Third Time’s a Charm for Shuff
Virginia State 9-Ball Championships / Midlothian, VA
by Brian Keller
Putting one third-place and two runner-up finishes under his belt in the last three years at the Virginia State 9-Ball Championships, presented by Inside POOL Magazine, Brandon Shuff had reason to think the tournament owed him. He came to Diamond Billiards in Midlothian, VA, with nothing but calm, confident thoughts about winning the championship. The July 18-19 weekend would prove his instincts to be correct, but he would still have a fight on his hands.
Sixty-four players started off Saturday morning with high hopes, and the upsets started immediately. Larry Kressel, the 2007 champion, went two and out. Matt Clatterbuck, strong tournament and money player from western Virginia, fell to the one-loss side.
By Saturday night, 12 players remained, including Shuff, Eric Moore, Matt Clatterbuck, and locals John Newton, Robert Benton, and 17-year-old Chris Bruner. Play began with Shuff and Bruner winning their matches to make it to the hot seat. Shuff prevailed 9-3, with Bruner unable to take advantage of mistakes and Shuff locking him down in safeties. Undefeated as yet, Shuff calmly waited for the final match.
Meanwhile, Newton worked his way through a tough match with Clatterbuck to get back to the semifinals against Bruner. There Newton’s experience paid off in spades as he shoved the youngster aside by a 9-3 margin playing solid safes, smooth position, and closing out every chance he had. Bruner’s play was so impressive throughout the event that Diamond Billiards offered to sponsor him in the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships this fall.
In the single race-to-11 finals, the players traded racks, neither able to grab more than a two-game lead as the table broke dry all but three of the first fourteen games and safety play abounded. At 7-7, Shuff seemed to catch another gear and was up 10-7 before Newton had a chance to blink scoring a 9 ball on the snap, a run-out and then taking advantage of a rare, loose safety by Newton. Newton was able to score one more game on his side of the ledger when Shuff dogged the 7 ball, but it was his last win as Shuff grabbed ball in hand and sank a 1-9 combination for the win.
Both finalists earned paid entry into the U.S. Open in October 2009 through the tournament along with $1,200 and $600, respectively.
1st Brandon Shuff $1,200 + qual.
2nd John Newton $600 + qual.
3rd Chris Bruner $400 + qual.
4th Matt Clatterbuck $300
5th Eric Moore $200
7th Bernie Kirby $150
9th Sean Millican $100