Grinders Galore Trek Through One-Loss Charts at Grueling U.S. Open
128 players still in action; third round of unbeaten play set for tonight
by Paul Berg, InsidePOOL Magazine Staff
Roughly half the original field of 233 billiard players will wait for next year for another chance at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships. With an early morning start at the Chesapeake Conference Center for one-loss bracket play, the remaining 64 players on the west side of the chart are one match away from making their entry fees back or going home with memories and hotel bills. Then there are those who aim for boom or bust in the backroom across town at Q-Master Billiards II, and a few action hounds have been spurred by tournament defeats to go off or inspired by scores to bring winning ways back to the arena.
Easily the most notable great eliminated from the tournament thus far is Earl Strickland. The five-time Open champion fell 11-6 to OK player William Compton, who logged another upset in his earlier one-loss match, besting “Machine Gun” Luc Salvas 11-3. Other recognized stars Charlie Williams and Daryl Peach will have to play to make the money, both with narrow wins to get that far.
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Other top players have bounced back from early losses and are beginning the massive and treacherous journey back towards the final four on Saturday. While they focus on this daunting undertaking, others have taken to late night play, with interesting results. For New Yorker Rob Pole Jr., staying in action right up until his 9 AM match this morning and booking a two-set winner over local 18-year-old comer Curtis Coleman inspired a comeback 11-8 victory over Michael Banks. “I played one of the best matches of my life,” Pole said afterward. Others have taken events at the conference center badly and gone on tilt at the pool room.
Florida player by way of Indiana, Josh Lewis followed up his loss to Derek “Chewing Tobacco” Leonard on the winners’ side of the tournament with a six-ahead loss to his ouster that cost him his cue and available cash. “I didn’t like the cue. I was trying shots in the tournament, and it wasn’t working for me,” Lewis said today, a resilient smile on his face.
For regional player Chad Pike, who occasionally visits Q-Master from nearby northern NC, it took everything he had to get a shot at the cash from the B-side after a drubbing from Shane Van Boening. Pike snuck past Jon Kutcher 11-10, having to jump the 9 ball to pocket the 8 ball in the case game and escape the heat. “I played bad again,” Pike mused afterwards. South Dakota’s rising star Van Boening is still looking strong on the undefeated side of things and will play tonight at 9 PM against Sparky Ferrell, the resilient but feisty gambler himself a winner in the backroom last night over Shin Ho Park.
Starting at 7 PM, all eyes will be on the east side of the chart. During that match time, Billiard Club Network viewers can look forward to a bout between runner-up at the Turning Stone Casino event, Louis Ulrich, and 2005 Open winner Alex Pagulayan, who just wandered past the tournament desk humming “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Tonight is special for the man who put a damper on his title defense last year, as birthday boy Steve Moore tries his hand against Ernesto Dominguez. If Pagulayan and Moore win, they’ll have a rematch from the first round of the Open last year, where Moore had a breakout win. Seven o’clock action could also possibly create a rematch from last year’s Open finale, if John Schmidt can overcome James Walden and Rodolfo Luat can stop Ceri Worts.
The BCn match in the Chalk-Off Arena for 9 PM will be Niels Feijen against Lee Van Corteza, an intriguing bout in the middle of a Filipino-infested quarter of the bracket. They have played twice in major tournaments this year with split results, each winning the event they defeated the other in. Also at 9 PM, a battle of Kentucky’s favorite sons of pool will commence, as Nick Varner and Shannon Daulton collide. With a plethora of other intriguing pairings, stay tuned to InsidePOOLmag.com for results from the pivotal third round of the winners’ bracket at the 32nd U.S. Open later tonight.