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Cutrone records first payout in five years, comes from the loss side to win KC Clayton Memorial

Elvis Rodriguez and Frank Cutrone

KC Clayton recorded his first cash payout and entered the AZBilliards database in 2016 when he finished in the tie for 9th place at a stop on Tony Robles’ Predator ProAm Tour. In his last known appearance at a pool table on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, KC Clayton was defeated by Tae Chang to finish in the tie for 7th place with Nick Torraca at a stop on the Predator Tri-State Pool Tour at Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. The $70 he won that weekend was enough to make 2022 his best recorded earnings year. He’d cashed in five events, all on the Predator Tri-State Tour, finishing as runner-up in two of them. On November 22, Clayton died of natural causes, cutting a developing pool career, and his life, way too short.

Last weekend, (Jan. 14-15), 64 players from the New York Tri-State area gathered at Clayton’s home room, Raxx Pool Room, Sports Bar & Billiards in West Hempstead, Long Island to pay homage to that life. They did so by competing in a $500-added pool tournament, which, by its very nature, supported the development of ongoing pool careers in the Tri-State area among many of the players who’d competed with and sometimes against Clayton during his brief six years with known cash winnings, and likely long before he recorded his first cash payout as a professionally competitive pool player in the area. Some of the event’s proceeds were donated to FDNY and Foster Love in his name. Players throughout the Tri-State area who may be hearing of his passing here are encouraged to contribute.

Clayton would likely have approved of the results of his first Memorial tournament, which saw a well-known Tri-State area veteran (Elvis Rodriguez) emerge from a field with a lot of them and fall to an up-and-coming competitor (Frank Cutrone). Cutrone came from the loss side and defeated the veteran twice in a double elimination final. The payout ($2,600) was the first recorded by Cutrone since he finished in the tie for 9th place at the 2011 Empire State Championships at Raxx Billiards.

KC Clayton

Though it was Cutrone who faced Rodriguez in the finals, it was another up-and-coming competitor Gordon McDaniels, who battled Rodriguez for the hot seat. McDaniels was, according to Stephen Motilal, who organized and directed the event, “the biggest underdog coming into day two.”

“With a 416 Fargo Rating,” he wrote in an e-mail, “McDaniels had notable wins against (my father) Ricky Motilal (595) and the WPBA’s top US competitor, Caroline Pao (637).”

Rodriguez arrived at his hot seat match against McDaniels with an aggregate score of 31-2, having given up one rack to each of his first two opponents (Linda Cheung and Troy Deocharran) and none at all to his next three; Monika Callaghan, her brother-in-law, Dave Callaghan and in a winners’ side semifinal, Cutrone. McDaniels, in the meantime, showed up to challenge him for the hot seat with a 21-23 aggregate score, the handicap protocols forcing his opponents to race to higher numbers. He faced only one opponent with a lower Fargo Rate (Suzette Santos) and along the way sent Motilal (595), Pao (637) and in a winners’ side semifinal, Esteban Morrell (545) to the loss side.

Even with Rodriguez racing to 9 and McDaniels to 3, the Fargo Rate system gave McDaniels just a little more than a one-in-four chance of grabbing the hot seat. As it turned out, McDaniels chalked up two of the three he needed, reaching the hill first, before Rodriguez chalked up his ninth to claim it.

On the loss side, Cutrone was dealing with his own set of much-higher-Fargo-rated opponents, commencing with Pao, who’d followed her loss to McDaniels with victories over Mac Jankov 8-1 and Raymond Lee 6-4. Morrell drew Paul Puma (600), who’d won five on the loss side to reach him, including the recent elimination of Dave Callaghan 7-3 and Troy Deocharran 6-1.

Cutrone defeated Pao 5-2 (Pao racing to 7) and in the quarterfinals, faced Puma, who’d battled to double hill against Morrel before eliminating him 7-4. With Puma racing to 6, Cutrone defeated him 5-4 in those quarterfinals and then, shut out McDaniels in the semifinals.

With a slightly elevated Fargo Rate going into the finals, Cutrone made the point moot. He took the opening set of the true double elimination final 5-2 and followed it with a 5-4 victory in the second set, claiming his first major event title, the first and not likely the last KC Clayton Memorial.

Stephen Motilal thanked the ownership and staff at Raxx for their hospitality, as well as all of the players who came out to support the event, honoring one of their own.

“May KC Clayton rest in peace for eternity,” he said.

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Ng goes undefeated, downs Velez in finals on Garden State Pool Tour

Richard Ng

Richard Ng returned to a winners’ circle on Sunday, April 10, when he went undefeated at a stop on the Garden State Pool Tour. The $350-added, ABCD 9-Ball event drew 29 entrants to Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ.  

Last seen in the winners’ circle as the undefeated winner of a 2015-2016 stop on the Tri-State Tour, before it became the Predator Tri-State Tour, Ng had to battle through his opening matches to get to the hot seat. He went double hill in his opener against Tri Chau, before winning two straight games that came within a game of double hill, versus Mikhail Kim and, in the winners’ side semifinal that punched his ticket to the hot seat match, Tae Chang. Facing him in that match was Sung Lee, who’d had his own struggles getting there, facing two straight double-hill matches, against Ron Litchenberger and Frank Kasseta, before downing Mike Strassberg, and in the other winners’ side semifinal, Kervin Santamaria. 

Ng and Lee fought back and forth to a 4-4 tie, before Lee surged ahead by two racks. Ng responded with four in a row to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Velez picked up Tae Chang, downing him in what was described by tour officials as a cliff-hanger win. Velez followed with victories over Satamaria in the quarterfinals and Lee in the semifinals, both 7-4.

Ng allowed Velez only a single rack and claimed the event title.

Tour representatives noted that while not among the top four finishers, Kathy Croom “battled her way to a stunning, 5th place finish.” Croom had failed to win a set in her previous five events and hadn’t won a game in her last outing. Congratulations were extended for her 3-2 showing and first cash winnings at this stop on the tour.

Tour representatives thanked Vincent Sauro and his Clifton Billiards staff, along with all of the event’s participating players. The next stop on the Garden State Pool Tour will be its 4th Annual NJ State Amateur Championships. The two-day event, scheduled for the weekend of April 30-May 1, will be hosted by Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

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Mierzwa and Zaveri split top prizes on Predator Tri-State Tour stop in Wayne, NJ

Jaydev Zaveri and Jan Mierzwa

According to our records, all of the money that Jan Mierzwa has won playing pool over the past nine years has been won on the Tri-State and Predator Tri-State Tour. Two years ago, he came as close as he’d ever come to the winners’ circle, finishing as runner-up to Frank Seiczka at a Tri-State stop in Clifton, NJ. He has now chalked up what would appear to be his first regional tour win anywhere on the Predator Tri-State Tour this past weekend (Sat. Feb. 5). His would-have-been opponent in the finals, Jaydev Zaveri, was looking for his first win on the tour in two weeks shy of two years (Jan. 18, 2020). But when the time came, dawn on Sunday was closer ahead of them than sunset on Saturday was behind them and they agreed mutually to a split of the top two prizes. The $500-added event drew 37 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

The two met first in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Mierzwa had started his day with a double hill win over Julian Tierney, after which he got by Dave Callaghan, Tae Chang and then, drew Zaveri in a winners’ side quarterfinal. He sent Zaveri off to the loss side 7-5 and advanced to meet an up-and-coming junior player, Aiden Wagner, in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Kerven Francois, in the meantime, squared off against Mac Jankov in the other one.

Mierzwa downed Wagner 7-4 and advanced to the hot seat match. Francois joined him after surviving a double hill battle against Jankov. In what would prove to be his last match of the night, Mierzwa claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Francois.

On the loss side, Jankov picked up Ty Classen, who’d recently eliminated KC Clayton 6-4 and Jay Chiu 6-2 to reach him. Wagner drew Zaveri, who, after his loss to Mierzwa, had defeated Mikhail Kim 7-4 and Nick Torraca 7-3.

A 7-4 win by Zaveri over Wagner and a shutout by Classen over Jankov sent Zaveri and Classen to the quarterfinals, where a double hill fight ensued. Zaveri prevailed to face his last obstacle to a rematch against Mierzwa; Francois in the semifinals.

The final match of the night came to within a game of double hill, but in the end, Zaveri earned his shot at Mierzwa, downing Francois 8-6 in those semifinals. The decision to opt out of the final match was made, the split was negotiated and the competitors, what was left of them, headed out into the chilly, Sunday morning air. As occupant of the hot seat at the time, Mierzwa was the official winner of the event.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Family Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Billiards, Kamui, Quick Stick, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Joe Romer Trophies, Phil Capelle Publications and Pool and Billiards. The next stop on the Predator Tri-State Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 26-27, will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

Chang and Parker win successive stops on the Garden State Pool Tour

Joe Mazzeo and Tae Chang

On Sunday, August 22, Sandcastle Billiards hosted a $200-added, A-D event on the Garden State Pool Tour that drew 27 entrants and was won by Tae Chang, who went undefeated. Just shy of a week later, the tour held another $200-added event; this one an A-B event (with C-D players allowed, but expected to compete from the beginning against A-B players). This second event was hosted by Breaker’s Billiards in Clifton, NJ, drew 23 entrants and saw Joann Mason Parker go undefeated to claim the event title.

At Sandcastle Billiards, Tae Chang was looking for his first major event victory and found it. A week earlier, he had been runner-up to James Conn at an event on the Predator Tri-State Tour. The two had opted out of a final match, leaving Conn, as the undefeated occupant of the hot seat, with the event title. In June, Chang had finished 5th at another stop on the Predator Tri-State. Those two events represented Chang’s only (recorded) cash winnings in the AZBilliards database. This time, Chang played through to the end and chalked up his first win.

In the event’s format, A-B and C-D players were competing in separate brackets and it was Chang (C-D) and Christian Orque (A-B) who worked their way through the field and met, for the first, and as it turned out, only time in the hot seat match. Chang claimed the hot seat 7-3 and waited on the return of one Joe Mazzeo. 

Mazzeo had lost to Christian Orque in one of the winners’ side semifinals and one the loss side, had chalked up two straight double hill wins – versus Jersey Mars and Rob Calton – to earn a rematch against Orque in the semifinals. That, too, went double hill, but it advanced Mazzeo to the finals. 

Chang, no doubt seeing his first major event victory on a nearby horizon, put pedal to the metal and jumped out to what proved to be an insurmountable lead of 5-0. Mazzeo was able to chalk up three racks right after that, but Chang came back with two of his own to claim the event title.

Julian Tierney, Joann Mason Parker and Levie Lampaan

Mason Parker returns to the tables

A week later, at Breaker’s Billiards, JoAnn Mason Parker, who, according to our records, hasn’t cashed in an event since she went undefeated at a season opening stop on Florida’s Flamingo Tour, 10 years ago (her third of three straight on that tour, dating back to the previous year). Her history dates back to what remains as her best earnings year at the tables (1999), when she cashed in an ESPN Ultimate Challenge event, behind, in order, Allison Fisher, Gerda Hofstatter, Helena Thornfeldt, Karen Corr and Jeanette Lee. In October of that year, she finished 4th in a Northeast Women’s Tour event won by Corr. 

Parker showed no signs of a 10-year absence away from the tables, unless you count the two double hill matches, versus newcomer Ahkil Ahjula and Julie Madlener, that opened her undefeated campaign. She went on to defeat Christian Teaza 7-5 to face Kyle Manuel in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Julian Tierney, in the meantime, squared off against Tony Ignomirello in the other winners’ side semifinal.

A 7-2 win by Parker over Manuel and a 7-4 win by Tierney over Ignomirello put them against each other in the hot seat match. It proved to be Parker’s third double hill battle, but she broke and ran rack #13 to claim the hot seat.

Tierney slid over to face Levie Lampaan in the semifinals. Lampaan had lost his second match on the winners’ side and went on to win six loss-side matches, including the quarterfinal against Raymund Paragas 7-3. Tierney stopped Lampaan’s run in the semifinals 7-4.

It looked as though the finals might go the ‘double hill’ distance, as Parker and Tierney fought back and forth to an opening 3-3 tie. Parker, though, chalked up the next three in a row to reach the hill. Tierney needed to reach 7, just to extend the race to 9 games. He won the next rack to make it 6-4, but Parker closed it out to claim the event title.

The Garden State Pool Tour thanked the ownership at both Sandcastle Billiards (Ed Liddawi) and Breaker’s Billiards (Lenny) and their staffs for their hospitality. The next stop on the Garden State Pool Tour, scheduled for Sept. 9 & 10, will be the 5th Annual Fall Brawl at Player’s Billiards in Eatontown, NJ. 

Conn goes undefeated, splits top two prizes with Chang on Predator Tri-State Tour

Tae Chang and James Conn

In their first (Conn) and second (Chang) appearances on the 2021-2022 Predator Tri-State Tour, James Conn and Tae Chang played a single match, battling for the hot seat. Won by Conn, the result was left to stand as the defining match in the event. They opted out of a final match and split the top two prizes on the $500-added, A-D 10-ball event that drew 32 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ.

The two advanced through the field to their respective, winners’ side semifinal matches. Conn faced Brandonne Alli, as Chang squared off against Juan Melendez. Conn moved into the hot seat match on the heels of his 9-5 victory over Alli. Chang joined him after eking out a double hill win over Melendez. 

The A+ (Conn) meets B (Chang) hot seat battle, was, as it turned out, for all the proverbial ‘marbles.’ Conn won it 8-5 in what proved to be ‘the’ and his last match.

On the loss side, Alli drew a rematch versus Ron Oulette, whom he’d defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal match. Oulette’s two-match, loss-side trip to the rematch had eliminated Erwin Jao 8-4 and Levie Lampaan 8-2. Melendez picked up Rick Rodriguez, who was working on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently included victories over Arthur Trzeciak 7-5 and a double hill win over Roberto Rodriguez (no relation).

Oulette successfully wreaked his vengeance versus Alli 6-4, as Melendez sent Rodriguez home 6-3. Oulette advanced one more step and defeated Melendez 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

Oulette’s loss-side streak was stopped at four. Chang won the semifinal 7-5. He and Conn opted out of the final and split the top two prizes.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Shooter’s Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Gaming, Kamui Tips, Phil Cappelle, Blue Book Publishing, Human Kinetics, Pool & Billiards, Romer Trophies and Professor Q Ball. The next stop on the Predator Tri-State Tour, scheduled for this weekend (Aug. 28-29), will be hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.