The Annual Super Billiards Expo (SBE), like other tournaments of similar size and length, has a way of building momentum and speed as the week of it goes by. This varies slightly, depending on whether you’re a spectator or a player. As an example, Kelly Fisher, who emerged from a 63-entrant field and went on to become the undefeated WPBA Women’s Pro Players Champion on Sunday, played a single match on Thursday (she’d been awarded an opening round bye) and didn’t play again until Saturday, when she played twice. On Sunday, already among the event’s 16 players to enter the single-elimination phase, she played three times in a row to claim the title. Jayson Shaw, who went on to become the undefeated, 73-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event winner had the same experience. In both cases, the Thursday and Friday experience was a little slower. The Saturday and Sunday experience seemed to flash by like proverbial greased lighting.
The Amateur Players Championship, which featured four short of 1,000 entrants (by far, the most heavily attended event) began on Wednesday and like the Pro events, ended on Sunday. That single-elimination process began with a lot of layover time for the competitors; time which narrowed and eventually, went flying by. Its champion, Chris Bruner, though, was used to it. As a participant at the SBE for about 20 years, he’d finished third at the last one and over the years, had five or so finishes of 5th or better. But playing in the APA, he’d also been a veteran of similar, large-entrant fields, requiring days and days of non-stop pool, or in the early going of such competition, waiting for the non-stop pool to begin.
“It’s tough,” he said, “but with things like the APA Nationals in Vegas, you get used to those long days. You get accustomed to it; the mindset that you have to chill out, relax and go play your game.”
“I’ve been doing it for so long that in the last five or six years, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do,” he added. “Get as much rest as you can, get enough sleep, and just take it day by day.”
Bruner ended up winning 10 matches and only lost two sets. Only once did he compete against someone he knew; Brent Hensley, with whom he has been friends for a long time. To him, the reward had less to do with the $5,000 in cash that he received as the Amateur Champion, than it was about, after all of the years he’d been attending, finally winning it.
“I’m still on Cloud Nine,” he said, about three hours after the event had ended, around 6:30 on Sunday night. “I’ve been so close for so many years.”
A field of 166 entrants competed in the Women’s Amateur Players Championship. Tina Malm went undefeated through that field to claim the title, downing Ashley Benoit in the finals.
By Saturday night, the WPBA’s 63-entrant Women’s 9-Ball Professional Championship had whittled down to its 16-entrant single elimination phase. The 16 women advancing (in fact, the entire field of the event) featured many of the most highly recognizable names in women’s pool and with the exception of two from the UK (the Fishers, Kelly and Allison), all were from the North American continent; two, being Canadians (Brittany Bryant and Veronique Menard). Among the 47 who did not make the cut were a few junior competitors – Skylar Hess, Savannah Easton and Hayleigh Marion – along with Jeri Engh, who, in her 80s, was the event’s oldest participant. Women of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were well-represented, along with the presence of, though not participation on the part of the tournament’s director, Linda Shea. Along with Kia Burwell and Caroline Pao, who did become two of the final 16, and C.C. Strain, who acted as the tournament director for all of the SBE’s Amateur events, tour members Ada Lio, Kathy Friend, Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Judie Wilson and Shanna Lewis competed.
On Sunday morning, the final eight paired up in four quarterfinal matches. The marquee pairing among them featured the Fishers, who’d last met in the finals of the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic last month. Joann Mason-Parker took on Caroline Pao, Jennifer Baretta faced Kim Newsome and Canada’s Veronique Menard matched up with Teruko Cucculelli.
In races to 11, Kelly Fisher defeated Allison Fisher 11-8 and Joann Mason Parker downed Caroline Pao 11-2. “9mm” Baretta shot down Kim Newsome 11-6 and Cucculelli eliminated Menard 11-9. In the semifinals that followed, Kelly Fisher defeated Mason-Parker 11-4 and in the finals, met Baretta, who’d defeated Cucculelli 11-4.
Fisher and Baretta traded racks through the first five games, after which Kelly was ahead 3-2. She added a rack, off Baretta’s break for a two-rack lead before Baretta came back with two to tie things for the third time at 4-4. Fisher won seven of the next eight games to claim the title.