Strickland sent packing

One night after barely squeezing into the Round of 32 with a 9-8 win over Ramil Gallego, Earl Strickland was eliminated from the 2001 Admiral World Pool Championship in Cardiff, Wales, on Thursday night. German Andreas Roschkowsky topped the five-time Player of the Year, 9-7, to advance to the last 16, beginning on Friday.

Snippets… Euro stars in nookie ban

In a desperate attempt to regain the Mosconi Cup, European Team Captain Ralf Souquet has slapped a sex ban on his team for the duration of the Mosconi Cup which starts on Thursday.

In a strongly worded letter, hard-line Souquet, dubbed ‘The Kaiser’, warned his teams against the perils of carnality.

Order for all members of the European Mosconi Cup Team: “There is a strict prohibition for having sex and/or sexual activities with effect from December 11th 2000. This rule applies particularly to the German player Thomas Engert, who is bringing his wife with him. There have even been some thoughts, whether to book two single rooms for him and his wife!”

“As captain of the European Team, it is my first and utmost priority to take care of the players and prepare them for optimal performance at the tournament. Not only from my own experience I know that having sex at an inappropriate moment can paralyse body and soul of a player. Concentration, mental force and attitude towards the game could be weakened and negatively influenced.”

“Remember there is only one goal – to win the Mosconi Cup!”

Finnish ace Mika Immonen learned of the ban on arriving in London this morning and was reported to be “gobsmacked”.

Chao bounces back on Monday

Defending champion Fong-Pang Chao recovered on Monday with a pair of wins at the 2001 Admiral World Pool Championship in Cardiff, Wales, moving into the last qualifying spot in Group 1 with one day of round-robin play remaining. Chao topped Brazil’s Fabio Luersen, 5-0, and England’s Andy Battams, 5-4, on Monday to tie Ramil Gallego and Quinten Hann for second place in the group with eight points, two behind undefeated group leader Chris Melling of England.

Players also undefeated through Monday’s action include Hao-Ping Chang (5-0), Dmitri Jungo (5-0), Radoslaw Babica (6-0), Ralf Souquet (6-0), Steve Knight (5-0), Johnny Archer (5-0) and Leonardo Andam (5-0).

The top four qualifiers in each of the 16 groups will advance to the round of 64, which begins on Wednesday.

Chicagoland to Host WPBA

The Women’s Professional Billiard Association has added another tournament to the 2001 line up, according to Trifecta Entertainment. The event brings the year’s total Classic Tour stops to five.

The women will gather October 10-14 in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park for the WPBA Midwest Classic. The event marks a return to Palace Billiards (co-owned by BCA amateur stand out John Abruzzo), where last year Allison Fisher beat Helena Thornfeldt for the title.

In addition to the five Classic Tour stops, the women also competed in the Billiard Congress of America Pro 9-Ball Open in May, and a National Championship is pending for early December.

WPBA Midwest Classic
Oct. 10 – 14, 2001
Palace Billiards
Villa Park, IL

For ticket info call 630-941-3500

Cue manufacturer’s new partner lets it roll

of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: June 14, 2001

McDermott Cue Manufacturing Inc. is trying for the business equivalent of a bank shot into the corner pocket.

Less than a year ago, the Menomonee Falls firm, one of the country’s largest makers of custom, two-piece pool cues, was behind a financial eight ball. Cheaper foreign imports had eaten into the company’s market. Sales had flattened. Loan payments had been missed.

Now McDermott is resetting the rack. The firm has new financial muscle and new owners who, if they’re not necessarily looking to run the table, definitely hope to put a few more balls in their pockets.

Prospect Partners, a Chicago investment firm, has acquired controlling interest in McDermott and is making it the heart of a new enterprise that aims to hustle up a larger slice of the billiards-products and game-room business through acquisition.

The deal with Prospect brings in cash to retire some $2.5 million in debt and provides new access to capital to pursue growth opportunities, McDermott’s president and chief executive officer, Larry Johns, said.

It also frees Johns, a certified public accountant who bought into McDermott seven years ago, to focus on building the company rather than sustaining it.

“I have spent all my time over the last year cash-managing the business and pursuing an investor,” Johns said.

Johns, who retains a minority stake, had led a debt-fueled buyout of McDermott Cue from founder James D. McDermott and other family members in 1994. James McDermott helped finance the deal.

By the late 1990s, however, Johns and partner Jesse McDermott – James’ son – hit rough water. Sales softened amid increasing competition from firms selling cheaper cues made overseas, principally in China, Johns said.

“The company was taking all its cash flow to retire debt and pay taxes,” he said. There was no money for growth, and the firm started missing some payments due James McDermott, Johns said.

After about two years, he said, James McDermott said something had to be done, and Johns started looking for a buyer, a process that led to Prospect Partners.

Without a sale, McDermott Cue probably would have been liquidated, said James McDermott, now living on a ranch in northeastern Nevada.

Instead, McDermott Cue and the Billiard Brands Inc. firm that has been formed around it are getting aggressive.

Acquisitions considered
Billiard Brands, of which Johns also is CEO, already is seeking to buy another company, a well-known table manufacturer, Johns said.

McDermott Cue, meanwhile, is waving the flag with an advertising effort touting the product’s made-in-America status, and Johns is firing shots at a competitor he alleges has spread false rumors that McDermott cues are made in China.

“We’re basically ready to strap on the gloves and go toe to toe,” Johns said.

He said the rumors are coming from Cue & Case Sales Inc., a Jacksonville, Fla., distributor – the company used to distribute McDermott products – that also sells its own lines of Chinese-made cues.

“Absolutely not true,” owner Jim Lucas said of the alleged rumor-spreading. “And if anybody on my staff ever said anything like that, all Larry would have to do is call me and I would put a stop to it immediately. . . . But we’ve never said anything like that.”

Lucas added that Johns had had cues made in China a few years ago.

Johns said his company imported a line of cues from China “for a couple months” in late 1995 or early 1996 but sold them under the “Sabre” brand, not the McDermott name. Johns said he scrapped the arrangement because of quality problems.

The company will import cues again, he said, but not under the “McDermott” brand.

McDermott also has wrestled with what Johns said was infringement by importers on a patent the company holds on a device for connecting the two pieces of a cue, and on copyrighted “artwork” on cue sticks.

McDermott hasn’t had the money to litigate in the past, but will review that possibility under its new ownership, Johns said.

McDermott was sued for alleged patent infringement in 1998 by Uni-Loc Corp. of America, a Massachusetts firm that owned rights to a quick-coupling device for joining the two pieces of a cue.

The case was settled in 1999 on terms that included McDermott agreeing to buy 1,000 Uni-Loc couplers and to pay the company an additional $15,000, said Susan G.L. Glovsky, the lawyer who represented Uni-Loc. She said McDermott also was ordered not to make couplers that could join a cue within two turns.

Johns said he couldn’t comment on the settlement terms because they were supposed to be confidential. The company settled to avoid costly litigation and not because it believed Uni-Loc had a case, Johns said.

He said the dispute involved a McDermott-designed coupler that a patent attorney had researched and concluded did not infringe on the Uni-Loc patent.

McDermott’s sales last year were just over $5 million, roughly the same as in 1999, Johns said. The firm has 45 employees, down from about 60 two years ago. McDermott reduced employment when it changed manufacturing methods, a move Johns said cut costs and helped position the company for sale.

Johns said McDermott is the leading U.S. maker, in sales terms, of custom two-piece cues and accounts for 12% to 15% of the worldwide market. The company makes cues that retail from $119 to $2,500, with the heart of the line falling in the $200 to $400 range, Johns said.

Prospect Partners manages a $105 million fund it uses to help acquire and build companies, in various industries, that typically have revenue of $10 million to $30 million.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 15, 2001.

Corr eclipses Fisher to take No. 1 ranking

Ireland’s Karen Corr captured her 2001 Classic Tour-best third title of the season by defeating Allison Fisher, 7-3, in the final of the Women’s Professional Billiard Association’s Cuetec Cues Carolina Classic at the Charlotte Marriott City Center, June 14-17. The victory vaulted Corr into the No. 1 spot in the rankings, unseating Fisher, who held the WPBA’s top position since Sept. 1996.

Corr’s victory was her sixth WPBA crown since joining the tour in 1999. Five of those wins have come in Corr’s last nine Classic Tour stops, including back-to-back titles at the 2001 Cuetec Cues Players Championship in March and the Spring Classic in April. With the $7,500 first-place prize, Corr’s earnings total reached a Classic Tour-leading $30,000 for the 2001 season.

Byrne, Ceulemans get BCA Hall of Fame nods

The voters have spoken, and Earl Strickland can begin making plans to attend the World Pool Championship in Cardiff.

In a vote that seemed to underscore the business nature of the BCA electorate, author Robert Byrne and legendary Belgian 3-cushion star Raymond Ceulemans earned entry into the Billiard Congress Hall of Fame, according to the BCA. Byrne and Ceulemans become the 39th and 40th members of the Hall. The duo emerged as the top vote-getters on a five-person ballot that included Strickland and fellow contemporary players Jim Rempe and Allen Hopkins. Strickland had previously insisted that, if elected, he would bypass the $300,000 world championship to attend the BCA Hall of Fame banquet.

Byrne, 70, credited with drawing thousands of players into the game through his seven books and five videos on billiards, will become the eighth person to be inducted in the Meritorious Service category. Ceulemans, 63, dominated the world 3-cushion scene from the ’60s into the ’90s, winning 16 of his 19 world-titles in an 18-year period between 1962 and 1980.

That the Hall of Fame vote is in the hands of BCA’s 125 Voting members and 175 Associate members (nearly 60 percent of the Voting membership voted, while just 25 percent of the Assoicate members submitted ballots, according to the BCA) probably increased Byrne’s chances, since his books and videos are well known to the BCA business populace. Meanwhile, industry pundits will likely wonder whether the lack of support for Strickland was a direct reflection of his sometimes volatile career.

Lee and Deuel Victorious in Vegas

Jeanette Lee ended Karen Corr’s two-tourney win streak when she came from the one-loss side to hand Corr her only loss of the tournament, 7-5, at the Billiard Congress of America Pro 9-Ball open. Lee also ended a drought of her own, taking her first tournament top prize since prior to her 2000 back and shoulder surgery.

On the men’s side, Cory Deuel came through the left side and won 12 consecutive matches to take the top prize, defeating Jose Parica, 7-5, with a jaunty 8-9 combo in the final.

Lee and Deuel each won $15,000.

Billiard Congress of America’s Pro 9-Ball

Defending Champion Johnny Archer will have to do it the hard way if he is to repeat at the Billiard Congress of America’s Pro 9-Ball tournament in Las Vegas. Archer was upset by Canadian Mario Mora, 11-8, in the opening round of the men’s division, Sunday. The double-elimination format makes it “sudden death” for Archer from this point on.

The 2000 women’s division winner, Gerda Hofstatter, got by Ann Gray easily, 9-1, to stay in the hunt.

The 64-player men’s and women’s divisions are competing for twin $80,000 prize funds. The event runs through Saturday, May 19, and will be broadcast on ESPN later in the summer.

Deja Vu, All Over Again

Karen Corr became the first Women’s Professional Billiard Association player other than No. 1-ranked Allison Fisher to win back-to-back Classic Tour titles since 1997 by capturing the Spring Classic, in Alpine, Calif., April 26-29. The victory, which paid Corr $6,500, once again came against Jennifer Chen, Corr’s final opponent one month earlier at the Cuetec Cues Players Championship in Valley Forge, Pa., March 23-25.

On her path to a second consecutive TV final, No. 2-ranked Corr knocked off Kim White, 9-1, Tiffany Nelson, 9-4, Line Kjorsvik, 9-8, and Vivian Villarreal, 9-2, before her rematch with Chen. Only Gerda Hofstatter as previously been able to string together back-to-back Classic Tour stops in the last four seasons. A native of Taiwan, Chen earned $4,500 for second place.