronny Park, a lifelong friend of Tommy Kennedy. Many commentors in the stream’s chat room were unaware of the benefit aspect of the two-day event, asking repeatedly how much money was at stake in Sunday’s race to 30 challenge match.

Tommy Kennedy and Ron Park

The basic story was that on March 14, after participating in a Tony Crosby pool tournament in Tallahassee, FL, Kennedy slipped and fell in a hotel bathroom and hit his head. He was hospitalized and learned that he’d suffered a concussion that led to, among other things, an inability to eat. As neurologists attempted to learn the extent of his injuries, which proved to be severe and potentially, of long-lasting duration, Kennedy began losing weight. He was down to 87 pounds before there was a reversal and little by little, he began to gain that weight back. It took nearly four months. He still figures it’ll be a while before he can get back to any pool tables outside of his home.

“At least a month or two,” he said from his home on Sunday. “When I bend over, I still feel a little off-balance.”

“The impact was to my head, my neck and my upper spine,” he explained, noting further that a difference of couple of inches could have killed him on the spot. 

All the while, the medical bills for this unexpected and traumatic injury were putting a severe dent in the Kennedy household’s finances. It was clear, almost from the start, that he was going to need some help to weather this personal storm. Enter Roger Long, another long-time friend of the family, who set up a GoFundMe page (on behalf of Tommy’s wife, Denise Kennedy. To date, that page has received just over $28,000 in donations, with a goal of $75,000.

Ronny Park joined the cause of helping Tommy out and enlisted Archer and Strickland’s help in the organization of this past weekend’s event. According to Park, between on-line donations (Loree Jon Hasson donated a cue, which was the prize in an on-line raffle at $20 per ticket) and in-person donations at Smokin’ Cues, the event raised almost $5,000. 

“I am so grateful for all of the support,” said Kennedy, his voice echoing the sentiment. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Mid-way, a slow start turns into a tight race

In the early going, the race to 30 did not look as though it was going to be memorable. The two of them had to get to the 6th rack, before either of them sunk a ball on the break. Oddly enough, ahead by one at 3-2, Strickland was the first to make a ball on the break, but when he was forced to ‘push,’ Archer made a tricky combo and ran out to tie the score.

Archer returned the favor by breaking dry on the 7th rack, allowing Strickland to run and go ahead by one. The first signs of the ‘talkative’ Pearl showed up in the eighth rack when he sunk three balls on the break and did not have a shot on the 1-ball. He complained about bad luck, loudly. After a few safeties, Strickland was awarded ball in hand and sunk the remaining six balls that he probably would have dropped if he’d been able to see the 1-ball after the break. It was 5-3.

A series of dry breaks and a few unforced errors later, Strickland was ahead by four at 7-3. Archer checked in with one and Strickland ran two more to make it 9-4. Back and forth they went, with Strickland having the longer runs, until he got out in front by six at 13-7; as it turned out, his largest lead of the match. And then, as they say, the tide turned.

The plan was for a break when either player reached 15. At that 13-7 mark, Archer went on a run that saw him win eight of the next nine racks and take his first lead – 15-14 – at the break.

Upon their return, Strickland let everyone know that the match was far from over because Archer had taken a lead. Strickland won the 30th rack to tie things up at 15. They went back and forth to ties, including, but no limited to 20-20, 25-25 and 28-28; 56 down, potentially only three to go in a race to 2.

There some ‘nerves’ involved at this point. In rack 57, Strickland sunk a ball on the break but scratched. Archer ran to the 7-ball, but attempted a long rail-runner that rattled in its intended corner pocket. Strickland dropped it for him but got ‘a little close to his work’ positioning for the 8-ball. He missed and Archer finished to be on the hill.

At this point, with nearly 2,000 people watching on the stream, Archer sunk a ball on the break, but didn’t have a clean look at the 1-ball. He played safe, Strickland safed back, and Archer played safe a second time. Strickland’s second shot missed the 1-ball completely and before Archer could pick up the cue ball, Strickland used his stick to sweep the balls across the table and conceded.

“I started out missing a couple of shots and my speed was off in the first few games,” said Archer, “but overall, it felt pretty good.”

“I played well to come back on him in that first half,” he added.

Ronny Park and Upstate Al thanked the ownership and staff at Smokin’ Cues for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Lite Systems, JB Cases, Aramith Balls, Kamui Tips, HI Impact Tips, Simonis Cloth, Billiard Engineering, Thomas Grimaldi Pool Tables, and Byrd, Byrd, McMahon and Denton, Attorneys at Law. Upstate Al gave a shout out to his commentators for the event – Joe Torres, Chris Miller and Ronnie Park and thanked everyone who watched the stream and contributed to the cause of helping Tommy Kennedy.

“That’s what this (was) all about,” said Al, who assured that people watching the stream were made aware of why the match was being held by putting the varied means of contributing to the cause on-screen between every game of the 58-game match.

Kennedy has a lot of friends in and out of the pool community and they continue to come to his assistance when now, he needs it most. 

Strickland & Archer Entertain, Raise Money for TK

Earl Strickland and Johnny Archer entertained the crowd at Smokin Cue Billiards in Charlotte, NC for over five hours with trick shot exhibitions and challenge matches with the fans in attendance. Fans online were also able to watch the action on the free stream provided by Upstate Al on his Facebook page, where the stream has already clocked in with nearly 20,000 views. 

The two pros will face off at noon on Sunday in a race to 30 9-ball match, that will also be streamed by Upstate All for free. 

Both days of action are part of the Old School Champions Showdown fundraiser for Tommy Kennedy, put together by his lifelong friend Ron Park. 

Fans who would like to help support the event can get involved with raffles or donations on Sunday by tuning into the online stream at

Pagulayan downs Bergman twice to go undefeated at Don Coates Memorial One Pocket event

Alex Pagulayan

It took five hours to play the match that decided the $2,000-added Don Coates Memorial One Pocket event, held from Wednesday, April 6 to Friday, April 8. Alex Pagulayan defeated Justin Bergman twice, including that final match, to finish undefeated in the event that drew 41 entrants to Brass Tap & Billiards in Raleigh, NC.
The One Pocket event, combined with an $8,000-added, Mosconi Cup-qualifying, Open 9-Ball event that began on Friday, drew the top names in the business, including Pagulayan and Bergman. Also on-hand as the field narrowed to its final 12 were Shane Van Boening, Corey Deuel, Josh Roberts, and Brandon Shuff.
Pagulayan and Bergman advanced to their first meeting following their appearance in the two winners' side semifinals; Pagulayan versus Deuel and Bergman against Brian White. Racing to 3, both of the semifinals went double hill, with Pagulayan and Bergman advancing to the hot seat match. A third double hill match (of eight among the final 14 matches) ensued with Bergman moving to the loss side for the semifinals.
On the loss side, Deuel and White ran into Tony Chohan and Jason Brown, respectively. Chohan had ended Brandon Shuff and Ron Park's day, both 3-1, to reach Deuel. Brown had shut out Jeff Abernathy, and survived a double hill match against Josh Roberts (who'd just eliminated Van Boening, double hill) to draw White. Advancement to the quarterfinals entailed two more double hill matches, which advanced White and Deuel.
White took the quarterfinal match 3-1 over Deuel, but was then himself eliminated 3-1, by Bergman in the semifinals. In the five-hour, race-to-5 final, Bergman took a commanding lead, and was on the hill at 4-1. The Lion came back to win four straight and claim the first Don Coates Memorial One Pocket title.
The event's tour director, David Brown, thanked Brass Tap and Billiards' owner, Tony Coates (son to Don Coates, who passed away last fall and in whose name the event is being held. Brown also acknowledged sponsor Beasley Custom Cues, as well as Ray Hansen's PoolActionTV crew for their live-streaming efforts, and Joe Blackburn, for his on-site cue repair work.  
The author gratefully acknowledges the support of and information exchange with Herman Parker, Tour Director of the Q City 9-Ball Tour, without whom this report would not have been possible. Parker will participate in the 9-Ball event. His wife, Angela, who went two-and-through, was the only woman to enter the One Pocket event. She had the misfortune of drawing Bergman in her opening round, and after moving to the loss side, was defeated in her next match by Randy Hatten

Stevie Moore goes undefeated on Tiger SE Open 9-Ball stop

Stevie Moore

Two Steves squared off in the hot seat match during the March 8 stop on the Tiger Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour. The two Steves might have met again in the finals, had not one of the Steves been traveling with the guy he faced in the semifinals and forfeited the win to his traveling companion, Dan Heidrich. The winning Steve – Stevie Moore – defeated Heidrich to claim the event title, while the other Steve – Steve Hughes – went home thrilled at having battled Stevie Moore to double hill in the hot seat match, in what was reportedly his first professional tournament of any kind. The $500-added event drew 23 entrants to Badfish Billiards in Matthews, NC.
The two Steves met in their hot seat contest, once Moore had sent Ed Yero to the losers' bracket 7-3 and Hughes had sent Ron Park over 7-4. Hughes and Moore battled to the aforementioned double hill before Moore finally prevailed and waited on what turned out to be Heidrich.
On the loss side, Heidrich, after defeating Jeremy Faassan and Robin Hill, both 7-2, met up with Park. Ed Yero drew Matt Reed, who'd gotten by Bill Horn 7-4 and survived a double hill match against Mark Patterson. Heidrich and Yero moved on to the quarterfinals, once Heidrich had eliminated Park, double hill and Yero downed Reed 7-3. Heidrich took the quarterfinal match 7-4 over Yero, and then became the recipient of Hughes' forfeit in the semifinals. 
Moore completed his undefeated run with a 9-2 win over Heidrich in the finals. This Tiger Southeast Open 9-Ball title was the first 2014 win for Moore, who was last seen in the tour's winners' circle last December.
Tour Director Tommy Kennedy thanked room owner Morey Little and his staff, as well as signature sponsor Tiger Products,  J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Simonis Cloth, Mueller Recreational Products, Chris Nitti Cues and Andy Gilbert Cues.

Brady knocks Duggan out of hot seat to win GSBT stop

Shannon Daulton, Norris Brady, Bill Duggan, & Steve Compton (owner of Lucky Shot Billiards)

Norris Brady won six on the loss side to meet and defeat hot seat occupant, Bill Duggan, at the July 20-21 weekend stop on the Great Southern Billiard Tour. The $1,000-added amateur event drew 30 entrants to Lucky Shot Billiards in Albemarle, NC.

With Brady at work on the loss side, Duggan advanced among the winners' side final four and met up with Jeff Abernathy, who'd sent Brady west in the second round. Kris Chavez, in the meantime, met up with Daniel Adams in the other winners' side semifinal. Duggan, a B player, downed double-A Abernathy 7-8, as C player Chavez sent B player Adams west 6-6. Duggan survived a double hill hot seat battle, sending Chavez over for a showdown against Brady. 
On the loss side, Brady, with a single notch on his loss-side belt already, defeated Daniel Jones and Ron Park, both 9-6, to earn a re-match against Abernathy. Adams picked up Collin Hall, who'd gotten by Greg Bower 6-2 and Tom Baucom 6-1.  Adams eliminated Hall 7-4, as Brady was wreaking vengeance on Abernathy, handing him his second straight loss in a double hill match. 
Brady took the quarterfinal matchup against Adams 9-2, and then, in the semifinals, completely shut out Chavez. Brady completed his loss-side run with a 9-5 win over Duggan in the finals. 
Shannon and Marge Daulton thanked the ownership and staff at Lucky Shot Billiards, as well as sponsors Nick Varner Cues & Cases, Delta 13 Racks, Andy Gilbert Custom Cues, Tiger Products, and Lomax Custom Cues. The GSBT will be back at Shore Thing Billiards in Myrtle Beach, SC, on the weekend of August 3-4, for a $1,000-added amateur 8-ball tournament. 

White double dips Park to take GSBT stop

They played three times; once among the winners’ side final four and twice in the finals. Brian White moved to the loss side at the end of his first match versus Ron Park, but came back to win both sets of a true double elimination final and take home top honors. The $1,500-added event drew 52 entrants to Lucky Shot Billiards in Albemarle, NC.

Both of the winners’ side semifinals were double hill affairs. Park got into the hot seat match with a double hill win over White, while James Blackburn defeated Nolan Leonard. Blackburn was playing in his second straight hot seat match, having gotten into the hot seat the week before in Lynchburg, VA (Justin Hall double dipped him in the finals to win it). This week, Park sent Blackburn to the semifinals 9-4, and waited for what turned out to be the return of White.  

White moved over and picked up Kevin Boggs, who’d defeated Jeff Abernathy 9-7 and Walt Newsome 9-4. Leonard drew Marvin Reed, who’d gotten by Mike McPherson 7-5 and Kris Chavez, double hill. It was White and Leonard advancing to the quarterfinals; White with a 10-4 win over Boggs, and Leonard 7-3 over Reed. 

White defeated Leonard 10-4 and turned to face Blackburn, who was looking to get into his second straight GSBT final. It was not to be. White dominated the semifinal match 10-2 for a second chance versus Park. 

In the first of the potential two sets, the two battled to an early 3-3 tie before White edged out in front with two in a row. They battle back and forth and White was able to extend that lead by one game and finish the opening set ahead by three at 10-7.  White got out in front early in the second set, and extended his lead to four games by the 7-3 mark. They traded racks to 8-4, when White used a terrific jump shot to get out in the following rack and reach the hill first. Park came right back, using a 2-9 combo to pull back to within four again, but White closed it out, completing the double dip and securing the event title. 

Tour directors Shannon and Marge Daulton thanked Lucky Shot Billiard’s owner Steve Compton and his staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Andy Gilbert Custom Cues, Nick Varner Cues and Cases, Mike Davis Exterminating, Tiger Products and Delta-13 racks.

Ussery goes undefeated to win GSBT Tour Championship/Carolina Open 9-Ball Title

B.J. Ussery has finished either first or second in 12 of the 17 tournaments in which he’s been officially entered since January 30, 2011. The streak began on that day with a victory on the Jacoby Custom Cues Carolina Tour and continued this past weekend (November 9-14) with his second straight undefeated GSBT victory; this time in the 9-ball event of the Great Southern Billiard Tour Championships/Carolina Open. Ussery had to get by Carey Dunn twice – once, in the battle for the hot seat, and again, in the finals – to complete his undefeated trip through 68 entrants, who’d shown up at Fast Eddie’s in Goldsboro for the $5,000-guaranteed total purse event.

Until he ran into Larry Nevel among the winners’ side final four, Ussery (who had to reach 11 games) had given up only seven racks to four opponents; five of those to Sam Monday in the match that set up the match versus Nevel. Dunn, in the meantime, had sandwiched a double hill battle against Josh Newman, around a series of 9-3 victories that put him among the final four winners, facing Montez Lloyd. Dunn got into the hot seat match with a 9-5 win over Lloyd, as Ussery survived a double hill battle against Nevel. Ussery got into the hot seat with an 11-4 victory over Dunn and waited for him to get back.

Nevel moved over and picked up Lucas Hawkins, who’d defeated five opponents on the loss-side to reach him, including a victory over tour director Shannon Daulton, a 9-3 win over Joe Pierce and a double hill win over Glenn Russell. Lloyd faced Josh Newman, who’d survived a double hill battle versus Keith Bennett and gone on to defeat George Spires, Ron Park, and Alex Olinger

Hawkins, with a handicap advantage, dropped Nevel into the tie for fifth place 9-11, and moved on to the quarterfinals against Newman, who defeated Lloyd 11-7. Still working with a handicap advantage, Hawkins eliminated Newman 9-9 and turned to face Dunn in the semifinals. Dunn prevailed 9-8 for his second chance against Ussery.

Ussery needed only a single set of the true double elimination final to complete his undefeated bid. It was past dawn on Monday morning, November 14, when Ussery sunk the final ball to complete an 11-5 victory that secured the GSBT Tour Championship 9-Ball event.

A $50 prize was awarded to Terri Faulk for being the highest female finisher in the event. Tour directors Shannon and Marge Daulton thanked the owners and staff of Fast Eddie’s in Goldsboro, NC for their cooperation and hospitality in hosting the Tour Championships/Carolina Open, as well as sponsors Andy Gilbert Custom Cues, Nick Varner Cues and Cases, Mike Davis Exterminating, Tiger Products and Delta-13 racks. In addition to the guaranteed prize money, the event raised $1,200 for charity. 

Top Amateurs Crowned U.S. Amateur Champions

|8973|The top amateur poolplayers in the country came to the Gulf Coast of Florida in early November to compete for the coveted U.S. Amateur Championship title.

After three days of intense competition, Suzanne Smith of Edgewood, Wash., and Ernesto Bayaua of Houston, Texas, emerged as the 2011 U.S. Amateur Champions.   This year’s event took place Nov. 4-6 and was held in two locations: Strokers in Palm Harbor, Fla., and the Crooked Cue in Clearwater.  The Men’s Division began Fri., Nov. 4 at Strokers, while the Women’s Division got underway the following day at the Crooked Cue.

In the finals the of the Women’s Division, Smith defeated local favorite Jamie Toennies of Largo, Fla. The match opened in the 8-Ball set, with Toennies jumping out to a 2-0 lead.  Smith came storming back, closing out the 8-Ball set with four straight wins, and opening the 9-Ball set with two more.  Finding herself down 6-2, Toennies didn’t give in.  She took the next three games to pull within a game of Smith.  Finally, Smith managed to close out the match by taking the next three games for a 9-5 victory.

Smith moves on to compete in the WPBA U.S. Open next year.  Toennies finished as the Runner-up in her first U.S. Amateur Championship competition.  Finishing in 3rd Place was Lenore McCarthy of Bolingbrook, Ill.

In the Men’s Division, Bayaua bested former champion Ron Park of Charlotte, N.C.  The match would prove to be one of the greatest comebacks in U.S. Amateur Championship history.  The match opened in the 8-Ball set, with Park opening up a commanding 6-1 lead.  Just when it looked like the former champ was ready to put the match away, Bayaua reeled off six straight wins for a 7-6 lead as the match shifted to the 9-Ball set.  Park took the first two games to regain the lead, before Bayaua tied it 8-8.  Park momentarily regained the lead with a win in the 17th frame, but Bayaua would not be denied, winning the next three games and the match 11-9.

Bayaua will advance to the U.S. Open Championship next year.  Park’s Runner-up finish was his highest at a U.S. Amateur Championship since he won the event in 1994.

|8974|Finishing in 3rd Place was David Uwate of Miami, Fla.  In 4th Place was Will Haagensen of Mobile, Ala.  Criegh Dumo of Bonney Lake, Wash., and Pete Ziemak of Windsor Locks, Conn., tied for 5th Place.

The 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship was produced and conducted by the American Poolplayers Association (APA).  Preliminary qualifying rounds were held throughout the country in mid-Sept., with nearly 2,200 players attempting to qualify.

Smith and Bayaua competed with the nation’s most highly skilled amateur poolplayers who were all vying for the U.S. Amateur Championship title.  The Men’s Division consisted of 128 players, while the Women’s Division featured 32 players.  As Champions, Smith and Bayaua will return next year to defend their coveted titles.
The U.S. Amateur Championship is a double elimination tournament that offers the nation’s top amateur players the opportunity to showcase their skills through a combination of 8-Ball and 9-Ball matches, in the only APA event that does not use The Equalizer® handicap system.
The APA, based in Lake Saint Louis, Mo., sanctions the world’s largest amateur pool league, known as the APA Pool League throughout the United States, and as the Canadian Pool League in Canada.  Nearly 270,000 members compete in weekly 8-Ball and 9‑Ball league play.  The APA is generally recognized as the Governing Body of Amateur Pool, having established the official rules, championships, formats and handicap systems for the sport of amateur billiards.
The APA produces three major tournaments each year—the APA National Team Championships, the APA National Singles Championships and the U.S. Amateur Championship—that, together, pay out nearly $1.5 Million in cash and prizes annually!  In 2010, the APA National Team Championships were recognized by Guinness World Records as the “world’s largest pool tournament.”
The APA and its championships are sponsored by Aramith, Action Cues and Pool Dawg.
For complete coverage of the U.S. Amateur Championship visit

Hensley dodges Park bullet to win GSBT

Brent Hensley went undefeated on the Great Southern Billiard Tour’s stop on the weekend of October 29-30, but not before Ron Park returned from an earlier defeat at his hands and challenged him in the finals. The $1,500-added amateur 9-ball event drew 50 entrants to Janet Atwell‘s Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN.

Hensley sent Park west from among the winners’ side final eight, 7-4, and turned to face Russ Edwards among the final four. Joining them were Buffy Jolie and Wes Covington. Jolie shut Covington out, while Hensley advanced to the hot seat match with a 7-6 victory over Edwards. Hensley gained the hot seat with a 7-2 win over Jolie and awaited Park’s return.

Following loss-side victories over Brian Capps 9-9 (Capps needing 11), and Robert Green 9-6, Park drew Covington. Edwards picked up Brian White, who’d gotten by both Jonathan Frassrand and Walt Newsome 11-3. Edwards dominated his match against White 9-1, while Park advanced to join him in the quarterfinals with a 9-4 victory over Covington. 

With three down and two to go for a re-match against Hensley, Park dropped Edwards 9-6, and then defeated Jolie 9-3 in the semifinals. Hensley, though, repeated his earlier performance against Park, allowing him only one more rack in the opening, and as it turned out, only set of the true double elimination final. 

Brandon Kidwell, Jonathan Frassrand, Charlie Taylor and Brian Capps received free entry ($60 value) for their finish in the tie for ninth place. Tour directors Shannon and Marge Daulton thanked Janet Atwell and her Borderline Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Andy Gilbert Custom Cues, Nick Varner Cues and Cases, Mike Davis Exterminating, Tiger Products and Delta-13 racks.

Townsend wins SE Open Tour Championship

Seventy one players took part in the South East Open Tour Championship at Snookers Billiards in Tallahassee, Florida over the weekend where Scotty Townsend scored a 11-9 win over Tour Director Tommy Kennedy in the finals to collect $1350 in prize money. Townsend had sent Kennedy to the one loss side earlier in the day and proved to be too much for Kennedy again in the finals. Kennedy settled for $1000 in second place money.
David Grossman took third place and Ron Park took fourth.