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Rodney racks ’em up in Reno

A whopping two hundred, seventy-two players converged on ‘The biggest, little city in the world’ for the December 4-9, 2001 Reno Open, held at The Sands Casino/Hotel! This particular event was the 34th semi-annual open pool tournament for the casino. It has developed into quite the West Coast pool event. A pool enthusiast can find it all at the Reno Open: celebrities of the pool world casual and approachable, awesome high-stakes money matches when the tables are open for play, and terrific nightlife activities.
For years now Jimmy Gigante, former owner of Jimmy G’s poolroom, has thrown a party at each Open to honor the players and the event. Apparently, Jimmy is handing over the reigns to Dave Whitesell, who will now continue taking care of this social activity at each event. I am sure everyone will appreciate that!
From the number one player in the world, Cory Deuel to the elder statesman of West Coast pool, Ted Ito, this was a field to be excited about! These players came from far and wide; a hand-full were previous Sands champions; Varner, Archer, Davenport, and Horsfall; just to name a few.
With a storm blowing in the Sierras and the duels being fought on the green felt, the event held a captive audience. With the top prize of $12,000 in the offering, this would be a great Christmas gift indeed. Also in the mix was the $1000 divided up between the top three women finishers. The tournament staff definitely had their work cut out for them with day and night matches going simultaneously.
As I’m writing this, I recall how long, long ago, there was a referee at each table: to brush it before each match, call shots if necessary, keep Accu-Stats and just be there to witness, up close and personal, all the energy and talent that was bottled up in each and every player. This incorporated a sense of professionalism into the event, especially for those spectators that had not before seen a 9-Ball tournament. This helped to eliminate that stale, age-old reputation of pool being played in some dark, dingy, smoke-filled room with hoodlums lurking in the shadows.
Back to the tournament at hand – After a long hiatus from competitive pool, Rodney Morris was back in the competitive arena with a vengeance. He seemed to have a lot of time to make up for and he was definitely making sure people remembered who he was.
Late Saturday night, in the match against Shaun Putnam, he seemed to be on his last leg, with his opponent ahead 6-2, but Rodney has never been a quitter and he wasn’t about to start at this late point in the game. He tied the score at 7; then the match goes to the hill, where there is just a few balls between one player ending his quest, the other moving on to newer pastures and another day of competition. It was Morris who played a good defensive shot, earning himself a ball-in-hand and the match.
On the other side of the board, Nick Varner and Johnny Archer were battling it out, as they’ve done many times before. Nick stepped up with a commanding, one-sided 8-0 lead, taking the air out of Johnny’s sails. Although, Johnny made a valiant effort to come back, it was too little, too late as Nick took the match 9-4.
I can tell you from experience that many times, the matches contested on the Saturday night before the finals are more exciting than even the finals can be. In one such case, it was Rodney Morris and young Cory Deuel battling it out for their opportunity to move forward. With Rodney leading the match 7-2, Cory takes advantage of an opportunity and turns it into a four game winning streak, bringing the score to 7-6. Rodney makes a truly tough out on the next rack to get to the hill first. With the score 8-7, Rodney’s favor, Cory makes a bone-chilling break sending at least five balls to pockets, three rattled the jaws, none drop. With a two-nine combination between him and the match, Rodney ends the suspense and the match 9-7. As I said before, there are just too many terrific matches to recall, but that gives you a highlight.
Make your plans now for June 2002, where there’s sure to be more excitement and less snow for all to see!