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Gomez Eyes Big Foot Challenge Title

Roberto Gomez

On his way to winning the International One Pocket Invitational on Saturday, Roberto Gomez defeated Omar Al Shaheen in the quarter finals under the lights of the feature table. Less than 48 hours later, it was the same two players facing off on the Diamond Big Foot 10′ table for a berth in the final four at the International Big Foot 10-Ball Challenge as part of the International 9-Ball Championship at the Sheraton Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Virgina. 

Shaheen looked as if he would avenge that one pocket loss, as he was running an open rack at hill-hill. Unfortunately, a poor leave on the 8-ball was the end of the line for Al Shaheen as he was forced to kick at the ball and left a very routine three ball out for Gomez. Gomez will face the winner of today’s match between Alex Pagulayan and Mika Immonen. 

German sensation Joshua Filler continued the outstanding play that the fans have seen all week as he defeated Denis Grabe and will next face the winner of today’s match between Aloysius Yapp and Shane Van Boening. 

The Big Foot Challenge will wrap up with the final match tonight at 9pm eastern time and can be watched as part of the online PPV for this event at https://www.onsitepool.com/accustats/. For the first time in the history of this event, fans can watch action on any table as part of the PPV coverage. 

Action continued on Monday in the main event with more than a few surprising results. Former US Open Champion Tommy Kennedy won a hill-hill match against Wiktor Zielinski and will next face another surprise of this event, Shane Wolford, in his next match. Wolford was the winner of a tough 10-8 match against Thorsten Hohmann on Monday. 

In other 9-Ball matches, Darren Appleton dropped a 10-7 match to Mario He, Fedor Gorst defeated Kelly Fisher 10-5, Jonathan Pinegar beat Alex Pagulayan 10-3 and Dee Adkins sent Tyler Styer to the one loss side 10-6. 

Follow all of the action with Live Scoring and online brackets from both the 9-Ball and 10-Ball events. AzBilliards is working along with digitalpool.com to help put those brackets online.

Ronny Park Benefit Memorial – Lori Oliver vs Tommy Kennedy

 

Ronny Park Benefit Memorial – Tommy Kennedy vs Zach Martin

 

Meglino comes from the loss side to win Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour 10-Ball event

Bobby Emmons, Tommy Kennedy and Anthony Meglino

Dimitrov goes undefeated in Amateur (600 and under) 9-Ball tourney

All things being equal, it seems likely that Anthony Meglino did not regret the absence of Jeffrey De Luna at the most recent stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour this past weekend (April 24-25). Meglino was on-hand for the Open/Pro portion of that tour stop (#4), looking for his first win on the 2021 tour. He’d been frustrated competing in stops #2 & #3 by De Luna, who defeated him in the finals, both times. De Luna was busy this past weekend, finishing in the tie for 7th place at the 5th Annual Barry Behrman Memorial Tournament in Virginia Beach. In the vacuum he left behind, Meglino stepped in, and though he’d lose the battle for the hot seat to Arizona’s Bobby Emmons, he’d return from the semifinals to down him in a double hill fight and claim the title. The $450-added event drew 64 entrants to Rack’s Billiards & Sports Bar in Sanford, FL.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza apparently decided that they didn’t have enough to do on the weekend, so they set up a $410-added Amateur event for Fargo rates 600 and below to their normal, single-tournament agenda. The Amateur event drew 64 entrants, as well. Kristian Dimitrov went undefeated in the Amateur event, downing Ronald Machado twice to claim the title. 

Meglino’s path to the hot seat went through a bye, Sean Knowles, Randall McLuckie and Lee Heuwagen to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup versus Ricardo Joel Rodriguez. Meanwhile, Emmons got by Marco Bielostozky, Kerry Beland, Jerry Arvelaez and Justin Gilsinan to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal match versus Bobby Garza. 

Emmons got into the hot seat match 7-5 over Garza, while Meglino was busy sending Rodriguez to the loss side 7-3. Emmons made short work of Meglino, downing him 7-2 to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Garza picked up Tommy Kennedy, who’d lost his opening match to McLuckie and was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side streak that would end in the semifinals. He downed Garza 7-3 to move into the quarterfinals. Rodriguez picked up Gilsinan, who defeated him 7-1 to join Kennedy. 

Kennedy advanced one more step, defeating Gilsinan 7-4 in those quarterfinals. Meglino, though, anxious for a second shot at Emmons in the hot seat, ended TK’s loss-side run 7-4 in the semifinals.

They’ll tell you as often as you’ll listen, that distractions in a pool game are ruinous; that you focus on the table and the situation at hand and that nothing about matches you’ve lost in the distant past or games you lost 10 minutes ago, should matter a damn. But it’s likely that Meglino had a lot on his mind when he went into the finals against Emmons. Two losses in the finals of back-to-back tournaments and losing in the hot seat match doesn’t just fade into the background, no matter how meticulously you try to put thoughts about them aside. Meglino and Emmons battled to double hill before Meglino dropped the final 10-ball to claim his first 2021 title on the tour.

Andrew Cleary, Kristian Dimitrov and Ronald Machado

Dimitrov gets by Cleary and Machado to go undefeated in the Amateur 9-ball event

Prior to this past weekend, Kristian Dimitrov’s only two (recorded) cash finishes in pool tournaments came on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour in 2020 and the 2018 Florida State Open 10-Ball Championships. He finished 9th in both. He broke through to chalk up an undefeated run through a field of 64, battling Ronald Machado twice and separate opponents in the hot seat match (Andrew Cleary) and finals (Machado).

Dimitrov’s path to the winners’ circle threw up a couple of challenging obstacles. After opening with victories over Vershred Lasthrasho and Jordan Belleville, Dimitrov ran into two straight double hill challenges against Oscar Mora and Joel Vetrono. He survived them both to face Machado and defeat him for the first time 7-5 in a winners’ side semifinal match. 

Andrew Cleary, in the meantime, who is apparently playing ‘under the radar’ to avoid the endless headhunting by representatives of the USA Mosconi Cup team, apparently anxious to have him commit to the team as soon as possible (See YouTube video of a year ago). In this event, Cleary clearly attempted to come across as a vulnerable competitor by allowing himself, like Dimitrov, to be caught up in two double hill matches, though in Cleary’s case, unlike Dimitrov, he cleverly broke them up, so as not to arouse suspicion that he was capable of winning two double hill matches in a row. He had no qualms about shutting out his first opponent, Kerry Beland, but slowed things down with his first double hill win, over Brian Sudney. He got by Shane Unger and Dominick Dunn, both 7-3, before getting cleverly caught up in his second double hill match, versus Gary Gilsinan in a winners’ side semifinal. He prevailed to face Dimitrov in the hot seat match and then let the man claim his first hot seat by only scoring a single rack against him.

On the loss side, Machado met and defeated Manuel Montas 7-3. Gilsinan survived a double hill fight against Tim Moss to join Machado in the quarterfinals. Machado won that quarterfinal match 7-3 and then faced an exhausted Andrew Cleary, who allowed himself to win two of the nine racks that they played against each other, so that Machado could get a second shot at Dimitrov in the hot seat. Dimitrov claimed his first event title with a 9-6 victory in his second match versus Machado.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the ownership and staff at Rack’s Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator, Kamui, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Products and Central Florida USA Pool League. They also thanked Leah Nusbaum and Rob McLaren for their assistance in running the dual event, and all the players who travel and follow the tour from stop to stop. The next stop to stop at (#5), scheduled for May 1-2, will be a $1,000-added event, hosted by Stroker’s Bar & Grill in Palm Harbor, FL. 

The stars came out in Florida to support the Black Widow Legacy Tournament, raise over $30k

Tommy Kennedy, Jeanette Lee and Mika Immonen

The pool community at large has always been good at coming out to support members of its own extended pool family. At pool tournaments large and small, coast to coast, when a player is in need of help, his or her fellow players, and usually, lots of them, come out in support. This was especially true last weekend (April 10-11), when the player in need was the Black Widow, Jeanette Lee, whose diagnosis of ovarian cancer had galvanized the pool community into a flurry of benefit events, designed to assist Lee and her daughters. Lee, in the meantime, who visited the benefit event on Saturday, had already begun a fierce and determined battle to beat the cancer, with much the same style and verve that has characterized her entire career.

She entered Brewlands Bar and Grill of Carrollwood in Tampa, FL on a wheelchair to (literally) thunderous applause from the hundreds assembled, who stopped shooting pool long enough to welcome her. She thanked everyone and proceeded to tell them that she had already undergone three of six scheduled chemotherapy treatments, and that she was scheduled for surgery on Thursday (April 15). 

“From there,” she explained, noting that the surgery was going to require some extra healing time, “each cycle is about three weeks apart, so . . . I’m supposed to turn the big five-oh on July 9th and am supposed to be finished with chemo the first week of July.”

“The goal,” she added, “is to make it to 50.”

No stranger to pain, having spent the latter part of her career battling scoliosis and becoming the national spokesperson for the disease, she didn’t need to tell people about her courage and strength. Many of the people in the room had been eyewitness to the pain she would occasionally endure during competition. She went on to tell them from where that courage and strength emanated.

“I’m as stubborn as all get-out,” she said. “I plan to be here for my children.”

She paused for just a moment, looking at the crowd that had gathered to support her efforts.

“I could never have imagined this kind of support,” she added, “and I am humbled by it. We’re going to get through this and thank you guys for being on my team.”

Among her friends in the Tampa, FL area where she and her family live, are a number of people quite familiar with the process of organizing pool tournaments. One of them, Jeannie Seaver (the APA’s 2020-2021 Women’s US Amateur Champion, as of March 20) has had experience with benefit tournaments and along with Sonya Chbeeb, jumped at the chance to organize this one. Having become close friends with Lee since she relocated to Florida, they didn’t hesitate to give back, in return for all that Lee had done for them over the years.

“She’s an icon and a legend,” said Chbeeb, “and inspirational in so many ways. (People) can relate to so many of her experiences, with their own; the life struggles she’s gone through can touch so many people’s lives that way. She has always been supportive and helpful to people who want to learn or advance their game, always there for them.”

“We’re doing this for her and her family,” she added. “She’s always been focused on everybody else and now it’s time for her to focus on herself and her family. We wanted to have this event to allow her time to just relax and let someone else take over, to let someone do something for her.”

Though experienced at running benefits, Jeannie Seaver was used to somewhat smaller-in-scale events and thanks, in part, to the pandemic, she hadn’t actually organized one in quite some time. When she heard of the need, signing on to help put it together was obvious to her, and she came to it with what she believed to be reasonable expectations.

“I figured we’d be making $10 to $15k,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be over $30k.”

But it was. Closer to $32k when all was said and done, and thanks to the efforts of the co-tour directors of the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour (Janene Phillips & Bobby Garza), it went off smoothly. As Garza set up the streaming service that would broadcast throughout the event, Phillips, with the assistance of Rob McLaren, Leah Nusbaum and Cami Becker set themselves to the task of running not just one, but two tournaments. Having anticipated the large gathering that eventually did show up, they had decided beforehand to run two separate tournaments, one for higher-ranked competition (Open/Pro) and one for the lower ranks; A & B brackets, as it were. The Open/Pro competitors would compete on the venue’s 9-ft. tables, while everyone else would compete on 8-ft. tables. The A bracket held 63 players, while the B bracket had 89.

And now, as Jeanette likely thought, but didn’t actually say, ‘Let’s shoot some pool.’

Shawn Collie and the Iceman, Mika Immonen win B and A brackets, respectively

Shawn Collie, Carrie Vetrono and Allan Ellison

The competitor who won the larger tournament (the B bracket), Shawn Collie, had, until this weekend (according to our records), cashed in only four events since 2007. It looked as though he was going to struggle again, when he lost his opening match, in a double hill fight against Steven Krogh. Collie moved to the loss side and won 11 matches, concluding his loss-side run the way he’d started, in a double hill fight. He would go on to give up only a single rack in the finals and claim his fifth cash payout and his first-ever tournament win. 

With Collie already at work on the loss side, the eventual, mixed-gender hot seat opponents – Allen Ellison and Carrie Vetrono – advanced through the field. Ellison faced Kim Burbank in one of the winners’ side semifinals as Vetrono squared off against Anthony Rotenberry. Two double hill matches followed, with Vetrono and Ellison moving into the hot seat match, won by Ellison 4-2.

It was Rotenberry who had the misfortune of running into Collie, who was eight matches into his loss-side winning streak. Burbank drew Andrew Erb, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end. Collie downed Rotenberry 3-1, as Burbank was busy surviving her double hill match versus Erb. Collie took the quarterfinal match versus Burbank 3-1 and then cleared his last hurdle for the finals, a double hill win over Vetrono in the semifinals.

Collie would put an exclamation point on his loss-side run. As noted at the outset, he gave up only a single rack to Ellison in the extended race-to-6 finals to claim the title.

The Open/Pro segment of the tournament ended with two classic battles between two of the sports more recognizable personalities; the ever-ebullient Tommy Kennedy and the Iceman, Mika Immonen. Behind them both and finishing in third place was ‘young gun,’ Trenton White.

The Iceman got himself into a winners’ side semifinal against Les Duffy, having given up only nine racks over four matches, including a winners’ side quarterfinal, 6-2 win over Tony Robles. Kennedy, rather unceremoniously, dropped event organizer and APA Women’s Amateur Champion, Jeannie Seaver, 6-3 in the opening round and then went on to shut out Mike Sullivan. He then gave up two to Ken Black, before defeating Jeffrey De Luna 6-4. This set him up in his winners’ side semifinal against Ray Linares, who was, when he wasn’t playing, doing duty in the stream booth as a commentator.

Immonen downed Duffy 6-1, as Kennedy was busy sending Linares to the loss side 6-4. Kennedy took the first of his two against Immonen 6-4 and waited in the hot seat for his return.

Duffy and Linares didn’t last a round on the loss side. Duffy was defeated by the ‘young gun,’ Trenton White, double hill. Linares fell to Robles 5-1. White and Robles locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal fight that eventually sent White to the semifinals, where he was shut out by the Iceman. Immonen claimed the Open/Pro side of the Jeanette Lee Legacy Tournament with an 8-3 victory in the finals.

The list of people who brought this event together and saw to it that it ran smoothly is long, and though it’s likely that none of those who contributed in one way or another, were or are interested in being recognized for their efforts, that is exactly the reason that we’ll mention them; beginning with Jeannie Seaver and Sonya Chbeeb, along with Brewlands owner, Larry Wathal and venue manager, Sammy Hewett.

“Larry and Sammy outdid themselves hosting this event,” wrote Janene Phillips. “Larry added $1,500 to the two events, 20% of which went to Jeanette. Sammy was one of the event coordinators and worked around the clock to make sure this event was perfect.”

Phillips, too, was among those who contributed to the success of this event, along with the previously-mentioned Rob McLaren, Leah Nusbaum, Cami Becker and, running the live stream, Bobby Garza and commentators Ray Linares and Cheryl Baglin. With apologies to a number of contributors who stopped into the venue and donated a variety of different items like merchandise, cues and autographed items, noted sponsors included Mezz Cues, Molinari, Roy’s Basement, Predator Cues, Sterling Gaming, Bass Pro Shops, Dunnski Dungeon, Kamui Products, Shells Restaurant of North Tampa, Joss Cues, N the Zone, Tiger Products, Ladies Florida Tiger Tour, Bulletproof Break Tips, and Sammy Hewitt’s Crew – Sara, Bri, Jamie, Mika, Lollipop, Dee, Millie, Mary, Mark, Lauren, Tony, Stephanie, Marci, Nick and the Egnatowski’s. Thanks went out, as well, to all of those who competed in both of the tournaments, including, but by no means limited to, Lee’s fellow professionals Mika Immonen, Tommy Kennedy, Janet Atwell, Jeffrey De Luna and Tony Robles. 

There are two more Black Widow Legacy benefit events scheduled. This coming weekend (April 17-18), Janet Atwell (who competed in this recent event) will host the Black Widow Open at her room, Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN. Seaver, Chbeeb and company will be on hand for another Legacy event that will be hosted by Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL on the weekend of May 8-9.

Sharing The Light – Tommy “The Juggler” Kennedy

Tommy Kennedy

This month we have a testimony from one of pool’s bubbliest and most beloved players. Just read his story and you’ll begin to understand the source of his joy.

Hello pool fans and Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. Here is my brief testimony of how I got saved by The Lord Jesus Christ when I was unknowingly on my way to Hell.

It all began several years ago when I was in Orlando. A friend of mine was heavy into promoting and business. He came across someone (who most people in the business world would know) named Zig Ziglar. 

My friend told me about Zig and I was curious to hear him speak. My friend mentioned that Zig spoke much about positive thinking and how you can be a success and how you can make lots of money. That was right down my alley because all I wanted to do was be the best pool player in the world and have all of the money in the world. I didn’t care about how I made the money or how I would win playing pool because being successful meant everything, even if I had to lie, cheat, and steal to accomplish those goals. Also, I didn’t know that Zig was a professed Christian and he had a little different perspective on life. But the Christian part I really didn’t pay attention to when Zig spoke. 

So I got a series of Cassette Tapes from my friend and started listening to Zig speak. The one thing that stood out to me then, and even to this day, is when Zig said, “You gotta have goals.” My friend always expressed this point to me and I really believed it.

So I decided to be all into having goals and trying to make my life better. So I took it from there and sought out to live a better, more fulfilling life. 

Everything from then on seemed to be going great. I was so happy to have listened to Zig and to have taken my friend’s advice. I finally had a reason to live!!! (Sarcasm) But yes, I really felt I was living high on the hog so to speak with my new found faith (Lol). I was definitely deceived, to put it mildly. 

But I have to admit, Zig played a part in my search for the real truth. Zig, I feel, pushed me into a different mindset. I felt the need for a change from this evil lifestyle: the gambling, the sleeping around, the pornography, the lying and dumping matches, and just flat out stealing from people. 

Yes, this was my evil lifestyle that I came to believe had to be forsaken and thrown away in the trash for The Lord Jesus Christ!!!  So I started to search out churches. (I believe the Lord was already working on my heart to change.) I remembered when I was younger that I was Catholic, so I sought out a Catholic church in Orlando. I was really convinced I was going to change my life on my OWN!

During that time my girlfriend who I had been having sex with (this was while I was attending the Catholic Church, what a joke) ordered exercise equipment through the mail. Well guess what happened???  I received Bible Cassette Tapes instead! Amazing!!!   Talk about divine providence and really changing your life the right way. These were tapes on Ephesians 6 The Believer’s Armor by John MacArthur. 

John is definitely the greatest Bible teacher of our day and age. He is the one the I.F.C.A. (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) go to, to ask advice and settle spiritual differences. He is like Esther was when God made her for such a time as this. I could have gotten tapes from a cult or some false religion, but God made sure I had the truth and not error. The Lord Jesus Christ safeguarded my life then and for His ministry in the future.

I started to listen to John’s messages and they weren’t easy to understand at first. But for the first time in my life I had the truth, the real truth. 

It took 3 years from that point for me to give my life to Christ and be Born Again. I knew I needed Christ as my Lord and savior. I knew I was a wretched sinner on my way to Hell. I knew eternal life was only and solely through the Person and Work of The Lord Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross and in His resurrection on the third day. I knew that without HIM, and without true repentance, I would suffer the punishment I deserve in Hell forever, and rightly so. Look at all of the evil things I have done. I deserve God’s wrath and His punishment! But Christ has delivered me from His own wrath! He has set me free. Jesus said, “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!” 

Only through Christ and what He did for you on the cross will you ever be truly free. Only The Lord Jesus Christ can make you a new creation and create in you a clean heart and a new mind. Only by His shed blood and His resurrection from the dead will you ever know true peace and true joy and true love.

So in closing I am begging you, whoever is reading this letter, to cry out to Christ and beg Him to save you. Admit your sin and hopelessness. Admit your need for Christ and His sacrifice on your behalf. Come to Christ with a 100 percent commitment and approach Him with honesty and truthfulness about your wretched condition. Please plead with Him to save you from the grasp of Satan and from the pit of Hell!! Just commit everything to Him as your living Lord and forsake all self-reliance and all self- righteousness. Put no confidence in your flesh. You are not good enough to get to Heaven by your good deeds.

If you are sincere, He will truly save you. Quit playing games and be genuine. God knows your heart and He searches your heart and mind. He knows your thoughts and the intentions of your heart. God reads you loud and clear. No one escapes His judgment. 

Thank you everyone for reading. By the grace of God, I am what I am.  

Amen,

Tommy

DeLuna goes undefeated to capture Stop #2 on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

Michael DeLawder, Tommy Kennedy, Jeffrey De Luna and Anthony Meglino

Pool players are returning to the tables like a soft drink that’s just been released from a hard-shaken can. In the past month or so, we’ve seen record numbers sign on to tournaments in Texas, North Carolina and last weekend (Feb. 27-28), in Florida, where a capped field of 64 entrants for the $1,500-added second stop on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour at Brewlands in North Lakeland, FL turned into an 82-entrant field that featured a lot of the tour’s best players and on loan from the Philippines, Jeffrey DeLuna. Note to the Northeast: You might want to prepare for some serious numbers when the Tri-State New York City area opens up.

DeLuna went undefeated through the field, leaving Anthony Meglino (2nd), Mike DeLawder (3rd) and Tommy Kennedy (4th) in his immediate wake. Not to mention Jason Richko, Kyle Bova, Bobby Garza, Dale Stanley and long-timer CJ Wiley, to name just a few of the 82.

As it turned out, DeLuna faced four out of the five of that second-tier set of names on his way to the hot seat. After being awarded one of the ‘byes,’ DeLuna opened up with two straight shutouts, against Richko and then, Ladon Wiley. Stanley was next and DeLuna sent him to the loss side 7-4. A subsequent 7-2 win over Gary Pugh, Jr. put DeLuna into a winners’ side semifinal match against Mike DeLawder.

Anthony Meglino, in the meantime, worked his way through Leon Micco, Wayne Catledge, Sam Khadre and Jimmy Antonietta before coming up against the fourth person on the above second-tier list; CJ Wiley. Meglino downed Wiley 7-5 to draw Tommy Kennedy in the other winners’ side semifinal, which wrapped up seven of the overall list of eight notable names.

Kennedy and DeLawder were both sent to the loss side 7-4. DeLuna then sent Meglino to the semifinals 7-3 and claimed the hot seat.

On the loss side, Kennedy picked up Jerry Arveleaz, who, after losing his second match, double hill, to Serrafin Serrano, was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to come to an end. He’d recently eliminated Pugh, Jr., double hill, and Mike Williams 5-1. DeLawder drew NY’s John Francisco, who’d followed up a winners’ side quarterfinal loss to TK, with victories over Anthony Cruz 5-2 and the event’s top-finishing junior, Julio Estevez 6-4. 

Francisco was denied an opportunity for a rematch against TK when DeLawder defeated Francisco 5-1. Kennedy joined DeLawder in the quarterfinals after eliminating Arveleaz 5-3. 

DeLawder ended Kennedy’s brief loss-side trip 5-3 in those quarterfinals and then, in a double hill, semifinal battle, fell to Meglino, who earned himself a second shot at DeLuna, waiting for him in the hot seat.

The wait apparently had no effect on DeLuna. He backed up his 7-3 hot seat win over Meglino with a 9-2 single-match win in the finals.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Larry Walthal and the staff at Brewlands for hosting this event, for $1,000 of the added money and for their continuing support. They also gave a shout out to all of their friends who came out to support the tour and help them out; Rob McLaren, Adam Hanas, Nikki Cuellar, Jimmy Antonietta, Cami Becker and Leah Nusbaum (with apologies, noted Phillips, to anyone she left out). Thanks were also extended to the tour’s title sponsor Predator Group (which added $500 for a raffle), Kamui, Diamond Products, AZ Billiards, Central Florida USA Pool League & Stitch it to me Embroidery. 

The next stop (#3) on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 27-28, will be a $750-added event, hosted by Boulevard Billiards in Ocala, FL

Martinez wins seven on the loss side to win Invitational 10-Ball tourney in FL

Joselito Martinez, Tommy Kennedy and David Grossman

Seven of Joselito Martinez’ nine recorded cash payouts have come on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, dating back to 2018, including what was previously his only win; a Scotch Doubles title he shared with Marcos Burgos in what was an inaugural Scotch Doubles event on the tour in October, 2018. The two that came outside the realm of the Sunshine State tour were a stop on Tommy Kennedy’s SE Open 9-Ball Tour and a Predator Tour 10-Ball Open, held in Martinez’ home territory of Puerto Rico, both in 2019. On Saturday, January 2, at Park Avenue Billiards in Orange Park, FL, Martinez won his first official ‘single’ win, competing in a non-points, special event on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. He earned the event title by winning seven on the loss side to meet and defeat hot seat occupant, David Grossman in the finals. The $750-added, 10-Ball event drew 25 invited entrants to Park Avenue Billiards. 

The weekend also featured an Amateur 9-Ball event on Sunday, Jan. 3, which drew 32 players, Fargo-rated at 575 or below. Won by local cue maker, Nick Osborne, that event is detailed in a separate report in our News section.

Martinez won a single match on the loss side, downing Michael Kayrouz 9-3, before being defeated by Ray Linares in the second round 9-6. Linares joined him on the loss side, one match later, when David Grossman sent him over in a winners’ side quarterfinal 9-3. This sent Grossman to a winners’ side semifinal against Donny Mills. Tommy Kennedy, in the meantime, back into the swing of things after a prolonged illness, followed an opening round bye with victories over Mike Moxley 9-3 and Derek Laprairie 9-6 to draw Mike Delawder in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Grossman advanced to the hot seat match 9-7 over Mills, as Kennedy got by Delawder 9-6. Grossman grabbed the hot seat 9-4 over Kennedy.

On the loss side, Martinez, headed back to the finals, defeated John Sounders 7-4, Benjie Estor 7-1 and both Laprairie and Jordan Burden 7-3 to draw Mills. Delawder drew Anthony Meglino, who, like Martinez, had won a single match on the winners’ side of the bracket before Mills defeated him in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Meglino downed Jimmy Garza and Ray Linares, both 7-5, to reach Delawder.

Martinez chalked up loss-side win #5, eliminating Mills 7-5 and advancing to the quarterfinals. Meglino joined him by extending his loss-side streak to a third match; 7-1 over Delawder.

Martinez put a stop to Meglino’s bid 7-2 in those quarterfinals, before meeting up with Kennedy in the semifinals. A fierce, double hill fight ensued, won eventually by Martinez, who turned to face Grossman in the hot seat.

In the single, extended-to-11 race in the finals, Martinez and Grossman stayed close for a while. Martinez pulled out in front and claimed the title 11-7.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked the ownership and staff at Park Ave. Billiards, as well as title sponsor Predator Group, Kamui, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Diamond Products, AZBilliards, and all of the players who compete in their events. The season-opening, points-earning stop on the 2021 Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 6-7, will be hosted by Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL.

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 https://www.facebook.com/UpStateAL.