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Alghamdi Vows He’s Ready For More After SVB Junior Open Win

Khalid Alghamdi (Taka G Wu/Matchroom Multi Sport)

Khalid Alghamdi became the first-ever SVB Junior Open winner beating Trenton White in the final during the 2022 US Open Pool Championship at Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City live on the Matchroom Pool YouTube channel.

SVB Junior Open Results

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Alghamdi overcame White 9-3 in the final dropping only 14 racks across the six matches it took for the 17-year-old to claim the $2,500 first-place prize and free entry to the 2023 US Open Pool Championship and to write his name into the history books.

64 of the world’s best juniors descended on New Jersey with their own hopes of claiming victory with the likes of European double-gold medalist Yannick Pongers, Finnish sensation Riku Romppanen, rising USA stars Joey Tate, Savannah Easton and White all looking to take away the top prize.

Over the two days of action, juniors as young as Lyno Liu aged seven played in front of the same audience as the US Open scaring the current crop into what they’re going to come up against in years to come.

Alghamdi of Saudi Arabia had a run to the last 32 at the inaugural European Open back in August and it was clear he would be one to watch in AC and he was delighted with his performance: “It feels great. I am so happy to win the first-ever SVB Junior Open title. Shane is my idol when I started to play pool in 2015. It’s fun to see Shane and he’s taught me a lot in that time. It feels so good to play next to the champions. This is my last year as a junior, I am coming for them. I think I am ready to make the step up. I hope to learn more. My whole family, my mother, my father, my friends, and the federation were all watching. It was had. I can’t wait to play next year’s US Open Pool Championship.”

Emily Frazer, Matchroom Multi Sport Managing Director added: “The SVB Junior Open was a remarkable event with a showcase of such talent amongst players from 7-years through to 17. It was great to work so closely with World Champion Shane Van Boening to turn his dream into a reality of inspiring the next generation of professional pool players. This is the first of many Junior Opens as we continue to grow the Nineball game over the coming years; it is all well and good creating a tour but there must be a next generation who are inspired to pick up their cue and earn a living through our Nineball World Rankings system. Not only was it fantastic to see such a diverse field of ages, genders, and nationalities, but it was also fantastic to see so much support from our professionals who were at the business end of the US Open during the competition. I cannot wait to see what the next one brings.”

Zach DiMotta, President of Imperial said: “It was amazing to be a part of and see Matchroom put on its first junior event. I think that you couldn’t have asked for more out of this partnership with Shane Van Boening. There are few times that you get to witness the world’s complete junior Nineball talent in one arena and that is what all the fans got to witness. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this event.”

Juniors were competing for a slice of the $10,000 prize fund with the field extended from 32 to 64 players due to demand. Van Boening’s official cue partner, Cuetec put up $5,000 alongside $5,000 from Matchroom to offer one of the most exciting prize pots in Junior Pool. Juniors also received an SVB Junior Open jersey free of charge from official apparel partner Onboard.

The tournament was played on Diamond Tables, with Simonis Shark Grey 860 cloth, Aramith Tournament Black balls, and KAMUI chalk in the same Diamond Arena as the US Open Pool Championship which took place from October 10-15.

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From the loss side, Rodriguez chalks up first Sunshine State Pro Am Tour victory in three years

Mike DeLawder, Trenton White and Ricardo Joel Rodriguez

Barnes goes undefeated to claim concurrently-run Ladies event

One did it the hard way, while the other opted for the shorter, arguably more difficult easy way. Ricardo Rodriguez, looking for his first win on the Sunshine State ProAm Tour in three years, lost his third winners’ side match at this past weekend’s (Oct. 8-9) tour stop He then won seven straight on the loss side before downing Trenton White in the finals to claim the event title. Jessica Barnes took the shorter route in the concurrently-run Ladies event, winning five in a row and downing Nicole Cuellar twice to claim the ladies’ title.

The $1,500 added main event drew 60 entrants to Brewlands Bar & Billiards North in Lakeland, FL. The $500-added Ladies event drew 16 entrants to the same location.

Rodriguez’ path took him past Marcos Bielostozky and George Saunders, both 7-5, before he ran into a double hill match versus Desi Derado that he lost. Mike DeLawder and Trenton White, in the meantime, worked their way forward toward their hot seat match; White advancing through Mike Xiarhos, Jr., Leon Micco, Dale Stanley and Konnor McFayden to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Robert Noon, while DeLawder sent Anthony Cruz, co-tour-director Bobby Garza, and both Manuel Montas and John Souders (both double hill) to the loss side to draw Ameet Kukadia in the other winners’ side semifinal.

DeLawder came within a game of being forced into his third straight double hill fight, but just did edge out in front near the end to defeat Kukadia 7-5. White joined him in the hot seat match after surviving his double hill struggle against Noon. White shut Delawder out to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, it was Kukadia who drew the finals-bound Rodriguez, who’d just eliminated junior competitors Kaylee McIntosh 7-2 and Konnor McFayden 7-4. Noon picked up David Singleton, who’d defeated John Souders 7-3 and survived a double hill match versus Garza to reach him.

Rodriguez defeated Kukadia 7-5 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Noon, who’d put Singleton on the wrong side of his second straight double-hill match. Rodriguez took the quarterfinal match 7-5 over Noon and then, by the same score, denied DeLawder his second chance against White.

Rodriguez waste little time. He took the finals against White 9-5 to claim the event title

Nicole Cuellar, Sofia Mast and Jessica Barnes

Barnes gets into a 7-3 groove to the hot seat match

Jessica Barnes seemed to decide that since she had gotten herself into a groove of some kind that she should probably stick with it. She defeated her first three opponents on her way to the Ladies win by the same 7-3 score, defeating co-tour-director Janene Phillips, Erica Pennington and, in a winners’ side semifinal, the Pink Dagger (aka junior competitor Sofia Mast). Nicole Cuellar, in the meantime, got by Sandra Micco, Cami Becker and in her winners’ side semifinal, Margie Soash 7-1.

Cuellar knocked Barnes out of her 7-3 groove in the hot seat match, but it wasn’t enough. Barnes survived Cuellar’s double hill challenge to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Soash picked up and was defeated by Helen Caukin 5-1, as The Pink Dagger drew and eliminated Kaylee McIntosh by the same score. Mast defeated Caukin 5-2 in the quarterfinals, only to have her brief, loss-side run upset by Cuellar’s desire for a rematch against Barnes. Cuellar won that battle 5-1. Barnes downed Cuellar a second time, 9-5, to claim the Ladies title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Larry Wathall and his staff at Brewlands “for taking great care (them) all weekend,” as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Kamui Brand, Diamond Billiard Products, Jamison Daniels, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Dr. V’s Custom Shop and Central Florida Pool League. ‘Shout outs’ were extended to Bobby Garza and Lights Out Streaming for providing great stream and commentary, along with Jimmy Antonietta, Rob McLaren, Mike D and George Saunders for their commentating and  Adam Hanas for helping run the boards. 

In light of the fact that the tour had a junior competitor among the final three in both of this past weekend’s events (Trenton White and Sofia Mast) and because, like so many others,  who enjoy watching these young competitors succeed in their early pool careers, Phillips and Garza thanked Asia Cy for donating an entry fee to a junior lady, Leah Holler and wished to make mention of two local individuals who are “doing great things for the junior competitors’ –  Danielle Fee with Shooting for the Stars and Eddie Altman with Junior Billiards Scholarship Fund. If you’d like to help support a junior program, reach out to either of these organizations.

The next and final stop of the year for the Sunshine State ProAm Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 26-27 and hosted by Racks Billiards in Sanford, FL will feature two events; a $1,000-added Open One Pocket event and a $2,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Championship. 

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White, Daly split top prizes on Eastern Billiards/Andy Cloth/Corner Pocket Premier 9-Ball Tour

Trenton White

It wasn’t actually the first and isn’t likely to be the last.

This past weekend (May 14-15), Eastern Billiards, Andy Cloth, Stephanie Mitchell’s The Corner Pocket pool room in Largo, FL and Jamison Daniels presented something of an official start to a series of Premier 9-Ball Tour events. Back in April, the first three of those sponsors held what they called a Shootout, that drew 32 entrants to The Corner Pocket. Won by Kyle Bova, the Shootout acted as something of a ‘proof of concept’ demonstration that led to the scheduling and eventual $2,000-added event that drew 53 entrants to the Corner Pocket this past weekend.

According to Mitchell, the endeavor is being designed as a series of independent events and though it bears the moniker of a traditional ‘tour,’ it will not be subject to traditional tour fees or any overall player-specific format; neither specifically handicapped (although the most recent event was handicapped) or Pro or Ladies events, as examples. The next planned stop on the tour, scheduled for July, at a to-be-determined specific date is being planned as a Ladies event.

Trenton White and Chris Daly, who was looking for his first recorded victory since winning a stop on the Poison Tour eight years ago, split the event’s top two prizes after the event semifinal between Daly and Kyle Bova. As occupant of the hot seat at the time, White became the event’s official winner. 

White opened his trip to the hot seat with two straight shutouts, against Wanda Crews and Cory Wilcox, before giving up his first rack (two of them, actually) to Nathan Rose and four more of them to Mike Lear. He drew Joseph Dyer in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Daly, in the meantime, went through Tom Mittnight, John Cohmer, Frank Costantino and Carlos Gomes before running into Kyle Bova in the other winners’ side semifinal. 

Bova diverted Daly’s ‘trip to the finals’ train to the loss-side tracks 6-2 and advanced to the hot seat match. White joined him after sending Dyer west 6-4. White began the race-to-6 hot seat match with a single ‘bead on the wire’ that he didn’t need. He chalked up the five racks he needed before Bova had dropped a single 9-ball.

On the loss side, Daly picked up Mike Lear, who’d followed his loss to White with victories over Costantino and Penera Mota, both 5-1. Dyer drew Rose, who’d been another victim to White’s winners’ side exploits and then, got by Scott Tollefson, before winning back-to-back matches against Carlos Gomes and Raymond Linares, both double hill.

Daly and Lear battled to double hill, before Daly advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Dyer, who’d eliminated Rose 5-3. Daly earned his rematch against Bova with a 5-3 victory over Dyer in those quarterfinals. 

Though Daly began what would prove to be the last match of the event, the semifinal race-to-5, with one ‘bead on the wire,’ Bova’s chances of winning the match (as calculated by Fargo Rate)  were just over 50%; 52.5 to Daly’s 47.5. So, statistically, almost even. Daly gave up just a single rack as he chalked up the five he needed for a shot against White, waiting for him in the hot seat. A shot, as it happened, that did not materialize, as White and Daly negotiated a split of the top two prizes.

Tour director Chad Kosier thanked Eastern Billiards’ Gary and Ruth Lucchesi for their “opportunity to keep great tournaments alive,” along with Andy Cloth, Jamison Daniels,  Stephanie Mitchell and her Corner Pocket staff for their hospitality and Rob Charles for “priceless help.” He also extended thanks to Allen Ellison of Billiard Livestream for his effort at bringing the event to members of its remote audience.

As noted above, the next event on the Eastern Billiards/Andy Cloth/The Corner Pocket Premier 9-Ball Tour is likely to be a Ladies event, scheduled for a date-to-be-determined in July. For further information, you can keep an eye on Stephanie Mitchell’s (The Corner Pocket) Facebook page and initiate a Friend request, along with any specific inquiries. 

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Bethany Tate and Skylar Hess win second straight 18U/13U Girls titles on JIC Stop #3

Arianna Houston, Skyler Hess and Noelle Tate

Logan Whitaker, Hayden Ernst win 18U/13U Boys titles, Lazaro Martinez takes ProAm event

As of this past weekend (March 26-27), three of the five divisions of the Junior International Championships have had different winners through the series’ first three stops. Bethany Tate has won the last two 18 & Under Girls division titles, while Skylar Hess has captured the last two 13 & Under Girls titles. Kennedy Meyman won the first 18 & Under Girls title back in January, while Sofia Mast took the season-opening 13 & Under Girls’ title.

The continuing JIC series has sparked a number of notable rivalries in each of its five divisions, reflected in the ongoing battle for supremacy in the 13U Girls division, where, dating back to last  year’s series, Sylar Hess and Sofia Mast do regular battle. When Mast won the division’s 2022 season opener, Hess was runner-up. When Hess grabbed the title at Stop #2, Mast was runner-up. 

This past weekend, however, Mast was in Las Vegas for the BCA Pool League’s World Championships, where she lost a battle for the hot seat and was defeated in the semifinals of the Ladies’ 8-Ball Singles event. The absence of Mast did not grant Hess any automatic ticket to the 10-entrant, JIC 13 & Under winners’ circle, though. In fact, after downing Aubrey Whited 7-3 in her opening round, Hess was sent to the loss side by Arianna Houston 7-3 in a winners’ side semifinal. Joining Houston in the hot seat match was Noelle Tate, a regular threat in the division, who’d defeated Kayden Willis 7-2 in their winners’ side semifinal.

Tate grabbed the hot seat 7-2 over Houston, guaranteeing her (Tate) third place, minimum. She’d finished 4th in the opener and 7th in the second event. Noelle had finished 3rd in the opener of the 18 and Under Girls division and 5th, twice, in the next two).

On the loss side, Hess picked up Skylnn Elliott, while Willis drew Gianna “Mini Banks” Fiore. Hess and Fiore advanced to the quarterfinals; Hess over Elliott and Fiore over Willis, both 7-1. Hess then eliminated Fiore 7-4 and downed Houston in the semifinals 7-3. Hess and Tate battled to double hill in the finals, before Hess claimed her second 13 & Under title.

Kennedy Meyman, Bethany Tate and Skyler Hess

Noelle’s older sister, Bethany, grabbed her second straight title in the 14-entrant, 18 & Under Girls division, having defeated both Sofia Mast in the finals of the 2nd event in Florida and Hess in this most recent event, also in the finals. Bethany went undefeated in this one, while Hess, who’d been defeated by Bethany in the opening round of play, won six on the loss side to meet her in the finals. Both Bethany and Hess had to get by Noelle Tate to earn their spot in the finals; Bethany had downed her sister in a winners’ side semifinal, while Hess was Noelle’s first, loss-side opponent. 

It was Bethany and Kennedy Meyman (winner of the 18 & Under Girls’ division in the season opener) who squared off in the hot seat match, won by Bethany 7-4. On the loss side, Hess eliminated Noelle 7-4, advancing to the quarterfinals against Taylor Perkins, who’d defeated Courtney Hairfield, double hill. Hess defeated Perkins 7-1 and then, downed Meyman 7-4 for a second shot at Bethany, waiting for her in the hot seat. Bethany completed her undefeated run 9-2 in the finals to chalk up her second straight 18 & Under Girls’ title.

Boys’ events and Pro Am crown their third season champions

In the ProAm division, while there have been three different winners (in order, Landon Hollingsworth, Trenton White, and this past weekend, Lazaro Martinez), Joey Tate has been runner-up in all three. There are a lot of crossover competitors in the age-and-gender-separated divisions, as well as, in particular, the ProAm and 18 & Under Boys divisions. Lazaro Martinez, as a random example, almost won two divisions on the same weekend, and did win the 36-entrant Pro Am, although not before Joey Tate defeated him in the hot seat match 7-5 and he had to eliminate Landon Hollingsworth 7-1 in the semifinals for a second shot at Tate. It was a successful second shot, as it turned out, with Martinez downing Tate in the finals 9-4. 

Lazaro Martinez, Logan Whitaker and Ivo Lemon

The winner of the 33-entrant, 18 & Under Boys division, Logan Whitaker, it should be noted, was sent to the loss side by Joey Tate in the ProAm and eliminated in his first, loss-side match by another regular threat in the boys’ and ProAm divisions, Nathan Childress.  He had to come from the loss side to capture the 18 & Under Boys title, as well.

After downing Hollingsworth in a winners’ side quarterfinal 7-4, Whitaker was sent to the loss side by Ivo Lemon in a winners’ side semifinal. In the hot seat match, Lemon faced Lazaro Martinez, who’d just defeated Tate, double hill in their winners’ side semifinal. Martinez claimed the hot seat 7-1 over Lemon and was a single step away from securing a second title on the weekend. 

Whitaker opened his loss-side campaign against RJ Mills, as Hollingsworth and Joey Tate were squaring off in a double hill fight that eventually sent Hollingsworth to the quarterfinals. Whitaker joined him after downing Mills 7-5. In their second match, Whitaker downed Hollingsworth a second time, 7-3 and eliminated Lemon 7-3 in the semifinals.

With one competitor looking for his first win on the JIC and the other looking to chalk up his second at just this one stop on the series, a double hill fight was not a surprise. Whitaker prevailed to claim his first JIC title.

Hayden Ernst

Hayden Ernst, appearing in his first JIC event, finished in the tie for 7th place in the ProAm division, but went undefeated to claim the 13-entrant, 13 & Under Boys division. He faced Jayce Little in the hot seat match, downing him 7-4 to claim his first JIC hot seat. 

D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain, in the meantime, who’d been sent to the loss side in a double hill battle versus Jas Makhani, worked his way through five, loss-side opponents (including a successful rematch against Makhani; 7-5 in the quarterfinals). “Jaws” dropped Jayce Little 7-5 in the semifinals and got a shot at Ernst, waiting for him in the hot seat.

Ernst claimed his first title, to go along with his 7th place finish in the ProAm. He defeated “Jaws” in the 13 & Under Boys finals 9-2.

The JIC series heads for the desert in a little over a month. Stop #4 on the Junior International Championships, scheduled for the weekend of May 6-8, will be hosted by Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ. 

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White and Joey Tate go undefeated to win Pro Am/18 & Under Boys division at Stop #2 of JIC

Joey Tate, Trenton White and Nathan Childress

Bethany Tate, Hess and Leinen take 18 & Under Girls, 13 & Under Girls and Boys titles

“And they’re off!!” says a voice emanating from some mythical PA system, followed, seconds later, by “Rounding the first turn, it’s ‘GoGetEm’ in the lead . . .”

If you think of competition in each of the five divisions comprising the Junior International Championships (JIC), sponsored by Viking Cues, as a series of eight horse races, Stop #2 in the 2022 series is like a snapshot of the junior competitors, just after they’ve broken out of the gate and are headed into the first turn of a mile-long race. Not a lot of useful information in that snapshot in terms of how it will all play out as they round the final turn and head for home in the fall, but it’s compelling to watch as they jockey for position. 

The five divisional events drew a total of 112 entrants to Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral, FL, with a great deal of crossover, including in the ProAm division, which saw nine girls from both age groups make up just over 22% of the 40-entrant Pro Am field. As intended by JIC tournament director and On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna, this group of young competitors do not flinch at playing above their normal ‘pay grade,’ whether that be defined by age or gender. The ferocity of competition, even as viewed in the snapshot of the series’ ‘first turn,’ is fierce. None of the five winners from Stop #1 repeated as winners in Stop #2. Some of the Stop #2 winners had not chalked up a win in the first season.

Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Gianna Fiore

Some of the ‘ponies’ in their separate divisional races are hot on each other’s trail. In the 13 & Under Girls race, Sophia Mast and Skylar Hess are running neck and neck. They met twice in the season opener; in their opening match, won by Hess, and again, in the finals, won by Mast. They met twice last weekend, too, and once again, in their opening matches of the 10-entrant event. They fought to double hill before Mast prevailed, moving on to a winners’ side semifinal against Asia Gillespie, and from there, to the hot seat match, which she won, downing Gianna “Mini Banks” Fiore 7-5. Hess came back through five matches on the loss side, including a 7-5 win over Savannah Easton in the quarterfinals and a 7-1 victory over Fiore in the semifinals. In the finals, this time Hess prevailed 9-5. Hess was also the top finishing young woman (9-12) in the 40-entrant ProAm division (the largest field at Stop #2).

The winner and runner-up in Stop #1 of Season Two in the ProAm division (Landon Hollingsworth and Joey Tate, who were also winner and runner-up in Season 1’s 18 & Under Boys division championship) become runner-up (Tate) and among the eight competitors who tied for 17th (Hollingsworth). Trenton White, who had yet to win an event in the series (either season) went undefeated to claim the Stop #2 ProAm title. He got by five opponents, including a double hill win over Justin Toye and a winners’ side semifinal, 7-5 win over Kashton Keeton to give Joey Tate a shot at him in the hot seat match. White won their first of two ‘rounds’ 7-5.

On the loss side, two veterans of the JIC series, Riley Adkins and Nathan Childress, faced each other in the quarterfinals. Childress, who’d entered last season’s 18 & Under Championships as the #1-ranked player in the division, downed Adkins 7-4 and then fell to Tate by the same score in the semifinals. White took Tate down a second time, in the finals 9-6, to claim Stop #2’s Pro Am title.

White fared well in the 18 & Under Boys division, as well, finishing in the tie for 5th/6th, but Tate went undefeated in that event and never faced White, which, from Tate’s perspective, was probably just as well. Tate advanced through to the hot seat match, where he defeated Ivo Lemon 7-5. White was eliminated in the 5th/6th matches by Hollingsworth 7-5, who went on to defeat Dustin Muir 7-3 in the quarterfinals. He was eliminated 7-4 by Lemon in the semifinals, which, again from Tate’s perspective, worked out just fine. Tate claimed the 18 & Under Boys title, downing Lemon a second time, 9-5.

Sofia Mast, Bethany Tate and April Gonzaez

‘Favorites’ in the 18 & Under Girls race fall to a (medium) ‘longshot’

With Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Kennedy Meyman (winner of this division last month) in the 16-entrant, 18 & Under Girls division, they’d have shown up on a ‘toteboard’ as a group of three ‘favorites’ in Stop #2’s race. And at the end of four rounds of match play (around the final turn and headed for home), Sophia Mast was in the lead. . uhh, hot seat. She’d not faced Hess, which, from her perspective, was probably just as well, but she had sent Meyman to the loss side in the opening round, survived a winners’ side semifinal, double hill fight against Bethany Tate, and shut out April Gonzalez in the hot seat match.

Bethany Tate (15) had entered her winners’ side semifinal match against Mast, looking at the distinct possibility that she could face her 11-year-old sister, Noelle, in the hot seat match. It failed to materialize when Mast sent Bethany to the loss side and April Gonalez sent Noelle over. The sisters arrived on the loss side of the bracket at the same time, again looking at the distinct possibility of facing each other, this time in the quarterfinals. Bethany did her part, eliminating Courtney Hairfield 7-5. Noelle was eliminated by Precilia Kinsley, though not before she’d forced a 13th single game, for all of the proverbial marbles.

In the quarterfinals that followed, Bethany and Kinsley also battled to double hill, before Bethany prevailed, advancing to eliminate the competitor who’d sent her sister to the loss side, April Gonzalez (7-5) in the semifinals. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see Noelle rooting for her sister to cross the finish line first, as Bethany and Sofia Mast stepped to the table for the finals. And it worked. Bethany and Mast came to within a game of double hill, but Bethany chalked up her first JIC win 9-7.

D’ Angelo Spain, Hank Leinen and Roman Boone

Absent last month’s winner and runner-up in the 13 & Under Boys division, Hank Leinen stepped up to go undefeated and become yet another junior competitor to win a first division-event title. D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain finished as runner-up. They met first in a winners’ side semifinal, won by Leinen 7-3.

Meeting up with Leinen in the hot seat match was Roman Boone, who’d sent Gaige Wells to the loss side 7-4 in the other winners’ side semifinal. Leinen claimed the hot seat 7-2 and waited on Spain’s return from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Spain, after eliminating Landon Dunlap 7-2, advanced to a quarterfinal versus Jayce Little, who’d defeated Wells 7-1. Spain and Little locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Spain to a semifinal win over Boone 7-3. The 13 & Under Boys final pitting Spain against Leinen came within a game of double hill, but in the end, Leinen edged out in front to claim the division title 9-7

Ra Hanna and all of his support ‘crew’ thanked the owners and staff at Diamond Billiards, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues. The next stop on the Junior International Championships (#3), which will see the competitors stretch their ‘legs’ through the long straightaway on the far side of the track (stops #3 through #7), is scheduled for March 25-27 and will be hosted by The Rack and Grill III in Aiken, SC.

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Linares and Mills go head-to-head in season opener of Sunshine State Predator Pro-Am Tour

Raymond Linares, Donny Mills and Rich Schau

Raymond Linares recorded his best earnings year at the tables in 2021. His second-best occurred 10 years ago, one year before he won the American College Unions International Collegiate Men’s Championship in 2013. He’s started 2022 by chalking up his first tour victory this past weekend (Feb. 5-6) on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour’s season opener. Opposing him in both the hot seat and finals was Donnie Mills, who also had a good 2021 at the tables, although not even close to his best earnings year, which happened in the same year (2009) that Linares first started showing up on payout lists of Florida tournaments like the Seminole Tour. They’re familiar combatants on the Florida felt (to others and each other) and graced spectators at their most recent battles for a regional tour title with a good show. The $2,300-added event drew 63 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL.

Linares opened his bid for the title by giving up only seven racks to his first four opponents;  Ronnie Mercer (1), Manuel Montas (0), Rich Schau (4) and Michael McGuire (2). He advanced to a winners’ side semifinal versus Konner McFayden. Mills, in the meantime, gave up just a single rack to three of his first four opponents; one each to James Green, Nathan Rose and Marcus Murillo. In the second round, though, Mike Delawder had given him the proverbial ‘run for his money,’ chalking up six racks against him and forcing a deciding game that did eventually advance Mills to a winners’ side semifinal against Jerry Arvelaez. 

Linares advanced to the hot seat match 7-3 over McFayden and was joined by Mills, who sent Arvelaez to the loss side 7-4. Mills claimed the hot seat with a surprising (to a few) 7-3 win over Linares and waited for him to come back from the semifinals.

On the loss side, McFayden picked up Rich Schau, who’d followed his third-round loss to Linares with three loss-side wins that had recently eliminated Marcus Murillo 7-2 and Robert Batson 7-1. Arvelaez drew a rematch versus Trenton White, whom he’d sent to the loss side in the third round 7-4 and who’d just chalked up loss-side wins #3 and #4 against Bobby Garza and Han Berber, both 7-3, to earn the rematch.

Schau downed McFayen 7-1, as White was wreaking his vengeance on Arvelaez with his sixth in a row, 7-2. Schau stopped White’s loss-side streak at that sixth win, defeating him 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Schau and Linares battled to double hill in the semifinals before Linares prevailed for a second shot at Mills.

In the finals that followed, Linares jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, which, after watching Mills chalk up the rack that made it 5-2, prompted stream commentator and event competitor, Bobby Garza to note that Mills seems to have a preference to starting out slow.

“I think (Mills) likes to start out from behind,” Garza said. “He finds his stroke midway, catches up and then destroys his opponent.”

Just after the midway mark of the two-hour match, Mills chalked up his first two-in-a-row and seemed to be making Garza’s point, as he pulled within two at 6-4. Mills made it three-in-a-row to draw within one at 6-5, they traded racks to 7-6 and then began a wild rack #14 that featured Mills’ attempt at a 5-9 combination, resting near a corner pocket. The 9-ball didn’t drop, but the 5-ball went three rails and did. Shortly afterwards, Mills shot at the 7-ball and watched it rattle in the hole. He then watched Linares step to the table and take aim at the same 7-ball and a clear opportunity to finish the rack and reach the hill first. The 7-ball didn’t drop, but the cue ball took a ‘cross country’ trip to the opposite end of the table and did. Mills didn’t miss the three balls left and it was tied at 7-7.

Mills took his first lead in the match, winning rack #15, but Linares roared back to chalk up rack #16 with a 5-9 combination. Linares had the break and took full advantage of the opportunity. He dropped three balls on the break and ran the table to claim his first 2022 title on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour.

In the event that featured three junior competitors, seven ladies, and six USAPL players that attended at a reduced entry fee, the top junior finisher, Trenton White and the top lady finisher, Jeannie Seaver, took home $50 each. 

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Westbrook-Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, AZBilliards, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Central Florida USA Pool League, Jamison Daniels, and Eastern Billiards. Janene thanked Bobby for providing the Lights Out Streaming, sponsored by Jacksonville Roofing USA and Andrew Cleary for his graphics. The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 5-6, will be the $1,500-added Open 9-Ball Bar Box Classic, hosted by Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café in Winter Park, FL.

Gilsinan and Burden come from deep on the loss side to win FL State Amateur 9-Ball events

Tony Crosby, Jerry Arvelaez, Michael Zingale, Justin Gilsinan and Mike Lear

Between the Main and Second Chance events on the Florida Pool Tour’s $5,000-added Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championships this past weekend (Jan. 15-16), 183 players (with duplication) came to Zingale’s in Tallahassee to play some 9-ball. It had to be the most heavily-attended event in the state in the last two years. And both events featured winners who’d lost early matches and came back on the loss side to claim a title.

After being awarded an opening-round bye (along with 122 others in the 256-player bracket), Justin Gilsinan lost his third winners’ side match (double hill to Nick Applebee) and then won 10 in a row to claim the $4,000-added, 134-entrant Main Event. Jordan Burden lost his opening match (5-1 to Stacy Harrell) in the $1,000-added, 49-entrant Second Chance event and also won 10 straight to claim that title.

The events were designed to accommodate players at a certain handicap ranking and below. While Fargo Rate was employed to determine a lot of the handicaps (699 and under), co-tour directors Tony Crosby and Mike Lear used that and personal knowledge of players to determine eligibility.

With the eventual winner already at work on the loss side in the main event, it was Jerry Arvelaez and Trenton White who, in races to 7, advanced through the 9-ball field to reach the hot seat match. Arvelaez started his trip with a double hill win over Jason Richko and then advanced through Frankie Bourgeois (3), Josh Hillard (0), Desi Derado (5) and Ben Smith (4) to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal match against White. White had sent Billy Pelkey (5), Lincoln Seiffert (0), Bobby Moore (3), Aidan Rigsby (1) and Jesse Middlebrooks (5) to the loss side to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Kelvin Holliman.

Arvelaez and Applebee battled to double hill before Arvelaez prevailed, advancing to the hot seat match. White joined him after sending Holliman over 7-2. Arvelaez and White came within a game of double hill, before Arvelaez edged out in front to claim the hot seat 7-5.

On the loss side, Applebee picked up Roderick Rentz, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal match, double hill, to Holliman and then, given up just a single rack to Joselito Martinez and none at all to Desi Derado to reach Rentz. Holliman had the misfortune of drawing Gilsinan, who was six matches into his loss-side trip, which had consisted of three matches that came within of game of double hill (5-3), two straight double hill wins and a shutout of Josh Hillard.

Rentz chalked up his second straight shutout, downing Applebee and advancing to the quarterfinals, with the possibility of a rematch against Holliman ahead of him. Gilsinan joined Rentz, spoiling the rematch, with a 5-3 win over Holliman. 

Gilsinan put an end to Rentz’ loss-side run 5-1 in the quarterfinals and chalked up loss-side win #9 in the semifinals, eliminating White 5-3. Gilsinan completed his improbable loss-side run in the finals. He downed Arvelaez 8-5 to claim the Florida State Amateur 9-Ball Championship.

Burden comes back from opening-round loss to win Second Chance tournament

The only thing missing from Jordan Burden’s equally improbable, 10-loss-side-win performance to claim the Second Chance victory was what would, no doubt, have been a satisfying ‘So there!’ rematch against Stacy Harrell. It didn’t happen.

It was Jason Jones and Chris Campos who worked their way through the 39-entrant, Second Chance field to square off in the hot seat match. Jones claimed the hot seat 5-2, unaware that his six-match run through the winners’ side was about to come to an end.

On the loss side, Burden’s sixth win came at the expense of Billy Burke, who’d lost his winners’ side semifinal match against Jason Jones. Burden defeated Burke 5-3, advancing to the quarterfinals, where he eventually shut out David Uwate. 

The last piece of Burden’s loss-side puzzle was Campos in the semifinals. A 3-1 victory over him put Burden into the finals, where he defeated Jason Jones 5-3 to claim the Second Chance title. 

Tour directors Tony Crosby and Mike Lear thanked the ownership and staff at Zingale’s, as well as sponsors Aramith Billiard Balls, Outsville, Simonis Cloth, Salotto Pro, Digital Pool, Fargo Rate, Crosby’s Billiards and Darts Supply, Straight Shooter Gear, Patchlab.com, Sniper and XL Press Co. The Florida Pool Tour will return to Zingale’s next month for the $5,000-added Florida State Open 10-Ball Championships, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 26-27.

Cirilo downs veteran Richko in finals to win Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s season opener

(l to r): Jason Richko, Nick Applebee & Obbie Cirilo

Rose, White and Mitchell announced as 2019 Player of the Year, Top Junior and Top Female
 
By all accounts, Obbie Cirilo doesn’t get out on the tables much. As of this past weekend, February 1-2, he’s chalked up exactly two cash finishes in his (recorded) pool career, which began, as far as we know in January, 2018. Both cash finishes were event victories and both, including this past weekend, were on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. His opponent in the hot seat and finals of this Sunshine State Pro Am season opener, Jason Richko, hasn’t been at the tables much recently either. He entered the tournament with only five cash finishes in the same amount of time; no event wins, but all on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour. Richko, however, has a history that dates back 20 years to what’s been recorded in our database as his first cash finish anywhere; 13th at the Planet 9-Ball Intergalactic Open in Tampa that year (2000).
 
So. .  the newcomer and seasoned veteran battled twice in the $1,450-added event which drew 64 entrants to Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL. Richko won the first of the two, but Cirilo came back from a semifinal win to defeat him in the finals and claim the title.
 
Victories over Hayleigh Scarberry, Mark Nowicki, Joe Scarborough and Mitch Keiser brought Cirilo up to a winners’ side semifinal match against Nick Applebee. Richko, in the meantime, got by Gregory English, Marvin Llamas, Joselito Martinez and Raymond Linares to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal match versus Justin McNulty.
 
Cirilo downed Applebee 7-2 to earn his spot in the hot seat match. Richko earned his with a 7-1 victory over McNulty. In their first of two, Cirilo and Richko battled to double hill before Richko prevailed to claim the hot seat.
 
Applebee moved to the loss side and picked up Bobby Garza, who’d been sent over in the event’s second round and was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end and had most recently included back-to-back, double hill victories over Linares and Llamas. McNulty drew Nicholle Cuellar, who’d been defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal by Applebee and gone on to defeat Dave Stern 5-2 and Trenton White, double hill, in a match that featured the event’s top female finisher (Cuellar) and top junior (White).
 
McNulty downed Cuellar 6-3, and was joined in the quarterfinals by Applebee, who’d ended Garza’s streak 5-2. Applebee and McNulty locked up in a double hill fight that eventually did send Applebee to a semifinal matchup against Cirilo. Cirilo put a stop to Applebee’s short, loss-side run 5-3 and turned his attention to a rematch against Richko in the hot seat.
 
Cirilo was battling for his second victory on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, and only his second cash finish in two years. He completed the task, downing Richko 9-6 in the finals to claim the season opening title.
 
Tour awards 2019 Player of the Year, Top Junior and Top Female Player
 
[photo id=51590|align=right]The event also featured awards for the tour’s 2019 best players. Nathan Rose, who finished at the top of the 2019 tour standings was named Player of the Year. Trenton White, who finished second in the standings was the tour’s Top Junior player, while Stephanie Mitchell finished as the tour’s top female, 6th in the overall standings.
 
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Del Rio and their Stroker’s Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, who donated the cue, the raffle of which – won by Ethan Tinsley – added $450 to the prize fund, and $300 worth of gloves. They also thanked sponsors Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Central Florida USA Pool League, Diamond Products, Kamui, AZBilliards and Kodi Allen “for always helping to sell the tickets.”
 
The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 7-8 at Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL, will feature two non-point events. There will be an Open One Pocket event and a 9-Ball Amateur event for competitors with Fargo Rates of 600 or under.  

Two veteran opponents – Kennedy and Meglino – split top prizes on Sunshine State Pro Am Tour

(l to r): Tommy Kennedy, Scott Rohleder & Anthony Meglino

Though Tommy Kennedy and Anthony Meglino were the last two left standing during the season finale of the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour on December 7-8, they were far from being the only veteran Southeast USA pool players among the 42 entrants. Many of these players sport resumes that date back to the early years of the century. Kennedy, of course, has a resume that began, more or less (not including his life as a road warrior) with his victory over Johnny Archer (twice) in the 1992 US Open 9-Ball Championships and was updated this past weekend with his undefeated run through the Sunshine State Pro Am’s season finale field. Meglino, who finished as runner-up in this event has a history that dates (through AZBilliards) back to 2007, when he finished 5th at a stop on Kennedy’s Southeast Open 9-Ball Tour; Kennedy finished 7th at that event, which was won by Nathan Rose, who finished in the tie for 5th place at this most recent event and concluded the 2019 Sunshine State Pro Am season as its Player of the Year.
 
This inter-connected, one-big-happy-family, $500-added event drew its 42 entrants to Park Ave. Billiards in Orange Park, FL. Though Kennedy and Meglino were the finalists, at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, they opted out of a final match, leaving Kennedy, the undefeated occupant of the hot seat, as the official winner.
 
They did meet in the event, once, in a winners’ side quarterfinal. They battled to double hill before Kennedy prevailed and moved on to face Andrew Pettenger in one of the two winners’ side semifinals. Meanwhile, Scott Rohleder (a relatively new member of this family) survived a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal fight against Nick Applebee to draw the aforementioned Nathan Rose in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Two double hill matches sent Rose and Pettenger to the loss side, advancing Kennedy and Rohleder to the hot seat match. Kennedy claimed the hot seat 7-3 over Rohleder in what proved to be his last match of the weekend.
 
On the loss side, Rose ran into another marquee matchup against Meglino, who, after his defeat at the hands of Kennedy had defeated the tour’s top junior player Trenton White 7-5 and David Singleton 7-1. Pettenger drew David Grossman, who, after a second-round loss to Rohleder, set out on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had most recently included victories over Clint Nichols 7-3 and a double hill win over James Sandaler.
 
Pettenger put an end to Grossman’s loss-side streak 7-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Meglino, but not before he and Rose had battled to double hill. Meglino then eliminated Pettenger 7-4 in those quarterfinals.
 
Meglino appeared to be picking up some speed, after his successful match against Rose. His victory over Pettenger was followed by a 7-2 victory over Rohleder in the semifinals.
 
He and Kennedy then opted out of the final match. Kennedy went into ‘the books’ as the event’s official winner.
 
Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Carl Watt and his Park Ave. Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch it to me Embroidery, Diamond Products & Cyclop Balls, AZ Billiards & Cue Sports Studios for streaming. The Sunshine State Pro Am Tour will return on February 1, 2020 with a season opener at Stroker’s in Palm Harbor, FL. At that event, they will present the 2019 Player Awards, to include recognition of Nathan Rose as its Player of the Year, Trenton White as its Top Junior and Stephanie Mitchell as Lady of the Year.

Rodriguez goes undefeated to win his first 2019 Sunshine State Pro Am title

Bill Bloom, Shannon Fitch and Ricardo Joel Rodriguez

Looking to better his 2018 earnings, the year in which he tallied a win on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour in March and won the Florida 10-Ball Bar Box Championships in November, Ricardo Joel Rodriguez went undefeated through a field of 64 entrants to win the October 5-6 stop (#8) on the 2019 Sunshine State Pro Am Tour’s $1,500-added event ($1,000 by Brewlands and $500 from Predator Cues) at Brewlands Bar & Billiards in North Lakeland, FL . He stopped a seven-match, loss-side winning streak by Bill Bloom, defeating him in the finals to claim the title. Rodriguez’ $1,000 first-place prize doesn’t put his 2019 earnings over his 2018 threshold, but does put him a step closer with a full two months-plus to go.
 
In addition to the event itself, the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour held a mystery auction to raise money for junior competitors Kodi Allen and Trenton White (who was the main event’s top-finishing (9th place) junior) to help offset their expenses for an upcoming trip to Cypress in November, when they will represent the USA in the Jr. World Championships. In addition to the money raised by the auction ($600), the tour donated 5% of the player’s auction to the junior players ($215). An additional $215 was raised by a $50 challenge donation from Jen Radkte, bringing the total to $1,030. Each of the junior competitors will receive half of that total. In addition to the support provided by the tour itself, tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza gave a ‘shout out’ to the sponsors of this mystery auction event – Michael Zingale of Zingale’s Billiards, Carl Watt of Park Ave. Billiards, Pedro Botta of Racks Billiards, Larry Walthal of the host Brewlands, The Central Florida USA Pool League, Don and Jennifer Berzinski of the People’s Tournament, Stitch it to Me Embroidery, Cyclop Balls, Predator Products and Jeannette Lee with the Tampa APA.
 
Congratulations were extended to the Scarberry family as winners of the mystery auction. Some of the items in the bags included a Sneaky Pete rage cue, a signed-by-Jeanette Lee cue and cue ball, free entries to an event at Zingales and on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, gift cards (including Dunkin’), scratch-off lottery tickets, Predator glove and chalk, Cyclops cue ball, Tip tool, T-Shirts, Polos, UFC backpack with ‘extras,’ Tiger Chalk, and if that weren’t enough, two bottles of tequila.
 
The main event tournament saw Ricardo Joel Rodriguez start out with a ‘shutout’ bang over Michael McGuire and then settle into victories over Nataniel Acosta, George McLanahan and Jeremy Bell to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match versus Jordan Burden. Shannon Fitch, in the meantime, downed Anthony Fisher, Thomas White, Francisco Diaz and Justin McNulty (who’d just sent Bill Bloom to the loss side) to face Robert Batson in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Rodriguez’ trip to the winners’ circle was almost rerouted as he and Burden went double hill before Rodriguez prevailed. Fitch joined him in the hot seat match with a 7-4 win over Batson. Rodriguez gave up only a single rack to Fitch and sat in the hot seat, waiting for Bloom to conclude his loss-side run.
 
It was Batson who picked up Bloom, four matches into his loss-side streak, that had included recent wins over Jeremy Bell, double hill and, Anthony Cruz. Burden drew Justin McNulty, who’d defeated Trenton White 5-3 and Jeff Brown 5-1 to reach him.
 
Bloom survived a double hill fight against Batson to advance to the quarterfinals, where he was joined by Burden, who’d spoiled any hopes of a Bloom/McNulty rematch by eliminating McNulty 5-1. Bloom and Burden battled to double hill in those quarterfinals, before Bloom advanced.
 
Bloom downed Shannon Fitch in the subsequent semifinals and got a shot at Rodriguez in the finals. With Bloom racing to 8 and Rodriguez to 9, the two battled to a double hill final game, won by Rodriguez, who claimed the title.
 
Tour directors Phillips and Garza thanked Larry Walthal of Brewlands for hosting the event as well as sponsors Predator Cues, Central Florida USA Pool League, Stitch it to me Embroidery, Cyclops, Kamui and AZBilliards. The next stop on the Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 16, will be a $1,500-added event, hosted by Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL.