Tri-State Tour Invitational / Parsippany, NJ
by John Leyman
The twelfth annual Tri-State Tour Invitational took place July 11-12 at Comet Billiards in Parsippany, NJ, bringing together highly skilled amateurs hoping to sharpen their game en route to the pro circuit and ambitious upstarts looking to advance in class. The weekend was a huge success with 14 A and A+ players, 32 B and B+ players, 32 C and C+ players, and 14 D and D+ players showing up to play in their respective classes.
As each day began, organizers John Leyman, Todd Fleitman, and Bill Focaccia congratulated the players on reaching the top of their classes for the season and handed out awards to the top players of the year in each class. The Tri-State Tour added $4,000 in cash prizes and sponsors Viking Cues, Fury Cues, Stealth Cues, Sterling Gaming, Ozone Billiards, Wild Eyes Creations, Pool Tees.com, Jim Murnak Custom Cue Cases, Billiards Digest, Pool & Billiards, Inside Pool, Professor-Q-Ball’s News, Blue Book Publications, Stroke, Human Kinetic, Amsterdam Billiards, and Romer’s Trophies went out of their way to provide the event with some great equipment and prizes. All of the sponsors are owed a debt a gratitude for their dedication to the game and the players, their efforts and generosity are what made the event so special and such a great success. The awards went to the top three players in each class and to the Most Improved Players of the Year. The top players of the year in the their respective classes were Daniel Cintron, Gary Murgia, Tony Eglesias, George Osipovitch, Dave Fitzpatrick, and Amy Triolo. The top female player of the year was awarded to Rhio Anne Flores. This year a stand out most improved player of the year could not be identified and so the three top contenders—Daniel Cintron, Rhio Anne Flores, and Ben Sadowski—were all awarded Most Improved Player awards. The Pro/Open class was won by Mika Immonen. The tour each year gives out an award to the player they think exemplifies what is good about the sport, and this year’s Sportsman of the Year award went to Dave Fitzpatrick.
The action in the tournament got going around 11 a.m. Saturday, with B+, B, C+, and C class players kicking off the event. These divisions were all won by players who went undefeated for the day. In the B+ class, Mike Gasper played strong and consistent all day and dominated all opponents, including in the finals against Robert Kight, which Gaspar won 7-3. This seemed to be the trend for the day as Jacob Schwartz bested Phil Carr in the B-Class finals 7-2. In the C+ class T.J. Smithers took advantage of good table rolls to beat Teddy LaPadula 6-3. The C class finals provided an interesting turn of events as John Egeln reached the finals undefeated. As it turns out, in the final event of the regular season Mike Scholven played well and moved up in the rankings and knocked John Egeln to 17th place and out of the invitationals. But on the day of the event Scholven was called into work and couldn’t play, opening up a spot for Egeln. Egeln in the finals took every advantage he could and bested Dennis Petrillo 6-2.
On Sunday, play started again at 11 a.m. with some of the best players on the Tri-State Tour showing up to play. One notable player was the player who finished in third place for the season in the Player of the Year standings in the A+/A class, Scott Simonetti. Simonetti, who recently suffered a serious life threatening illness and lost his left hand and foot to the disease, played one-handed and showed what true heart and spirit look like. Everyone applauded him and his outstanding effort and positive outlook. The event took a different turn from Saturday, though, as both players who reached the final match of their class lost to the player coming from the one-loss side.
In the A+/A class Chris Taormina defeated Daniel Cintron 7-5 to advance to the finals. Cintron moved to the one-loss side only to gather his many talents and best Stewart Warnock 7-3 and then, in a rematch, also oust Taormina 7-3 to win the A+/A class. In what appeared to be a carbon copy of the A+/A class, D+/D class player Mike Poisler lost to Yomaylin Feliz 6-3 in the hot seat match. On the one-loss side Poisler regrouped and eliminated Pete Gallo 6-3 and then went on to continue his winning ways and best Yomaylin Feliz 6-3. These losses were hard for both players as the finals of each event were single matches to earn the right to advance.
This left the top players in each class to meet in the playoffs. Gasper continued his dominance and once again and crushed his next two opponents, Jacob Schwartz and Cintron both with a score of 7-2, giving him the honor of competing for the overall champion. Smithers played well against Egeln and beat him 6-4. But in his next match Smithers couldn’t seem to get anything to go his way. He hit a strong bank combo only to leave the 9 ball hanging on the lip of the pocket. Poisler took advantage of all the rolls going his way and bested Smithers 7-1. In the finals Poisler saw all those rolls disappear as Gasper tore through the four-game handicap in no time to bring the match to 4-4 quickly. In the next 8 games Poisler tried as best as he could to find opportunities to win, but in the end Gasper’s continued excellent play overcame all obstacles, and he won the match 9-7 and was crowned the 2008-2009 Invitational Grand Champion.