Toye goes undefeated to win Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour Championship

David Uwate, Justin Toye and Pedro Botta

By almost any measure, Justin Toye’s title-winning run through a field of 77 entrants on hand for the season finale of the Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour (the Tour Championship) was a fight from start to finish. Of his seven opponents, only one of Toye’s opponents chalked up less than five racks against him. And in almost any race to 9, when opponents are closer than four or five racks, almost anything can happen. Runner-up Pedro Botta’s path to the final was even more fraught with ‘close match’ challenges, at least until he got to the loss side, where he won seven matches and only two of his opponents chalked up more than four against him. The 77 entrants who signed on to compete, joined an event that added $3,500 to the purse; $1,000 from the host location, Rack’s Billiards in Sanford, FL, $2,000 from title sponsor Predator, $300 from the Central Florida USA Pool League and $200 from Skills for Rent, LLC.

After a bye, Toye opened up with three straight 9-6 wins over Mike McPhilomy, Tony Whitman and Randall Mcluckie. He then sent Michael Xiarhos, Sr. to the loss side 9-5 to draw Serafin Serrano in a winners’ side semifinal. Botta, who’d won three on the winners’ side versus George Saunders (9-7), Jose Baez (9-7) and Bret Agler (9-5), got sent to the loss side 9-6 by Justin Gilsinan, who followed him over when he was defeated by Serrano in the following round 9-5. David Uwate, in the meantime, got by Ash Chewkaskie 9-6, Norm Klinkosh 9-2, Malcolm Dodson 9-5 and Marcos Bielostozky 9-7 to pick up Derek Laprairie in the other winners’ side semfinal. 

Toye downed Serrano 9-7 and in the hot seat match, met up with Uwate, who’d sent Laprairie west 9-6. Toye claimed the hot seat over Uwate 9-2 and waited for Botta to complete his seven-match, loss-side winning streak.

It was Serrano who drew Botta on the loss side, four matches into his loss-side run that had included recent wins over Ameet Kukadia 7-4 and Jerry Alverez, double hill. Laprairie picked up Andrew Cleary, who’d lost his opening round match to Tom Decker 9-7 and was working on an impressive eight-match, loss-side winning streak of his own that had recently included three straight double hill wins over Malcomb Dodson, Xiarhos, Sr. and Nate Beal.

Laprairie ended Cleary’s run 7-2, while Botta was taking his next step toward the finals 7-3 over Serrano. Botta downed Laprairie, double hill in the quarterfinals, and then spoiled Uwate’s bid for a second shot against Toye 7-2.

As befitted their separate seven (Toye) and 12-match (Botta) struggles to reach the finals, those finals were, for quite a while, too close to call. Toye pulled out ahead and won by two 11-9.

In their subsequent press release, tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza were enthusiastic about the players who’d played and the sponsors who’d assisted in a myriad of ways, to the success of the 2021 tour and the Tour Championship itself. 

“What a great weekend for our finale of the year,” they noted.

They went on to thank the ownership and staff of Rack’s Billiards for their hospitality and title sponsor Predator Cues “for everything they do, not just for us, but players and events everywhere.” They also thanked Kamui Brand, Stitch It To Me Embroidery, Skills for Rent, LLC, Central Florida USA Pool League, Diamond Billiard Products and AZ Billiards. They noted contributions from stream commentators Jimmy Antonietta, Kristian Dimitrov and Garza, as well as the assistance of Niki Cuellar and Katie Bowse.

The next stop on the Sunshine State Predator Pro/Am Tour will be the 2022 season opener. Scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 5-6, the event will be hosted by Stroker’s Bar & Grill in Palm Harbor, FL.