Willard goes undefeated to win his first Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour event

Mike Willard

As has been the case recently, as the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour has worked its way around disrupted scheduling due to the pandemic and normal pool tour changes in plans, individual stops over the past few months have brought new venues and new faces to the tour. The final tour stop of the 2020 season, on the weekend of Dec. 19-20, was no exception, as the tour settled into Knoxville, TN at a new location called Peyton’s Place. 

Thanks, in part, to a recent schedule change that put the tour’s annual Tour Championship on hold until the weekend of Jan. 9-10, 2021, and delayed the last regular tour stop by a week, the $500-added event at Peyton’s Place drew a good crowd of 51 entrants. Mike Willard, a newcomer to the tour, went undefeated through six matches to claim his first tour title. Willard had to get by 15-year-old Cole Lewis twice to claim that title.

They met, first, in the hot seat match. Willard had downed Ricky Chitwood 5-5 (Chitwood racing to 7) in his winners side semifinal, while the youngster, Lewis, was busy defeating tour veteran Jody Musselman 5-1 in his winners’ side semifinal. In their first of two, Willard claimed the hot seat over Lewis 5-3.

On the loss side, Musselman picked up Jason Zampich, who’d defeated Brady Brazell 6-5 (Brazell racing to 7) and assured himself a payout by defeating Peyton Place owner Bobby Jack Connor in the first money round. Chitwood drew a rematch against Reid Vance, whom he’d defeated in the third round and who was on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him as far as the quarterfinals. Vance had most recently picked up a forfeit victory over Mike Kirby (one of a few, brought on by a local 10 p.m. curfew on Saturday night, from which some players did not return on Sunday) and eliminated David Givens 7-4.

Two double hill matches were fought for advancement to the quarterfinals. Vance downed Chitwood 7-6 and Musselman eliminated Zampich 6-5. Vance’s bid came to an end in those quarterfinals, as Musselman defeated him 6-4. 

The semifinal was a rematch between Musselman and Lewis. Lewis had given up only a single rack in their winners’ side semifinal match. He was even stingier in the semifinals, shutting Musselman out to earn a second shot at Willard in the hot seat.

Willard then did unto Lewis as Lewis had done unto Musselman; giving up one rack less to Lewis than he had allowed him in their hot seat match. Willard claimed the title with a 5-2 win in the finals.

Tour directors Herman and Angela Parker had a lot to look back upon as they considered what was easily the most challenging year of their eight years bringing the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball to the Southeast.

“We ran 50 events a year,” Herman noted. “In this environment, we ran 41 events and that’s still pretty solid.”

Looking back, not just on this truncated season, but on eight years of running the tour, the Parkers have accomplished a lot. Herman’s first articulated thought about those eight years featured a note of wry humor. 

“I feel 15 years older,” he said.

“I feel great about it,” he added. “For me, it’s a great milestone. Being in business for yourself takes a whole lot of dedication, self-discipline and hard work.”

He credits Tony Robles for being the role model that inspired his work with the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour.

“He always worked very hard,” said Parker of Robles. “He’s a class act. He was always motivated, worked very hard and always did things the right way.”

The Parkers also noted the cooperation and assistance of all of the tour’s venues, including this past weekend’s owner, Bobby Jack Connor and his Peyton’s Place staff. They also thanked title sponsor Viking Cues, Bar Pool Tables, JB Magic Templates, AZBilliards, Tickler Pool Ball Washing Machine, Skyline Construction, Federal Savings Bank Mortgage Division and Dirty South Grind Apparel Co.

The Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour will open its 2021 season with the annual Tour Championship. The $1,000-added event will be hosted by Break & Run Billiards in Chesnee, SC.