Souquet Wins U.S. Open

Ralf, triumphant.

Ralf, triumphant.

In a mad dash to hold off pesky challenger Alex Pagualyan and complete the final match before Pay-Per-View satellite feeds went “to black,” Germany’s Ralf Souquet scored a heart-pounding 13-11 win in the final of the 27th U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, Va., Sunday night.

Souquet’s triumph over the Canadian contender was completed just three minutes before the plug was to be pulled on pool’s first pay-per-view effort, and brought the normally emotionless German to his knees in exultation.

In winning his first U.S. Open title, Souquet earned $30,000 from the $150,000 prize fund. Pagualyan, the 24-year-old Canadian-by-way-of-the-Philippines, played 11 consecutive matches in the loser’s bracket of the 215-player field, and earned $15,000 for his efforts. Five-time U.S. Open champion (and reigning WPA World 9-Ball Champion) Earl Strickland finished third ($10,000), followed by Hawaiian Rodney Morris ($7,000).

Souquet Wins in Nashville

316aRalf Souquet dominated Johnny Archer in the finals to win the IBC U.S. Championship, his second straight IBC event title. Souquet took the title from Archer in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1, at J. O. B. Billiards in Nashville, Tenn. Following about a week of on-site qualifiers, the event ran Sept. 13-15.

Souquet also racked up wins over Travis Stamper, 6-2, 6-3; local player Bobby Pickle, 6-4, 6-1; Japan’s Tetsu Haraquchi, 6-3,6-2; Jimmy Reid, 6-0, 6-1; and Canada’s Edwin Montal, 7-6, 6-1; before going on to crush Archer in the finals.

If $80,000 in prize money weren’t enough of an incentive, the event offered a unique chance for glory: The winner is to be immortalized in a wood carving commissioned by room owner Jim Blaylock.

Always a Bridesmaid, Finally a Bride

Thornfeldt finally overcame them all. (Photo: Carla Bonner)

Thornfeldt finally overcame them all. (Photo: Carla Bonner)

Helena Thornfeldt has won her first Women’s Professional Billiards Association title since the Seattle Classic in 1996. Thornfeldt, who has steadily held the fourth or fifth place in the WPBA rankings, went undefeated at the U.S. Open, held Sept. 4-8 at the Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, N.M. Her trip to the top included wins over Belinda Campos, 9-6, and Julie Kelly, 9-7, as well as wins over No. 1 Karen Corr, 9-7, and No. 2 Allison Fisher, 9-6.

Thornfeldt’s win was worth $11,000. Runner-up Fisher took home $8,000, and third-place Corr settled for $6,000. The WPBA’s next stop is the Cuetec Cues Fall Classic, Oct. 2-6, at Amsterdam Billiard Club East in New York City.

Bustamante Wins Las Vegas Invitational

Bustamante zeroed in on the title in Vegas.

Bustamante zeroed in on the title in Vegas.

“He just plays great against me. It makes me a little sick sometimes,” said Ralf Souquet after the finals of the Gabriels Las Vegas Invitational, August 23 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino. By Souquet’s reckoning, it was the 26th or 27th time Francisco Bustamante had defeated him in a finals match. Bustamante was characteristically humble about the win. “The only reason I beat him is in the beginning he never made a ball [on the break].”

Bustamante won $7,000 for first place, Souquet took $3,800 home. While some of the top names (such as Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland) were absent from the 37-man, one woman field, a full complement of Filipino players and such heavy hitters as Rodney Morris, Cory Deuel, Kim Davenport and the tournament promoter himself, Allen Hopkins provided entertaining action for the hard-core pool fans and handfuls of American Poolplayers Association members who were there for their national team championships running concurrently next door.

Reyes Declared Champion of Champions

Reyes holds the winning check.

Reyes holds the winning check.

Efren Reyes triumphed at the 2002 International Challenge of Champions, held Aug. 14-15 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Reyes defeated Finland’s Mika Immonen in a sudden-death winner-takes-all tiebreaker to be crowned this year’s “champion of champions.”

Eight “international champions” took part in the made-for-TV event: Netherlands National Champion Neils Feijen; 2001 IBC tour winner Reyes, Taiwan’s Hsiao-Lang Fang, Great Britain’s Steve Knight, Australia’s Johl Younger, American Cory Deuel, Japan’s Satoshi Kawabata, and Immonen.

Reyes first defeated Feijen in the single-elimination race-to-7 first round, 7-5; he then defeated Fang two sets in a row in the semi final, 5-2 and 5-3. Reyes lost his first set to Immonen in the final, 5-3, and won the next, 5-4, to force the single-game tiebreaker which he clinched to win the $50,000 purse. The crowd gave Reyes’ win a standing ovation.

The two semifinals and the Championship match were taped by ESPN for broadcast beginning August 25th. Check BD’s online schedule and your local listings for exact times.

Defending Champs Overthrown at BCA Junior Nationals

113aAt the Billiard Congress of America Junior Nationals, in DeKalb, Ill., Aug. 8-10, the 18-and-under-open quarterfinal saw the surprise upset of the tournament: Three-time defending champion Shane McMinn, now 18, lost to 15-year-old Joey Gray. Gray was runner-up in the 14-and-under division at the past two Junior Nationals, and has now graduated to the older division. Gray, a dapper Paul Newman look-alike, met his match in the finals against lanky 18-year-old Beau Runningen (pictured here). Runningen reached the finals undefeated, and lost his only game to Gray in the first set, 11-10. Runningen then took hold of a slim lead in the tiebreaker game, slowly increasing his advantage until he could take the case game with a well-planned 2-9 combo to win, 11-7.

In the girls’ 18-and-under division, Eleanor Callado, in her first time at the Junior Nationals, defeated defending champion Michelle Rakin in the finals, 9-8. Rakin is a friend of Callado’s, and the person who had urged her to come to the event in the first place. “I’ve told her about it for three years,” said Rakin. The Rakin family — all of whom play pool — brought Callado with them to the tournament, and there seem to be no hard feelings. Both girls are already focused on their next piece of action: college. Rakin is going to the University of San Francisco, as a premed, with plans to be a doctor. Her education will be financed in part by the scholarship money she’s won at past Junior Nationals. Callado is going to San Francisco State University to be an advertising/marketing major.

In the 14-and-under-open division, Justin Hall beat Mike Banks, Jr. in a forced tiebreaker. Banks beat Hall decisively in the first set, 9-3, but lost steam in the second, allowing Hall to win, 9-6. Hall started playing pool with his dad at 8; Banks has been playing in his father’s poolroom since he was 4. Both boys have considered being professional pool players, though Hall also has anesthesiologist on his list of potential careers.

Behrman, Daughters Charged

US Open founder and promoter Barry Behrman along with two daughters and others were charged following a raid on Behrman’s 6,100 sq. ft. home in Chesapeake, Va., Dec. 2. The Virginian-Pilot is reporting that Behrman has been indicted on four felony charges including three counts of illegal gambling and possession of cocaine; as well as 10 misdemeanors.

Becky Gettings, director of public affairs for the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control confirmed that Behrman will face felony charges as a result of the four-month investigation.

Police and ABC agents raided Behrman’s home in an exclusive subdivision where 60 people were cited. Allegations included illegal gambling, illegal purchase and sales of alcohol, and possession of marijuana and cocaine, according to officer Cheryl Sitler of the Chesapeake Police.

Behrman Nabbed In Raid

behrmanTroubles continue for U.S Open promoter Barry Behrman following the mid-tournament prize-fund reduction at the 2001 U.S. Open in September and slow payment of prize monies from the Masters tournament.

Behrman was one of 60 people cited in a raid on a home in Chesapeake, Va., Sunday by police and Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control agents following a four-month investigation.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that the allegations stemming from the raid include illegal gambling, selling alcohol illegally, purchasing alcohol illegally, possession of marijuana, and possession of cocaine.

Becky Gettings, director of public affairs for the ABC confirmed that Behrman was among those cited and that “the charges are numerous and include some felony charges relating to the gambling and the amount of money invloved.”

Behrman was not detained and will face a grand jury on the charges, Gettings said. Behrman could not be reached for comment.

BCA Bylaw Changes Passed

Proposed changes to the Billiards Congress of America’s bylaws were passed at the trade association’s annual general membership meeting July 24 in New Orleans at the BCA Trade Expo. The bylaw changes will add four “elite players” to the BCA’s board of directors, including one who will sit on the executive committee. These changes bring the BCA into compliance with the U.S. Olympic Committee’s organizational requirements to be recognized as a National Governing Body.

Because of the extensive bureaucracy involved, the USOC’s April board meeting is the earliest that action would be taken by the Olympic organization. The BCA plans to hold player-representative elections at the BCA’s 8-ball tournaments in Las Vegas this coming May.

Strickland Wins World Championship

The Pearl has shone through. The legendary Earl Strickland won his third World Championship in a final against Francisco Bustamante, Sunday, July 21, at the 2002 Hasseroder World Pool Championship in Cardiff, Wales. Strickland last won the World Championship in 1991. “I didn’t think I’d have many more shots at this,” said Strickland, “so it means a great deal to me.”

The final wasn’t the break-fest that everyone had expected, but Strickland’s come-from-behind, 17-15 win over Bustamante will be remembered as one of the epic heavyweight battles in 9-ball. When the last ball dropped, following the nerve-wracking, seesaw set, Strickland leapt onto the table in triumph. “It’s a complete honor to win this title,” he later declared. For in-depth live coverage, click on the World Championship link above.