Kids, Ladies, and Gents Show Their Stuff in Amateur Championship
Amateur Players Championship events clear out for crunch time in Valley Forge
by Paul G.D. Berg
While many still flood the halls, the bulk of the entrants to the record-breaking Amateur Players Championship event fields will have to settle for the second-chance event that starts tonight and has a line out past the crowded bracket boards for entry. The crowning achievements are much closer for those deemed under professional status at Allen Hopkins’ Super Billiards Expo. Open, women’s, and seniors’ divisions are all into the money rounds, while juniors’ competitions for scholarship prizes and national prowess are into a third round of 9-ball battle.
Each tournament is single elimination, with best two-of-three races to 5 the test for all divisions. In the 864-player open field, play at 7 p.m. will start with just 32 competitors left, among them menaces to Valley Forge in years past like Ike Runnels and Matt Clatterbuck moving on through tough competitors familiar to each. Clatterbuck is a bar table powerhouse known for his backroom exploits and met old road partner Mike Painter in the round of 64, scoring a decisive win over his friend as both played with more errors than usual.
Runnels also encountered formidable opposition and passed through in straight sets as well, with a 5-3, 5-4 victory over Detroit’s Dave Krenzel that took a bit of luck to keep out of a third race. The Chicago-area all-around menace found an impossibly tight position for the 4 ball with the score tied at 3 in the second set but was forced to win the game with a sensible 6 ball safety. The next went to Krenzel after he dodged a scratch and speared the 6 ball in the side to get out but broke empty, hanging up the case 9 ball on the hill. Runnels stepped up to the task of a tough back-cut on the 1 ball and found his way to a winning 3-9 combination. Krenzel finished alongside Painter and some other strong players in a tie for 33rd through 64th, earning $430 on his initial $75 investment.
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For more than a few players, a dilemma occurred this afternoon. In the senior ranks, there were many tough choices between a match in the less lucrative 384-person field just outside the payout line in the final 64 or a match in the money of the open division at the same point on the chart. Notably unlucky was Larry Szwackowski, who was on one of the two out of sixteen 64-player brackets in the open tournament that were dragging a round behind, needing a win in either to get make the cash. Ed Kiese also had to choose, and advanced in open play like Runnels. “Kankakee Ike” had the choice of facing Krenzel or battling with Stan Tourangeau, and the Canadian champion gapped Runnels a buck for the unfortunate forfeit in a gesture of true class amongst top contenders.
Tourangeau appears to be a clear favorite to take home the senior crown, playing debilitating defense against Dale Derosier to follow a 5-0 blitz with a 5-4 comeback. The small space of the bar table leads to opportunities for safety play with speed control that are a hallmark of accomplished bar table players who hope to contend with him. That fourth victory and subsequent forfeit also gave Tourangeau a break from the action that will benefit him as the night progresses. Top prize will be $3,000, with second place earning $1,500 and $1,000 each to the two semifinalists that tie for third place.
While Runnels has won the senior event and covets the open crown, young Briana Miller had a similar option to weigh. After tackling Jeremy Renn in the second round of the 14-and-under juniors’ event, Miller forfeited to Kathleen Lawless, abandoning her chance at passing the fourth round into the last 16 of the women’s event and the edge of the prize purse. Chris Futrell had to take a year off from open competition after his win last year but is the favorite in the 19-and-under division. Tournament staffer Colleen Shoom projects Futrell’s greatest threats seeking a third different Valley Forge crown as Mac Harrell and Richard Barney, while Derick Daya topped 15 year-old Tyler Adolini (last year’s 14-and-under champion) in his first round and has kept on winning to add his name to the mix of favorites.
Haacke falls to Meraglio; Ng rolls on as women’s field pushes to final four
Open event returns four for Sunday finale; Green and Holt among contenders ousted
The seniors and juniors rumble on, as do the women. Tina Meraglio scored a big knockout over Malea Haacke and advanced to play Liz Lovely. The rejuvenated Ming Ng has advanced thus far as well. Liz Taylor reached the match before the money and opted to enter the concurrent women’s invitational in the pro arena instead, forfeiting to Konstantina Morfessis, who was surprised to have won a poorly played match the previous round to reach that point when she reported her score.
Next to Meraglio and Lovely on the second of four 64-slot brackets to accommodate the field of 168, Cheree Adams faces Brittany Brynani. Morgan Steinman was Brynani’s opponent before that and will also try the invitational after a strong jump-combo to pocket an angled 2-9 sealed a hard-fought defeat. Katherine Byrne earned the right to try Lawless to make the money rounds.
Upsets have become a bit more plentiful in the open draw. Noted Baltimore-area gambler Danny Green lost an entertaining match to Shuji Hase. Green bounced back with his trademark shot-making prowess after a 5-4 loss in the first set to blister Hase 5-1 and force a tiebreaker, but his initial advantage faded in the third race, as Hase overtook him for a 5-3 clincher. Green finishes at the edge of the money in the tie for 33rd place, joined by serious contender Lee Holt.
Holt also dropped the first set to straight shooter Bill McCollim but after that 5-3 defeat escaped with a 5-4 battle. The war ended 5-4 in McCollim’s favor, however, after he reached the hill first and coughed up a run-out with a 6 ball miss up the rail. Holt had thrived on execution of tough rail shots for position to take the second set and completed another out keyed by this skill, but he was forced to push out after the break in the case game. With ball in hand after an improbable, slow-rolling two-rail scratch in the side from Holt caused by draw on a short back-cut of the 1 ball, McCollim escaped, clearing the balls and claiming a 5-4 win.
Danny Barnes lurks in one corner of the bracket with a quiet string of wins. Jim “Shorty” Henson and Larry Price are battling in separate 5 p.m. matches to catch up with the field, as the matches to determine 17th through 32nd place finishers are all scheduled for 7. Two bouts of interest are Runnels taking on Craig McPartlin, who ousted Wade Kaufman in the round of 64, and Jason “Boom Boom” Klatt against Joey Ryan. Klatt struggled a bit with his game but handled Rich Reheard in his previous outing, while Ryan showcased a powerful break in a rout of Stan Weister, once pocketing five balls on the snap including the 9.
All will be seeking an impressive win for any amateur player’s resume, the type of accomplishment that can spur a career at the next level. Corey Deuel is one such noted professional and has a few legendary tales from his career lingering along the linoleum of the Valley Forge Convention Center. Last night Shane Van Boening stirred up what will certainly grow to a myth in a game that ended even with Pam Cimarelli down on one of the challenge tables. With stakes spiraling in the middle, Van Boening engaged Cimarelli in an eight-ahead set giving up the 5-out and the breaks, but Cimarelli rallied back from a six-game deficit to eventually force a dead heat before they agreed to call it quits. Above and beyond the normal entertainment value of those involved, Cimarelli was 36 hours or so removed from the birth of her second child when she matched up with the top pro.
Mini-tournaments are a less innocuous way to make your presence felt, but two events have just kicked off that are anything but miniature. The second-chance tournament drew 128 entrants from the amateur ranks, while the field for the notorious pro-am also filled a 32 players. Deposed contenders from the pro event like Dennis Hatch and Jose Parica mix it up with all-night Valley Forger gambling fixtures Richie Richeson and Ryan McCreesh, as champions litter a chart with unheard of glory for any amateur who snuck into the $300-entry single-elimination bracket. If the side action weren’t entertaining enough downstairs, the sprawling team 8-ball and individual events for The Association for P.O.O.L.’s Rally in the Valley also carry on towards their conclusions tomorrow. Stay tuned to InsidePOOLmag.com for all the latest from the 17th Annual Super Billiards Expo, the kind of event that attendants leave with memories that build with each year. In the rare occurrence that any reader’s water breaks, just check back in 36 hours or so, when the dust will be settled in the Amateur Players Championship events.