Manalo Makes It Happen
Seminole Pro Tour / Palm Harbor, FL
by Raymond Linares
The 2009 Seminole Pro Tour season found its conclusion at the beautiful Strokers Billiards in Palm Harbor Florida the weekend of October 9-11. The eighth and final stop of the season delivered a field littered with world champion caliber talent. The usual SPT competitors included Corey Deuel, Donnie Mills, Mike Davis, Justin Hall, Tony Crosby, and Stevie Moore. But added in the mix was Filipino superstar Marlon Manalo, who ultimately walked away with the $3,000 first-place prize.
The 37-player field that arrived in Palm Harbor also provided a thrilling finish to the race for Player of the Year honors. After every event, the players are rewarded points for their position in the tournament. At the end of the season, the Seminole Pro Tour awards $1,000 in prize money to the points leader, as well as $500 to the runner up. With only 80 points separating first place and fifth place coming in to the event, the title was up for grabs. Everyone knew that the battle for Player of the Year would come down to the final day’s action.
In the hunt was Mike Davis, who was in second place coming into the event. He trailed Tony Crosby by the slimmest of margins: a meager 5 points. Davis, however, struggled with the early play schedule and was eliminated by Jerry Calderon 7-6. Crosby lost a key match at the end of the first day against Donnie Mills. At the beginning of the second day he had to face off against his nearest contender for Player of the Year, Steve Moore. Moore took control of the match early and overcame Crosby by a final score of 8-1. But his quest for Player of the Year ended in his next match against Calderon 8-3.
The final contender for Player of the Year was Deuel. If he had won the tournament, he would have captured the lead by 10 points and made it three years in a row as Player of the Year. However, young Justin Hall put an end to his hopes in a great match 8-4. With Deuel’s loss, Crosby secured the Player of the Year title and the $1,000 prize money. Second-place money went to Moore.
On the winners’ side of the event, Strokers champion from two years ago Manalo was making a tear straight through to the hot seat match. Not wanting to disappoint his supporters, Manalo had impressive wins over James Roberts 7-1, Moore 7-3, Deuel 8-3, and Robert Aravena 8-4.
Mills came through the second half of the winners’ side bracket with strong wins over Raul Alvarez 7-3, Crosby 8-2, and Hall 8-3. In hot seat match, Mills took an early lead over Manalo 4-2. Manalo’s championship resolve led him to charge back and recapture the lead at 5-4. Manalo and Mills exchanged the next two racks to bring the score to 6-5. Mills stepped up the table in the next game and showed his caliber. Coming with an incredible shot on the 7, Mills was able to run that rack and the next two. In doing so he captured the hot seat and a shot at the championship title.
Manalo on the west side had to ward off young gun and Seminole Pro Tour favorite Hall. Hall was down the duration of the semifinal match, at one point by a score of 5-1. But he caught fire and started reeling off racks against the Filipino. Bringing his deficit to only one game, at 7-6 Hall was within striking distance. With Manalo on the hill, Hall came with a tough carom and subsequently followed the cue ball into the corner. The cold roll gave Manalo ball in hand and an easy run-out for the win.
The finals pitted the odds-on favorite for the event, Manalo, against Clearwater’s own Mills. Manalo jumped out to an early 3-0 lead at the beginning of the set, but Mills returned fire by winning the next two games. While breaking in the sixth game, Mills hung the 10 ball and came up dry. This left an easy 2-10 combination for Manalo. His 4-2 lead was further extended after Mills missed a makeable 10 in the corner. Manalo capitalized on this fatal error and never looked back. The Filipino champ broke and ran the next two racks, reaching the hill at 8-2. Mills won the next game, closing the gap to 8-3, and he looked good in the last rack as well, but after hanging the 5, it was all over but the handshake. Mills conceded the final 10 and the title to Manalo, who pocketed his third Seminole Pro Tour title.
The final event this year is the Steve Mizerak State Championship held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL. This will be a $40,000-added event that will take place on November 12-15.
The Seminole Pro Tour would like to thank Jose DelRio and the courteous staff of Strokers Billiards in Palm Harbor for their incredible support of this event. They would also like to thank their main sponsors, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, for their continued promotion of the game of 10-ball. Thank you to Matt Highsmith of cuesportsvideo.com for providing streaming of the event, Fred Stoll of Filmlessart.com for providing photography, and Javier and Angel Chirino from “A Touch of Glass” for supplying trophies.
1st Marlon Manalo $3,000
2nd Donnie Mills $2,000
3rd Justin Hall $1,500
4th Jerry Calderon $1,000
5th Corey Deuel $800
7th Steve Moore $600
9th Neil Fujiwara $350
Jose Del Rio