20 year old American Billy Thorpe upsets two world champions
20 year old American Billy Thorpe upsets two world champions to storm into the final 16 at the Molinari Playerâ€™s Championship in New York City.Â
By Ted Lerner
WPS MediaÂ Officer
Photos By JP Parmentier/WPS
(New York City)â€“For several yearsÂ up through 2015, Billy Thorpe made a name for himself on the American pool scene as a dashing young talent with a hot stroke who dared to playâ€”and winâ€“ ridiculously high stakes money games. Then in 2016 the then 19 year old decided he wanted to transition into being a real pro, and for the last year he has slugged it out with the big boys in tournaments big and small, attracting attention from pool fans eagerly looking for the next great American player.
Thorpe did create some noise in 2016, but history will surely show that it was in New York City Â on a cold Sunday in January, 2017, when the brash Dayton, Ohio native truly arrived as a professional, and stamped his mark as possibly that next great American pool player.
Playing with a panache and heart that belied his years, the now 20 year old Thorpe created one of the biggest stories of the first 8-ball event of the four-tournament World Pool Series, by taking down two world champions and barging into the final 16 of the Molinari Players Championship.
In a round of 64 TV table match, Thorpe played marvelously in defeating heavily favored three-time world English 8-ball champion Mick Hill, 13-11. Then, in the final 32, Thorpe roared back from an 11-8 deficit to tie former World 9-ball Champion Alex Pagulayan, 12-12. The young American then dramatically won the match by sinking all five shots in the thrilling shootout to advance to the final 16 on Monday.
Within moments Thorpe, who has been playing pool since he was three years old when his dad would let him walk on top of the family pool table and slap balls, had become nothing short of mini-sensation inside the packed Steinway Billiards in Queens, accepting congratulations from fans and posing for photos. The good looking and infectiously excitable American had become an instant hit, and he relished every moment of it.
â€œThese wins tonight really opened my eyes a little bit for me,â€ Thorpe said. â€œIâ€™ve worked hard. Iâ€™m always at tournaments and Iâ€™m always playing. I knew I could hang with these guys but I was always making too many mistakes and that would cost me against these players. So Iâ€™m trying to minimize my mistakes and take advantage if they make a mistake.
â€œIâ€™m playing by far the best pool of my life. Iâ€™m really happy with my game. Iâ€™m grinding every shot, trying to keep nerves down, taking it ball by ball, playing my heart out like I always do.
â€œIt means a lot. Hopefully Iâ€™m going to be on their level one day, be a world champion myself.Â I love that pressure. I love that adrenalin. I love being out there playing with these guys.â€
Thorpeâ€™s feats were just one part of brilliant and long day of hardcore 8-ball at the highest levels on Sunday as the Molinari Players Championship moved into the money rounds. The day began at 10am with 64 players and ended past midnight with just 16 players remaining. These 16 represent the full spectrum of some of poolâ€™s great talents, from legends and world champions, to up-and-comers like Thorpe, and from nearly all corners of the globe. On Monday all matches will become a bit longer and turn to winner breaks, and will see the field cut to four. The champion will be crowned on Tuesday evening.
The Philippines is not normally known as an 8-ball playing country. But the Filipinos love of 15 ball rotation seems to serve them well in a heavy traffic game like 8-ball and the four Pinoys remaining in the event have looked exceptionally strong.Â Former World 8-ball Champion Dennis Orcollo breezed into the final 16 with two easy wins today and his positive demeanor bodes well for the veteran. After coming back to defeat American Frankie Hernandez, Lee Vann Corteza headed to the TV table where he turned on the gas and defeated talented Greek Nikos Ekonomopoulos.Â The exciting and good looking Johann Chua looked unflappable with two wins. Carlo Biado also played rock solid today, and his round of 32 win against very tough Englishman Mark Gray proved that the young Filipino has the goods to go all the way.
Mick Hillâ€™s and Grayâ€™s loss aside, the British lads had a terrific outing on Sunday and itâ€™s clear that their English 8-ball background will serve them very well here in New York. White hot Jayson Shaw continued his winning ways with two victories today. Karl Boyes gutted out a nice come from behind over Taiwanâ€™s Lo Li Wen to advance. Multi-world champion and event promoter Darren Appleton notched two wins to stay alive. And former two time English 8-ball world champion Chris Melling also won two to make it to day 3.
Melling hasnâ€™t played American pool in two years after quitting the game and selling his cue to join the World Snooker tour where he achieved a ranking of 76. But when his good friend Appleton asked him to play on his new 8-ball tour, Melling answered the call and came to New York.
Playing with a mix and match cue, the super talented Melling engaged in a brilliant match with Spainâ€™s David Alcaide in the round of 32. The pair slugged it out in a highly entertaining affair with Melling coming back to squeak past the Spaniard, 13-11.
When heâ€™s on, Melling can be positively electrifying on the table, taking daring shots that no other player would even think of. He claims heâ€™s playing without confidence, but those who watched him play on Sunday certainly saw flashes of his brilliance that could surely carry the Englishman to the winnerâ€™s circle.
â€œBecause Iâ€™ve been out of the game for two or three years,â€ Melling said, â€œI think itâ€™s important to play the really good players. Iâ€™m not frightened of anybody. I donâ€™t care about reputations because I know what I can do on the table. If I concentrate on my own game, it doesnâ€™t matter what anyone else does because Iâ€™m in control of my game. When you let other people get in your head, thatâ€™s when you lose. So Iâ€™ve got to take each game as it comes.
â€œI actually feel like Iâ€™m playing bad. In my head I think Iâ€™m going to miss every shot Iâ€™m playing. And thatâ€™s just a lack of confidence because I havenâ€™t been playing. Normally Iâ€™m probably the most confident guy in pool and thatâ€™s because at one point I was winning everything. But then when you lose a few matches and things donâ€™t go your way, you start questioning your ability, your cue action, am I jumping up on the shot. You donâ€™t know what youâ€™re doing. Itâ€™s just nice to win even when you donâ€™t feel good.â€
Some more names in the final 16 represent a whoâ€™s who of pool heavyweights from the past generation. Germanyâ€™s Â two legends,Thorsten Hohmann and Ralf Souquet, made it through. So too did the USAâ€™s Hall of Famer Earl Strickland. Another Hall of Famer, Mika Immonen had to come from back from a deep deficit to tie Filipino veteran Ramil Gallego, then promptly won the dramatic shootout to secure his place in the final 16.
Also advancing to the final 16 were Russiaâ€™s Ruslan Chinakov, Greeceâ€™ Alexander Kazakis and Japan’s Naoyuki Oi.
The round of 16 begins at 2:30pm Monday at Steinway Billiards. (GMT -5). The quarterfinals will begin at 8:30pm.
The semi-finals and finals will take place on Tuesday.
All matches through to the semi-final will now be winner breaks and race to 15. The final will be winner breaks and race to 16.
The winner of the Molinari Playerâ€™s Championship will receive $20,000.
*The first event of the World Pool Series, The Molinari Players Championship, takes place at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens, New York City from January 14-17, 2017. The World Pool Series is sponsored by Molinari, Predator, Cheqio, RYO Rack, Aramith, Iwan Simonis, Kamui, Billiards Digest, Ultimate Team Gear, and High Rock.
For more information on the live stream, please visit the official website of the World Pool Series atÂ http://www.worldpoolseries.