MARYLAND OPEN 14.1 STRAIGHT POOL CHAMPIONSHIPS

MARYLAND OPEN 14.1 STRAIGHT POOL CHAMPIONSHIPS
BIG DADDY’S BILLIARDS, Glen Burnie, Maryland
June 27-28, 2009

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Danny Harriman Proud winner

Players and fans began arriving into the Baltimore area as early as noon on Friday, June 26 for the Fifth Annual Maryland Open 14.1 Straight Pool Championships. This event has become one of the most prestigious straight pool tournaments of the year in the U.S. and for the second year in a row has been held at a new family billiard venue, BIG DADDY’S BILLIARDS, 7954 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., Glen Burnie, Maryland. Under the ownership of Richard & Cynthia Molineiro, “ Big Daddy’s” has become a premier east coast mecca for the beautiful and imaginative game of 14.1. Previously the Maryland Straight Pool title has been won by:

Ryan McCreesh 150 defeated David Hunt 67. Aug 8, 2005
Ed Hodan 150 defeated Danny Barouty 89. Nov 19, 2006
Mika Immonen 150 defeated Mike Davis 59. June 10, 2007
Bob Maidhof 150 defeated Danny Barouty 140. July 12, 2008

Once again this year a 40 player field of the top Straight Pool players in the country began to filter into Maryland early Friday for afternoon warm-ups, check out the venue, the tables and equipment, get in a few hours of practice, as competition this year was going to be top flight, no question about it.

Committee members for the tournament once again provided ‘in home’ congenial accommodations to many of the out of town players who come long distances to play. Most know one another well and this makes for an enjoyable weekend of friendship, camaraderie and top notch pool all tied together. Festivities this year got off to a gentle start at a player-guest reception on Friday evening hosted by tournament director Peter Burrows and his wife Pam at their home. This provides a few hours of warm hospitality before the sparks began to fly on Saturday, and a nice chance for new comers and lesser know players to visit and share cordiality with great champions such as Bob Maidhof, Jeanette Lee and others in the sterling field. Jeanette, popular, sparkling and charismatic as always has been a terrific and valued supported of the Maryland Tournament, and she notes . . .

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“This will be one of the few non-major events I play this year”, Lee said. “Being here has a lot to do with my rapport with Peter Burrows, who is based here and my fondness and love of Straight Pool, which this tournament is. I’ve always been a student of straight pool, still am and always will be. It’s really nice to be around people who share my love of the game and Peter is one of them. There are certain things that if you believe in you want to give support to them. It’s not all about money.” Lee said.

Having Jeanette Lee playing in a pool tournament in the Baltimore-Washington area is something of a coup. The Maryland Open Straight Pool Championship may not be a glitzy and large event, but in its own quiet way it has become a chance for the best straight pool players to meet and play with one another in a well designed tournament under quite ideal conditions. Prize money has grown as has the field of world class players. We have made a concerted effort to attract top lady players to our tournament, but so far with little success, as few of the best women have strayed from their long time devotion to Nine Ball to gain the needed proficiency at the classic game of Straight Pool. Jeanette Lee remains one of the rare modern lady players who has honed her skill in 14.1.

In past years the Friday evening pre-tournament reception has served as the tournament “draw” ceremony, but this year the forty player round robin format with eight balanced flights and blind draw was done in advance to allow for advance printing of the tournament program as well as concise scheduling of match times and table assignments between the seven Diamond Pro Tables and eight Brunswick Gold Crowns IIIs. Flights & 40 player field, with shaded players being the two from each flight who had the best Sat. W-L record and advanced to Sunday:

Encompassed in the informal players reception & cocktail party on Friday night was the Players Meeting, which Director Peter Burrows believes is always a welcome opportunity for players to voice their opinions of format, rules and anything else on their mind. Peter always seeks feedback to make this is “players friendly” tournament. One of those elements is no time clock, always a debate. He notes, “we honestly believe that players do play at their own pace, and generally this is a constant one. There will always be discrepancies and fluctuations, but a given player usually in my experience plays the way they play. I have watched top 14.1 players for more than six decades since first seeing Mosconi play at the old Bensingers room on Randolph Street in Chicago in the late 1940s. Pool players play at the pace they play at and the rhythm and tempo of one player’s game is what it is. I just don’t believe in a shot clock in Straight Pool. The game is cerebral and players need time to think and analyze and I want to recognize that. Some situations lend them selves to more rapid disposal of a rack, but others do not. It you want a time clock play chess.”

And Peter goes on to note that another deviation is the more modern usage of “cue ball fouls only” and with a greater emphasis on player integrity which has been so widely adopted with great success in golf. “Why do we need a white glove referee at every table? Nice, classic of course, but simply not practical. Golf rules are many times more complex than pool, but the ancient golf rules are well known and players honestly adhere to them. Pool can do the same. And while we’re at it, let’s dress the part. So the Maryland Open is a dress code tournament following the format of other world class events. I think that is proper. The dressier the better, what’s wrong with that? Pool guys . . . and ladies . . . are handsome folks . . . let’s look the part! Dress up our game. My gosh, we’ve got Ms. Lee the most stunning gal on the planet plus just a terrific player and advocate for our sport . . . She is playing right here in our midst, beating all of us like a drum, let’s follow her lead and look sharp!”

The tournament format was a Saturday Round Robin of eight flights, five players to a flight playing four matches to 100 points. The old fashioned straight pool format which Director Peter Burrows believes is not only fairest to the players allowing them to play a maximum number of matches, but also a format which is ideal for spectators. They can watch their favorite locals or a top player play all day long, with no fear that they are going to get quickly eliminated in a one and done tournament. From the players perspective they can get warmed up, familiar with the equipment and there is no tedious winners’ side delay which occurs in drawn out double elimination tournaments. Non stop action involving everyone from dawn to dusk is a key positive in the round robin format!

After an evening of companionship and an hour of practice the action got off to a bright and early start 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, using the fifteen tables and forty players in a balanced round robin format, each player playing the other four in his flight on already pre-assigned tables and time slots, with an attempt that each player would play two of his matches on Diamond tables and two on Brunswick tables, The day consisted of six rounds and each player would have two rounds during the day when he had a bye, and the byes would not be back to back. Some tough scheduling but meticulously managed by scorer & statistician, Dave Nangle.

For the most part early matches went according to odds with the strong national players pulling away in a field which included such world class straight pool notables such as Ms. Lee, and Bob Maidhof of Drexeline Billiards, Drexel Hill, PA, last year’s tournament winner who just two weeks ago had a run of 316 balls! Included were the great NYC stalwarts Steve Lipsky & Danny Barouty, two of the top 14.1 players in the country and long time tournament regulars in Maryland. In fact twice Barouty has played in the finals, coming in 2nd both times.. The young phenom from Waterville, Maine, Mike Dechaine. Mike Davis who recently located to Tampa, FL made the trip to play, as did the great Danny Harriman, probably the best American born straight pool player since Mike Sigel. 1991 World Champion, and still great player and cue maker, Bob Hunter of Chicago. Grady Mathews screwed the old cue together one more time and drove north from Columbia, SC. These are just a few of the world class players that made up a truly great field. Just a terrific assemblage of top players. There were two last minute additions, when Brandon Shuff, one of the strongest players in the area joined the field, and Dr. Michael Frank, Dir. of the Univ. of Maryland Graduate School, and the first alternate, replaced Bill Dunsmore of Dalton, MA. Dr. Frank has been the Tournament’s first alternate for many years, a strong player and always makes a great showing. Given his strong academic management background at the University the good Dr. is encouraging the Tournament Director to put him under a permanent contract as “tournament alternate”! Bill Dunsmore entered a Maryland Hospital the night before the tournament with a mild heart attack! We send Bill our prayers and have learned that he is making a quick recovery, and Bill insists that it was not the level of competition that gave him a scare!

Each of the eight flights was balanced with top players, those likely expected to advance, usually playing their toughest opponents in the later rounds after having a chance to play a few games and get used to the tables and atmosphere. Strong local and regional players always surprise the front runners, and it never fails a dark horse has a great day at the expense of one of the favorites. In the very first round this year Maryland’s own Steve Haag, a long time straight pool lover and solid player from Frederick, Maryland stunned top rated Shaun Wilkie in early match, winning a squeaker 100-95 and World’s Champion Bob Hunter lost his very first match to top rated local player, Mark Ford. Brooklyn’s great Danny Barouty lost to Bob Chamberlain 100-42.Welcome to competition at the Maryland!

In the second round Alan Duty knocked off old pro Grady Mathews, while Rob Pole surprised eventual finalist Dave Daya 100-33. Jeanette Lee ran a 56 to defeat tough NYC player Marc Vidal. Chamberlain & Ford continued their winning ways defeating two great young players, Mike Dechaine and Matt Tetreault, early tough wins over strong opponents that would eventually help in moving both winners ahead to the Sunday rounds.

In the third round Ford again won a tight match defeating host room owner Rick Molineiro 100-95. Other matches in the 3rd round went according to Hoyle, and Zion Zvi, eventual semi-finalists and strong Israeli player now living in Queens ran an 83 to defeat Rob Pole 100-10. The 4th round had no surprises, and Dave Daya had a beautiful 81 ball run to best Richmond’s pride, Dr. David Hunt. Brandon Shuff continued his powerful play with a hard fought win 100-92 over Trenton Marty Ciccia from NJ.

The finals two rounds on Saturday got under way a half hour later than expected and Danny Harriman moved to 4-0 with a hard fought win over Zvi 100-86. The first defeat for Zion and they both advanced on to Sunday. Mike Dechaine defeated Barouty 100-3 to knock Danny out of the tournament. But the key match late in the day would prove fatal to top player Shaun Wilkie, when Mike Davis ran a 56 on him to win 100-21, putting Shaun at 2-2 tied with Steve Haag. But Haag would be the only 2-2 player to advance to Sunday when his ball count differential bested Wilkie, who was also 2-2.

Mike Davis, coming off a big win, was thrilled to begin play at nine a.m. on Sunday morning, noting that it just an ideal time for a professional pool player to start work! “Peter, 9 a.m. is the middle of the night!” The Sunday format pitted the top two players from each of the eight Saturday flights. As noted above the winner of each flight was 4-0 on Saturday, with the 2nd place players all being 3-1 except Haag at 2-2. The first places finishers were seed 1-8, based on Saturday ball differential, and paired 1-8, 2-7, 2-6, 4-5. The eight second place winners were randomly placed, two into each of the four flights, so that they would not be in a group with a player from their Saturday flight. So the four Sunday lights ended up:

Flight Sat. 1st Place Players Sat. 2nd Place Players
I # 1 Maidhof # 8 Ford Daya 3-0 Haag
II # 2 Hodan # 7 Chamberlain Hunter Zvi 3-0
III # 3 Davis # 6 McCreesh Lee 3-0 Shuff
IV # 4 Harriman 2-1 # 5 Lipsky Dechaine Duty

The first flight was won by Dave Daya who bested Bob Maidhof in a great match 125-116 which included a 91 ball run, advancing Daya to the four player elimination finals. Zion Zvi won all three matches in his flight to move on. Jeanette Lee, after finishing 2nd with 3-1 in her Saturday round to advance to Sunday, probably drew the toughest Sunday flight. Playing before enthusiastic fans she surely displayed why she is a great champion and competitor. Everyone who watched her three back to back hard fought wins over Mike Davis, Ryan McCreesh and Brandon Shuff was in awe of the great competitive spirit of the Black Widow. Lee reinforced an awareness that she is at the top of the list of WPBA players when it comes to 14.1. Davis, McCreesh & Shuff are three very strong players that are seldom going to be defeated by anyone, and Jeanette consecutively won each of her matches over all three!

The last flight would prove to be very competitive with the three top players all going 3-1; Harriman lost to Lipsky, but defeated the others. Lipsky lost to Dechaine and won vs. the others; Dechaine lost to Harriman but defeated Steve Lipsky and Alan Duty. So all three were 2-1 and in the tie breaker format of ball differential Harriman bested Lipsky by 6 balls to move into the Sunday night four player elimination round as the #4 seed vs. #1 Zion Zvi. David Daya was the #2 seed and played against #3 Jeanette Lee.

The semi final rounds were sterling, with Zion opening up a large lead following a 69 ball run, only to have Harriman run 115, and then 21 and out to win the t.v. table match 150-107. In the second match Jeanette jumped off to a big lead again Pennsylvania’s great Dave Daya, who knuckled down and made a strong comeback to pull away 150-128 and finally end what had been a long and really beautifully played tournament for Jeanette Lee, finishing tied for 3rd -4th and a $900. purse. Lee’s two day record of 6-2 versus the best Straight Pool players in the country is enviable and a terrific accomplishment.

The final got underway about 9:30 Sunday night, pitting the two semi winners, Danny Harriman, long time top 14.1 player from Kansas City and Dave Daya, who seems like he has been playing 14.1 for ever! But Harriman was not to be denied and from the very outset virtually never let Dave out of the chair. One of those days as they say, and Danny was just on a roll. After early safeties, Harriman put together rapid fire runs of 28 and then 99 to make the score 126 to -2 before Daya even had a chance. Dave ran a few racks before getting stuck and Harriman came to the table and ran out the match, winning the 2009 Maryland Open 150 to 25, and going 7-1 for the entire two day tournament, with his only loss coming against Steve Lipsky. First prize including Sunday High Run $4,100. Daya’s second place finish awarded him $2,400. Zion Zvi had the Sat. high run of 83.

Always lots of debate amongst players and fans as to 14.1 format . . . Is this the best way, an old fashioned round robin, let the cream rise and then a handful of players play on in a single elimination? How many players, how many matches, how many points in the early and later rounds? A lot of issues and things to think about as we look ahead to the 2010 Maryland Straight Pool Tournament, planned for June 26-27 next summer. Mark it down! But I think the overall consensus amongst fans and players was that this year’s Maryland 14.1 Championships is coming to the top of the heap around the country.

<br />Congratulations to all who played, helped, came to watch and viewed the internet links. And especially congratulations to Danny Harriman and to the other three finalists, Dave Daya, Zion Zvi and Jeanette Lee for their beautiful play, and to hosts Richard & Cynthia Molineiro and to the many sponsors and supporters, most particularly SIMONIS CLOTH and APA.

Photos: Warren Kahle Photography, Annapolis, Maryland