TM Taco Master Challenge Gets Underway

FORMER national billiards team mainstays Venancio 'Tukaw' Tanio and Victor Arpilleda take time out from their busy schedule as pool professionals when they test the mettle of budding amateurs from Northern Luzon in the Regional Finals of the TM Taco Master Challenge on July 1 at the Nepo Mall in Angeles City, Pampanga.

They will take on the survivors among the champions from Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Baguio and Bataan.

The local champs will meet in a pair of race-to-seven matches. The pairing will be determined by the drawing of lots.

The semifinals featuring pro vs. amateur will be a race-to-nine while the finals will be a race-to-11.

If an amateur reaches the finals, he will be assured of at least P10,000. If an amateur wins the title, he will go home with P20,000 and a billiards table.

Tournament organizer Mon Tuazon believes the concept of pitting top amateurs against professional cue artists will help develop the talents from the grassroots level.

"I'm very thankful to our pros for throwing their support in this project. For sure they will inspire the players from the countryside to try and reach their level," said Tuazon, the founding chairman of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).

Tanio, a one-time conqueor of former world champ Mika Immonen, and Arpilleda, a former Southeast Asian gold medal winner, will be the first set of pros to grace a Regional Finals.

Ronnie Alcano and Antonio Gabica from Perry Mariano's stable and Warren Kiamco are also among the pros set to play when the touring event supported by TM holds its Southern Luzon and Vis-Min Finals in Batangas and Cebu, respectively.