Price is Right, Daya Delivers for Big Amateur Players Championship Paydays
Super Billiards Expo puts trophies on Ng, Hatch, Harrell and Sun mantles
by Paul G.D. Berg
The long journey to the silver cup is complete for six tournament winners in the Amateur Players Championship events contested during the 17th Annual Super Billiards Expo. Promoter and owner of the amazing event held each March at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, PA, Allen Hopkins handed out the checks and posed for the cameras next to the fabulous trophies awarded in each sprawling division of single elimination bar table 9-ball competition. The biggest prize cash-wise came in the open event, where Larry Price was the last man standing in a field of 864 and claimed a $5,000 prize. Dave Daya came down from the mountains of Pennsylvania to take top honors and a cool three grand in the seniors’ 384-entrant bracket.
Ming Ng had another breakthrough in her return to the game after a four-year absence, taking down the women’s title through 168 contenders and grossing $1,800. For scorching hot Dennis Hatch, an early exit from the professional event could have made for bad Valley Forge memories for the two-time winner here, but in the prestigious pro-am, the “Hatchet Man” redeemed himself. The victory brought Hatch two dimes and more importantly, his confidence and momentum this year back. In the junior ranks, nationwide bragging rights were earned by Kevin Sun in the 14-and-under and Mac Harrell in the 19-and-under. The Billiards Education Foundation (BEF) also awarded Junior National Championship qualifiers to six players.
Charleston, WV’s, Price is twice the Derby City Banks champion and has taken down many tournaments in his 57 years, while Monroe, MI’s, Danny Barnes has only an open amateur title from Las Vegas in his young career. Each would make their way through their seventh and eighth rounds on the enormous open chart to the finals. Price suffered a scare the night before, barely eluding Francis Crevier with a first-set loss and a 4-1 deficit in the second before forging a comeback. On Sunday, Price ended the run of Michigander Craig McPartlin in straight sets, 5-1 and 5-4. McPartlin finished in a tie for 5th-8th alongside Maryland’s Joey Ryan, who pushed Pennsylvania’s Bill McCollim to three sets but fell to a vicious 3-9 combination that sealed a 5-4, 3-5, 5-3 victory for the U.S. Amateur champ.
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Barnes was on a collision course with Matt Clatterbuck, as last year’s pro-am winner bested Mike Miller 5-2, 5-1, and Barnes ran over Nelson Oliviera 5-2, 5-2. Miller and Oliviera joined the group in fifth place, earning $1,000 each. Clatterbuck did not play his best pool in the tournament, and Barnes missed the fewest balls in the field by a wide margin. The disparity showed immediately, as Barnes took the first set 5-3 and had control of the second set 3-1, but Clatterbuck rallied to take four straight games despite the alternate break and even the match at a set apiece. Barnes was not to be denied, building a 4-1 lead and running out from his next break to cap a 5-2 decider. Clatterbuck finished in a tie for third place with Bill McCollim, who succumbed to Price 5-1, 5-4, finishing a fine run with a $1,500 haul.
The outset of the final was all Barnes, as railbirds questioned Price’s stamina, the West Virginian the victim of two heart attacks in the past two years. The previous cardiac incident came about a month prior to a big tournament as well, when Price claimed his second DCC Banks title. He would repeat the recuperative feat in Valley Forge, and after Barnes claimed the first set 5-3 with a decisive 6-9 combination, Price battled the younger man to a 4-4 deadlock in the second set. Barnes opted to take a short break at that pivotal juncture, and Price pounced, breaking and running out to seal the set, and putting on a fantastic display in a 5-0 third set where Barnes shot twice, breaking the balls and scratching each time. Price started out with a break and make to a hung-up 2-9 combo in the side, ran out from Barnes’ first scratch and broke in a 9 ball for the first three games. The next foul on the break led to another run-out, and Price smashed and cleared for a massive triumph. Barnes was very pleased with his results, taking second place and $2,000 for his trouble.
The women had a comeback kid of their own reaching for the crown. Ng suffered a severe right shoulder injury more than four years ago and only returned to play pool tentatively a year and a half ago. She has the paystubs to show for it, and with jobs waiting tables and loading trucks, Ng regained strength in her stroke arm, but had a disappointing finish, albeit in the midst of the cash, at last year’s women’s amateur in Valley Forge. Since flying from her beltway home to Seattle to win four qualifiers back on the WPBA Tour, Ng has continually set low expectations for herself. The confidence and pride she gained from this victory may propel her to earning her touring card again, so this performance in the women’s amateur may have been her last.
Ng advanced easily by Sherry Frederick in the semifinals this morning, while Brittany Bryant was unable to get from her hotel to the tournament site to make her match with Teruko Cucculelli. The forfeit left Bryant in a third-place tie with Frederick that banked $750 for each. In the finals, Cucculelli could not keep the pace initially and lost the first set 4-1 but rallied to a better showing in the second. Tied at 3, Ng completed a cautious run-out with a gutsy 7-9 carom to take the second set on the hill.
The redemption theme extended to the pro-am event, where Hatch sought to ride his streak. Hatch won an incredible seven Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour stops in a row this year, narrowly taking the major intervening Turning Stone Casino event in a runner-up finish. Knocked out of the pro event, the Buffalo, NY, shooter took down Darren Appleton to reach the last four, where Eddie Abraham awaited. In a back-and-forth battle, Abraham took the first set 7-6, but Hatch has a 7-5 retort and then gained a 5-1 lead in the third race with a pivotal 9 on the break. Hatch served out for a 7-3 ticket to the finals. Abraham finished tied for third place with Norm Wines, and they won $900 apiece, as the destructive path of Mike Dechaine claimed another victim.
Maine’s Dechaine won the amateur open division here in 2007 and certainly seemed all of professional against a 32-man field half-full of hungry pros cut out of the payout in the other room. With initial wins over Steve Moore and Jose Parica, Dechaine next set his sights on plowing through Matt Krah and Wines before he ran into Hatch. Once again, the 1993 and 2006 pro event winner showed his grit, as Dechaine broke and ran to finish a 7-4 opening win. The second set went Hatch’s way initially, but leads of 3-1 and 5-3 were overcome by Dechaine, as he claimed the hill first. Hatch responded, matching Dechaine on the hill and then breaking and running out for a 7-6 equalizer.
Hatch seemed to have the momentum he needed and built a 6-2 lead, seemingly insurmountable in alternate-break play. Dechaine dialed up his snap to put the 9 in the side, and Hatch tried to finish the set the same way, blasting the 9 ball hard at the corner on the break but hanging it up and leaving his foe a look at the 1 ball. Dechaine got another quick one from there with a 2-9 combination and broke and ran, the deficit quickly back within a game. It seemed certain that Dechaine would break double-hill when Hatch made three balls and got no shot after the next break, and indeed it was Dechaine who got the first chance to run out as good rolls kept each safe on the 3 ball. Dechaine bobbled the 6 ball that went tightly past the 8 ball, however, and a relieved Hatch cleared the balls for the 7-5 finisher.
“I’m so emotional,” Hatch said immediately afterwards, having lost a long race 18-16 in a late-night challenge against Johnathan “Hennessee” Pinegar and gone without food during the day of non-stop matches. “When I saw Allen holding a [second-place] plaque, I thought that was mine. When they handed me this trophy I almost cried,” said Hatch. The giant silver urns from this event are quite impressive, and the pro-am version is the classiest of them all. For in-state regular Daya, the seniors win was also very sweet.
“I’ve finished second and third so many times,” Daya said after taking down Vermont’s Dave Fernandez in the finals in two double-hill sets. Both 5-4 results were dicey, but luck favored Daya on Sunday. Fernandez took home $1,500 and a slightly smaller trophy for his trouble. Freddy Scott and Ed Latimer tied for third place and brought home a round thousand each. Daya’s son competed with the juniors, but his turn in the limelight will have to come another day.
The 13 year-old Kevin Sun hails from Harvard, MA, and his father Lijun beamed proudly at every turn during the event. He has good reason. Sun is a standout for his age, his disposition and demeanor well beyond his years at the table. Daniel Satinoff performed admirably throughout, but Sun stopped him 5-3 and 5-1. For 19 year-old Mac Harrell, out of Williamston, NC, this was his last event of junior eligibility, so stopping last year’s amateur open winner Chris Futrell from earning his third different Amateur Players Championship win in the semifinals was especially important to the young man. The 4-3, 2-4, 4-2 victory didn’t feature the best of either’s game, but Harrell would make up for it in the final. Fresh off a three-set win that left Daniel Hill tied for third place with Futrell, Luther Farley gave Harrell a run for his money. In the finals, the races are extended one game for the juniors, and Harrell was too much, securing matching 5-3 scores for a straight set victory.
Sun joined Jonathon Castillo and Taylor Reynolds in earning the Junior National spots in the younger division, while Futrell, Josh Newman, and Stephanie Stone got the 19-and-under nod as the highest finishers registered with the BEF’s program. If the six main events were not enough, second-chance results dished out cash too. A men’s bracket produced Daniel Petralba as the winner of $1,000, while runner-up Mike Pryzwara got $600, and $300 each went to Neil Brown and Mike Gasper. Diana Minor took the ladies’ event and $500, knocking off Rachel Eliazar with $300 in comfort to go with second place. A second chance gave third place and $160 to Ashea Erdahl and Tina Morfessis.
The Super Billiards Expo is now closed until next year. Fans of any aspect of the game of billiards should reserve next March 18-21 to get away to the wonderful world of pool, but for those who can’t make it in person, you can keep up with it here at InisdepoolMag.com.