Homegrown Billiard Talent Shines

Homegrown Billiard Talent Shines
The Canadian 9-Ball Tour – Event VII,
Bourbon Street Billiards, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Canadian 9-Ball Tour presented by Indigo Chapters bookstores and Cineplex Entertainment brought only eight men back for play on Sunday morning at Bourbon Street Billiards. Of these eight, the four undefeated names on the right hand side of the draw sheet could all boast that they had honed their skills in the city of Winnipeg and on top of that, quite possibly in the very venue that was hosting event number seven of the Canadian tour.

Winner’s bracket matches saw Jason Klatt face off against Felix Beardy. Both confident and aggressive players this match presented a high powered battle of shot making. Beardy took the early initiative here and quickly jumped out in front of Klatt. His lead at 6-2 looked to be comfortable but with a player capable of hitting back in a hurry as is the case with Klatt, no lead is secure. Beardy held his four rack lead at 7-3 and Klatt was now under the gun but breaking in rack 11. A great safety shot from Beardy once again provided the advantage a couple racks later and the left handed Beardy administered the final touch in a convincing 9-5 victory.

Next up from the undefeated section pitted the teacher against the student in Randy Pruden vs Erik Hjorleifson. Both listing national titles on their resume’s, this encounter promised a game within the game. Hjorleifson was in dominating form from the outset and rarely allowed Pruden a chance at the table. Stringing racks together he applied added pressure to the elder Pruden and led 7-2 at one stage. Hjorleifson was playing at a fast tempo and in doing so, was administering psychological body blows to Pruden as well as running up the score to 8-3. Pruden fought back staving off the loss for a number of racks but found the deficit to big to overhaul, finally succumbing by a final score of 9-6.
The A side final for the hotseat was now set with Erik Hjorleifson facing Felix Beardy.

From the loser’s side, the most anticipated match was Tyler Edey meeting up with young Blake Martel, the young man who had impressed so many that were previously unaware of his immense ability. This match was a bit scrappy with both players throwing rack winning opportunities away early. Edey looked to be a bit steadier than did his opponent and eased his way into an early advantage at 6-2. Young Martel fired back with unerring accuracy and snapped off the next four racks to get level at 6-6. The competitors exchanged the next two racks for 7-7. Martel took the next rack to be breaking on the hill with Edey responding in kind to force a hill-hill nail biter for the fans in attendance to enjoy. The last rack took plenty of time as one would expect and it proved to be experience that was the difference as Edey squeaked out the 9-8 win.

Lastly, it was the event’s top seed from Calgary, Edwin Montal, meeting restaurant owner, Dave Strachan. Montal was apparently in no mood to let Strachan’s dream run in this event go any further as he assumed the early momentum with a 3-1 lead. The two players shared the next four racks to see Montal in front 5-3. Strachan was proving to be a difficult prospect for the heavily favored Montal and breaking at 7-8 behind, was still in with a fighting chance. The last rack and match went to Montal in unfamiliar fashion with the top seed extracting three fouls to continue his run in Winnipeg with a 9-7 win over Strachan.

The next round on the loser’s side brought Edwin Montal up against Randy Pruden and Tyler Edey opposing Jason Klatt. It was a Calgary vs Winnipeg match up on both tables.

Montal jumped out of the gate in ideal fashion to lead Pruden 3-1. Pruden hit back to take the next only to see Montal reply to bring the score to 4-2 in Montal’s favor. The reigning Canadian champion won rack seven to move into a 5-2 lead and further increased that to 6-2 with some great potting in the next. Pruden was looking very unsettled in his chair and desperation was not far away in the race to nine. Montal was playing with a lot of confidence and it was being displayed in his mannerism around the table. More importantly it was translating to racks on his side of the score sheet as he assumed a 7-3 stranglehold on the match with Pruden. Sharing the next two racks was not in Pruden’s favor as Montal now found himself needing one more rack at 8-4 in front. Montal was not going to be denied and Pruden was in his path. A solid clearance for Montal and the game fight from Randy Pruden had fallen short as he fell to the number one seed by a 9-4 result.

Edey grabbed the quick lead over Klatt at 3-1 and looked very focused after his big win over Blake Martel about ten minutes earlier. Klatt is a fierce competitor and his road experience plays a key role in his match temperament. This allows him to dig deep when he needs to and he knew he had to keep Edey in his cross hairs. Knowing what you have to do and doing it do not always go hand in hand however and it was Edey who forged further in front to lead 5-2. Klatt stemmed the tide winning the next for a 3-5 score line. The comeback continued as Klatt quickly won the next two racks to level the scores at 5-5. Klatt finally took the lead after winning rack eleven and increased that to two racks at 7-5 shortly afterwards. It had become apparent to all watching that Klatt had found another gear as he slid into an 8-5 advantage over Edey. Five minutes later Klatt had gained the win over the classy Edey and assured himself a date against the winner of Montal and Pruden with a 9-5 win.

The winner’s side final brought Erik Hjorleifson and Felix Beardy together, two players that knew each other’s games very well. Hjorleifson, originally from Winnipeg and now calling Toronto his home, has a little more seasoning than does Beardy and jumped out to an early 2-1 lead. After six racks the score did nothing to indicate who would be first over the finish line as the players were even at three racks apiece. This match was showing all the ear marks of going right down to the wire and with Beardy finely poised at 7-6 ahead, nothing had happened to dispute that assessment. Breaking to get to the hill Beardy nailed it and cleared up to go 8-6 in front. One more rack and Beardy would assure himself of his best ever finish at a Canadian Tour event having finished fourth a season ago at a western Canadian stop. Hjorleifson still had something to say about the final result and snatched rack number fifteen to trail 7-8. In the next Beardy produced the shot of the tournament. From a very difficult snooker, he smashed the cue ball into the long cushion and pocketed the six ball. The cue ball then caromed off the near cushion and contacted the nine ball to land absolutely perfect on the eight ball. Two shots later Beardy had secured his berth in the final with a 9-7 victory over Hjorleifson.

Edwin Montal and Jason Klatt presented a great match up for the B side semi final. Klatt always seemed to find himself at the wrong end of the score early in many of his matches and this trend followed suit against Montal as he dropped the first two racks to trail 0-2. Once again the rebounding ability of Klatt became apparent as he climbed out of the hole and brought the match to a level score at 3-3. It’s fair to say that being a strong finisher is much more enviable than being a slow starter and this is obviously a theory that Jason Klatt subscribes to as he motored in front of Montal 6-4. Klatt took the next rack to go 7-4 in front. Montal could afford no more mistakes at this point and Klatt was starting to smell blood. With this in mind Montal swooped in to take rack number twelve and quickly asked for a short break as he now trailed 5-7. After winning the next rack Montal was playing himself back into contention in this match and it looked like coming down to whichever player could hold his nerve best. Following a tactical exchange Montal had drawn even at seven racks each. A break and run out took Montal to the hill and breaking for the win. Some terrific shot making afforded Montal the finish line and he was quick to take the chance and dispatch the challenge from Jason Klatt by virtue of a 9-7 win.

Edwin Montal would now meet Erik Hjorleifson for the right to oppose Felix Beardy in the final. The number one and three seeded players respectively in this event had made their way through a very tough field and were assured of no worse than a third place finish for their efforts.

Hjorleifson won the opener and after a dry break that followed, sat and watched Montal tie the match at 1-1. Montal raced in front further after taking racks two and three to move 3-1 in front. Hjorleifson, coming off his loss to Beardy, appeared to be slightly out of focus in a match that required his complete attention. Montal on the other hand was riding a wave after taking down Klatt in a real see saw battle that forced the transplanted Philippino star to pull out his best. Hjorleifson won rack five to trail by the odd rack at 2-3 and was starting to exhibit the type of confidence and tempo around the table that has made him one of the more feared players in Canada. He also won the next to lay further claim that he had settled in and was ready for the battle. Montal had a sense of urgency and elected to try and force a slower pace of play into the match. This philosophy seemed to work as Montal won the next three racks to assume a commanding lead of 6-3 in the race to nine.The reigning Canadian champ won rack ten to increase his lead to 7-3. Hjorleifson was in big trouble and everyone in attendance knew it. He won rack eleven and following a big mistake from Montal in rack twelve, where Montal lost the cue ball and saw it go into the side pocket, Hjorleifson pulled back to 5-7. Montal secured rack thirteen to put Hjorleifson on the brink of elimination. By winning the next rack, Hjorleifson had brought the score to 6-8 and forced at least one more rack to be played. Unfortunately for Hjorleifson, one more rack was all it took for Montal to seize the victory with a final score of 9-6.

The final would be contested over a race to eleven rack wins between Edwin Montal and Felix Beardy. Beardy had yet to know defeat in this event and with one more match to be played he certainly didn’t want to know what that taste would be like now. The general consensus around the venue with players and with knowledgeable fans in the crowd was that this final was going to be a very close call and it could well be determined by a single break. Beardy drew first blood and won the first rack. He maintained that lead four racks later at 3-2. Play was tentative as one would expect and both players exhibited their share of nervousness in the early going. Montal took the next rack to bring the score to 3-3. This final was looking to live up to the pundit’s predictions as Beardy won rack seven to keep his nose in front at 4-3 and right on cue, Montal replied by securing the next to once again tie it up at 4-4. Hand in hand the two combatants marched towards the finish line with nothing to choose between them. Montal had never seen the lead in this final and it finally materialized in rack nine when he was staked to a 5-4 lead by virtue of a Beardy scratch on the 7 ball. He increased that lead to 6-4 with some sound tactical play and no allowing Beardy to free wheel with his tremendously smooth cueing action. At 7-4 to Montal, it had become clear that the top seed was forcing his style of play on this match and this was something that Beardy had to change if he was to have any chance at the title in Winnipeg. Beardy stopped Montal’s string of racks at four in a row by winning rack number twelve, bringing the score to 5-7.
Any thoughts of Beardy stringing some racks together, was quickly dispelled when Montal grabbed the next rack to move into a 8-5 advantage. The lead increased to 9-5 for Montal after a break and run out in rack fourteen. Felix Beardy could feel the event slipping away and time was running out on his bid for the winner’s circle. Montal finally allowed him back to the table and after a quick look at the shot, Beardy laid his cue on the table and opted for a short break to gather his thoughts and decide on how to proceed against the in-form Montal. If Beardy said any prayers during the break they must have fell on deaf ears because Montal won that rack to arrive on the hill at 10-5. He now broke for the last time in the final and came up dry bringing Beardy out of his chair with nothing more than a glimmer of hope. A safety exchange ensued and it was Beardy who came away with the chance and snatched the win to keep that flickering candle lit. Trailing 6-10, Beardy broke and cleared the balls in rack seventeen showing some character and resolve to pull back to 7-10. Needing to win the last four racks in succession, Beardy went about his task methodically as he cleared the balls once again to pull closer at 8-10. Fans were starting to wonder if they might not be seeing an epic fight back by the larger than life Beardy. Those thoughts took flight when Beardy’s cue ball went straight into the side pocket following his break in rack nineteen. With everything invitingly placed, Montal proceeded to clear up for the last time in the event and take the well deserved victory lap with a 11-8 win over a game Felix Beardy. With the win, Montal solidified his number one ranking and took away the winner’s cheque along with 200 valuable ranking points. Beardy’s weekend finished with a very respectable second place finish and drew attention for his terrific sense of humour and classy manners around the match table.

Kudos to Bourbon Street Billiards, their owner and staff for putting on a perfect event from start to finish. With a following for pool like this, it is assured that a major event will come back to Winnipeg in the near future.

Prize Money Breakdown:
Winner: $5000.00
Runner Up: $3000.00
3rd Place: $1750.00
4th Place: $1250.00
5-6th Place: $900.00 each
7-8th Place: $600.00 each
9-12th Place: $350.00 each
13-16th Place: $150.00 each
The Canadian 9-Ball Tour would not be possible without the generous support of the tour sponsors, Indigo Chapters bookstores, Cineplex Entertainment, Canada Billiard Bowling, Dufferin Billiards, Stan James The Sports Bookmaker, Simonis Pool Cloth and Aramith Billiard Balls. We thank them all for helping to make the Canadian 9-Ball Tour a success.

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