Van Corteza backs up Kamui Challenge with victory at US Open Straight Pool Championships

Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio
It came within a single match of being a repeat final between Lee Van Corteza and "The Iceman," Mika Immonen. They'd been the finalists at the Kamui Challenge a week earlier (April 5-9) at Steinway Billiards, with Van Corteza coming out on top, and both had made it to the semifinals of the US Open Straight Pool Championships, which drew 16 entrants to Pool Table Magic in Windsor Locks, CT from April 10-14. The Iceman, though, was bested by Thorsten Hohmann in those semifinals, and though Hohmann, at that point, was the only person to have defeated Van Corteza in the tournament, he couldn't do it a second time. Van Corteza took the final 200-149 to claim the title.
The event began with seven, round robin 'flights,' broken up into two groups of eight players, the top four of which, determined by match record, would advance to the quarterfinals. Van Corteza and Hohmann were in the same group (B), which led to their first race-to-100 match in the third round robin flight. Hohmann handed Van Corteza his only loss 100-21, though he (Hohmann) would end up losing twice in the round robin phase; once, to Maksim Dudanets 100-55 and to Chris Melling 100-13.
Van Corteza and Melling would emerge from the round-robin phase with 6-1 records, while Hohmann advanced 5-2. Danny Barouty closed out the Group B set of four players to advance with a 4-3 record. The Iceman went undefeated in Group A (the only player to emerge undefeated from the round robin phase), and was joined in the quarterfinals by Carlo Biado (6-1), Bob Madenjian (5-2) and Darren Appleton (4-3).
Van Corteza and Hohmann emerged from the round robin phase tied for the highest run of balls (101). Immonen, Biado, and Dudanets chalked up runs of 100 balls, while Melling took third place in that category with 99. Moving into the quarterfinals, Hohmann had won his five matches by an average differential of just under 87 balls. Van Corteza, in his six winning matches, won by just over 63 balls. The closest match of the round robin phase saw Appleton best Michael Yednak by two balls 100-98. There were a few shutouts in the round-robin phase, but Hohmann, in the opening round, chalked up the largest differential, defeating Bob Darigis 100 to -14.
The quarterfinals featured two Americans, two Filipinos, two Brits, a German and a Finn. In the extended races-to-150, the two Brits squared off, with Melling eliminating Appleton 150-13 (the largest differential of the quarterfinals). Van Corteza and Madenjian played the tightest match, with Van Corteza winning by 37 balls, 150-113. The Iceman downed Barouty 150-104, while Hohmann joined the semifinalists with a 150-41 victory over Biado. 
It was a brand new set of semifinalists who squared off in this year's event. None of the four semifinalists from the 2016 event - Dennis Orcollo (eventual winner) Shane Van Boening (runner-up), Alex Pagulayan, and Warren Kiamco - were present. In their place stood Mika Immonen, squaring off against Thorsten Hohmann and Lee Van Corteza, facing Chris Melling.
Hohmann downed the Iceman 150-28 (which included a run of 97), as Van Corteza got by Melling 150-89. Together, Van Corteza and Melling hold the Derby City Classic record-run of 225 balls, chalked up in separate years.
On Friday night, though Hohmann would finish with the two highest runs in the single elimination phase of the tournament, Van Corteza took home the title 200-149.
The author would like to acknowledge the details of this tournament that were found on the Cue Score Web site ( as well as facts drawn from commentary by Philip Capelle, who kept fans updated on his Facebook page throughout the tournament.