‘Wei-Wei’ goes undefeated to win $20k-added WPBA Raxx Mezz Invitational

Tzu Chien Wei and Kristina Tkach

WPBA will run Scotch Doubles event in Laconia, NH during 101-year-old Motorcycle Week

Featuring many of the same competitors who graced the ‘stage’ of Janet Atwell’s new Borderline Brunswick Arena a month ago (May 1-5), the WPBA’s Raxx Mezz Invitational, held this past weekend (May 30-June 2) at Raxx Pool Room, Sports Bar & Grill in West Hempstead (Long Island), NY, finished, in many respects, the same way. Of the top 12 finishers in the Borderline Brunswick Invitational, nine of them were among the top 12 at the end of their weekend on Long Island.

Tzu-Chien Wei (known as “Wei-Wei” among her WPBA friends) finished in the tie for 5th in May and went undefeated to claim the Raxx Invitational title. Kristina Tkach, who’d defeated Kelly Fisher in the hot seat match at Borderline Brunswick Arena, and lost to her in the finals, defeated her twice at this event; once in a winners’ side quarterfinal and again in the event semifinals. Tkach, defeated twice by Tzu-Chien in this event, hot seat and finals, finished as runner-up at her second straight WPBA event.

Pia Filler, who finished 3rd in May, did not compete. Neither did Loree Jon Hasson or Sofia “Pink Dagger” Mast, who had both finished in the four-way tie for 9th place in May.

As it turned out, Tzu-Chien did not face any of the competitors that she faced in the Borderline Billiards Invitational. After opening with an 8-4 victory over Jennifer Kraber, Tzu-Chien allowed only a single rack to each of her next three opponents – Erica Testa, Susan Williams and Sara Rocha. Tzu-Chien drew Bean (Meng-Sia) Hung in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Tkach had a much tougher ‘row to hoe,’ opening with an 8-3 win over Chihiro Kawahara (who would eventually finish 4th), giving up a single rack to Lonnie Fox-Raymond, two to Janet Atwell and six to Kelly Fisher, before she drew Kristina Zlateva in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Tzu-Chien got into the hot seat match with an 8-3 win over Hung. Zlateva battled Tkach to double hill, before Tkach prevailed. Tkach took an early, seemingly-commanding 6-2 lead before Tzu-Chien won six straight to claim the hot seat.

By the time Hung and Zlateva arrived to compete on the loss side, all but four of the top 14 women on the WPBA’s ranking list had been eliminated, the exceptions being Tzu-Chien (#1), Kelly Fisher (#2), Jasmin Ouschan (#3; did not compete) and Tkach (#5). Hung (#14) drew Kelly Fisher, who’d followed her winners’ side quarterfinal loss to Tkach with a double-hill win over Japan’s Yuki Hiraguchi and defeated Tapei’s Wang Wan-Ling 8-3. 

Zlateva (#4) picked up Chihiro Kawahara, who, as far as we could determine, was playing in her first WPBA event within the last two years at least. Not however, an unknown quantity, Kawahara’s been competing professionally since she was 21 in 2006. In her best recorded earnings year (2016), she finished as runner-up in both the Ladies Division of the All Japan Championships and the WPA’s Women’s World 9-Ball Championships. She went toe-to-toe with Kelly Fisher at last year’s Michigan Open. Kawahara followed her opening-round loss to Tkach at this event with seven straight wins, over an impressive list of regular WPBA competitors, including Jeannie Seaver (2), JoAnn Mason Parker (1), Caroline Pao (1) and Brittany Bryant (5), before eliminating Sara Rocha (1) and Bojana Sarac (2), to draw Zlateva. 

It was Kelly Fisher and Kawahara who squared off in the quarterfinals, after 8-6 victories over Hung and Zlateva, respectively. Fisher ended Kawahara’s strong, loss-side streak 8-5 in those quarterfinals and then, for a second time, fell to Tkach 8-5.

Perhaps mindful of the issues inherent in allowing Tkach to get out in front the way she had in the hot seat match, Tzu-Chien opened the race to 10, by winning the first two racks and taking a lead she would never relinquish. Tkach, though, responded with two of her own for the match’s first of only two ties, at 2-2 and 3-3. Tzu-Chien came back to win three in a row, at which point, they traded racks back and forth, maintaining Tzu-Chien’s three-point lead, all the way to 8-5.

Tzu-Chien won the critical 14th rack, which put her on the hill, ahead by four racks at 9-5. Tkach fought back to win her first (and only) three racks in a row and pull within a single rack of the lead at 9-8. Tzu-Chien avoided a double-hill, final rack by closing it out at 10-8.

Tour representatives thanked Holden Chin and his Raxx Billiards staff for their hospitality, along with sponsors Viking Cues, Jacoby Custom Cues, Brunswick, Diamond Billiard Products, Aramith, Kamui Tips, Iwan Simonis Cloth, How Tips, Big Family Custom Creations, Outsville, Iowa City Metro Pool League, Iowa City Women’s 8-Ball League and Holt Family Dental Care. 

The WPBA heads to Winni Bar & Billiards in Laconia, NH in a little over a week (June 13-15) to set up for a Non-Ranking, Scotch Doubles 10-Ball Special Event, featuring eight teams of two WPBA competitors, competing for a $30,000 purse (the two-women teams will be announced soon on the WPBA Web site – https://wpba.com/). It is, at minimum, going to be a compelling mixture of events, at which the women of the WPBA will be courting new fans (and likely get them) because they have planted themselves in the middle of Laconia’s Motorcycle Week (June 8-16), which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and is expecting 300,000 bikers and spectators to attend this year. In addition, The Margate Resort, located within walking distance of Winni Bar & Billiards, will be hosting a three-day Meet and Greet, at which attendees will be able to challenge WPBA competitors, have an opportunity to win a custom pool cue, a Diamond pool table, and other sponsor prizes, as well as take advantage of opportunities to take pictures, obtain autographed photos, pool balls and other promotional materials. A daily schedule of players will be listed at the Margate, with the events taking place in the resort’s lounge.

A week after Motorcycle Week in Laconia (June 19-23), the WPBA will turn its attention to Mount Pleasant, MI, where it will hold its annual Soaring Eagle Masters Tournament. The $40,000-added Major Event will be held at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant.

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