Billiard Games

Billiard Games
▪ 2006


Carom Billiards.
      In January 2005 Sonny Cho of Flushing, N.Y., won his first U.S. championship in three-cushion (carom) billiards by beating defending champion Pedro Piedrabuena 50–45 in the deciding game. Piedrabuena scored the event's high runs, getting a 14 and a 13 in a single game. The 24-player event was sponsored by the U.S. Billiard Association and hosted by the Elks Lodge in Tacoma, Wash. The Japanese national championship was captured for the first time by 32-year-old Hideaki Kobayashi, the son of 13-time winner Nobuaki Kobayashi.

      Spain's Daniel Sánchez won the annual Union Mondial de Billard (UMB) world championship in Lugo, Spain, in June. The surprise runner-up was Jean-Paul De Bruijn of The Netherlands. The victory moved the 30-year-old Sánchez ahead of Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands, the 2004 UMB champion, in world point rankings. Sánchez solidified his ranking in July by winning the three-cushion competition at the World Games in Bottrop, Ger. Jaspers, however, continued his string of successes at the Crystal Kelly invitational in Monte-Carlo, winning for the fifth consecutive time, with an average of 2.012. Jaspers collected $21,375 from the purse of $88,563.

      The first Sang Lee memorial tournament was staged in early August at Carom Café in Flushing. Almost all of the top players in the world participated in the $100,000 event—the richest carom event in history—to honour Sang Chun Lee, the South Korean-born 12-time U.S. champion, who had died in 2004. Seventy-six players from 18 countries played a record 479 matches before Sweden's Torbjörn Blomdahl defeated Semih Sayginer of Turkey 40–19 in the final.

      Three-cushion legend René Vingerhoedt of Belgium died on February 14 at age 83. Between 1939 and 1959 Vingerhoedt won three world, six European, and nine Belgian national championships.

Pocket Billiards.
      In early 2005 came news of a series of eight-ball competitions with prizes surpassing anything ever before seen in the game. The International Pool Tour (IPT) was sponsored by Kevin Trudeau, an entrepreneur known for his aggressive television marketing. The tour began with a battle-of-the-sexes match between retired champions Mike Sigel and Loree Jon Jones staged on August 20 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Sigel won easily and pocketed $150,000, while Jones consoled herself with $75,000—the biggest paydays in either of their long careers. The next IPT event was a King of the Hill tournament on November 30–December 4 at the Orlando (Fla.) Convention Center. Thirty invited players from around the world and 12 members of the Billiard Congress of America's (BCA's) Hall of Fame competed for a share of the $1 million purse and the right to challenge Sigel. After four days of round-robin play, a challenger was determined: Efren Reyes of the Philippines, who easily beat Sigel 8–0 and 8–5 and pocketed $200,000. Trudeau promised to sponsor five more tournaments in 2006, with fields of 150 players and purses of $1 million–$3 million.

      The most surprising winner of a professional nine-ball event in 2005 was Taiwan's 16-year-old Wu Chia-ching, who took the $75,000 first prize at the World Pool–Billiard Association (WPA) world championship, held in July in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Wu topped a field of 128 players from 43 countries. Another surprise champion was 23-year-old Raj Hundal of England, who in September won the World Pool Masters tournament in Doncaster, Eng. Former WPA world champion Thorsten Hohmann of Germany in July defeated American Johnny Archer 7–0 for the BCA Open nine-ball title and followed up with the World Pool League championship, which took place in Poland in October. The final event of the year was the Mosconi Cup, held in Las Vegas on December 15–18. The team event, which pitted the United States against Europe, was won by the U.S. for the third time in a row.

      At the beginning of the year, England's Allison Fisher, the top-ranked player in the Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA), commented that the level of play had risen so much in the women's ranks that it had become difficult for anyone to dominate. Ireland's Julie Kelly and Kim Ga Young of South Korea had broken through to win major WPBA tournaments at the end of 2004, thus ending the near stranglehold on first-place finishes enjoyed by Fisher and Karen Corr of Northern Ireland. Fisher, however, belied her own statement in 2005 as she captured the Carolina Classic, the Great Lakes Classic, the BCA Open, the Midwest Classic, and the U.S. Open, an unprecedented level of success. She also won the $24,000 top prize at the Amway Cup in Taipei. The year's only other significant WPBA winners were Kelly Fisher (no relation to Allison) at the West Coast Classic in April, Corr at the Southeast Classic in June, and Kim, who took home the $16,000 first prize at the Cuetec Cues national nine-ball championship in November.

      Deaths during the year included those of BCA Hall of Famer Eddie Taylor and former straight-pool champions Johnny Ervolino and Jack Colavita.

 The year 2005 saw three memorable snooker performances. At the China Open in Beijing, Ding Junhui, who turned 18 during the competition, became the first Chinese player to win a ranking event. In the April 7 final against Scotland's Stephen Hendry, Ding showed his phenomenal shot-making ability in winning eight of the last nine frames. The mayor of Beijing was in the audience of 1,500, and an estimated 100 million people watched on television. A month later at the world championship in Sheffield, Eng., 22-year-old Shaun Murphy, a 150–1 shot at the start of the tournament, became the first qualifier to take snooker's most prestigious event. Murphy won £250,000 (about $475,000) for his efforts, which included victories over three former champions: Steve Davis, John Higgins, and Peter Ebdon. At the Preston Grand Prix, Higgins set a record in the final on October 16 against Ronnie O'Sullivan by making four consecutive century breaks: 103, 104, 138, and 128, a total of 494 unanswered points.

      Other winners during 2005 included O'Sullivan at the Welsh Open and the Wembly Masters, Hendry at the Malta Cup, Northern Ireland's Joe Swail at the Irish Professional Championship, and Higgins at the British Open. At the U.K. championship in December, the unlikely finalists were Davis, age 48, and Ding Junhui, 18, respectively the oldest and youngest players in the field. The sensational Chinese teenager was the winner 10–6.

Robert Byrne

▪ 2005


Carom Billiards.
      After 17 years of organizing well-funded three-cushion billiards tournaments, the Billiards Worldcup Association folded in 2004 because of declining corporate sponsorships. As a result, the world's best players had to depend for income on the Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB), team leagues in several European countries, and a variety of independently produced tournaments around the world. Once again, the most successful players were Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands, Sweden's Torbjörn Blomdahl, Spain's Danny Sánchez, Semih Sayginer of Turkey, Belgium's Frédéric Caudron, and Italian Marco Zanetti. In February Sayginer, the 2003 UMB world champion and Player of the Year, won $35,000 by besting Blomdahl in the Euphony Super Cup and then teamed with countryman Tayfun Tasdemir to take the world team title for the second year in a row. At the UMB world cup in Hurghada (Al Ghardaqah), Egypt, in July, Sánchez topped Murat Coklu of Turkey. Jaspers pocketed $21,689 for winning the Crystal Kelly tournament, held in Monte-Carlo in June, for the fourth straight time, averaging 2.258 for his seven 50-point games. Belgium's Raymond Ceulemans, aged 67, played a reduced schedule and won a Belgian Grand Prix event with an average of 1.666. In May Caudron took the world cup tournament in Seville, Spain. Sánchez captured the world cup meet in Antwerp, Belg., in August, which gave him the top spot on the world-ranking list. At the final major tournament of the year, the UMB world championship in Rotterdam, Neth., in October, Jaspers prevailed in the final over the fast-rising Filippos Kasidokostas of Greece, who was only 21 years old. Among the year's best performances were 50 points in 9 innings by Zanetti and Blomdahl and a run of 26 by American national champion Pedro Piedrabuena.

      The billiard world was shocked in October by the death at age 51 from cancer of South Korean-born Sang Chun Lee, the 1993 world champion. Lee won the South Korean national title 10 times before moving in 1987 to the U.S., where he won the U.S. title 12 straight times. Former Austrian champion Johann Scherz also died in 2004.

Pocket Billiards.
      The year began in controversy when the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) sold its not-for-profit amateur league to a commercial enterprise. Opponents of the move formed the American Cuesports Alliance. The stakes were huge, and at year's end the 532 local league operators were still being lobbied by the two sides. The BCA-sponsored championships, held in Las Vegas, Nev., in May, had 9,010 entrants vying for $840,000 in prize money. Rivaling the BCA event in size was the national team championships organized by the American Poolplayers Association, also held in Las Vegas. With a prize fund of $750,000 and six divisions, the nine-day event, held in August, attracted 9,000 entrants.

      At the Derby City Classic in January in Louisville, Ky., where spectators could find pool action almost around the clock, it was Germany's Ralf Souquet in nine-ball, Efren Reyes of the Philippines in one-pocket, and newcomer Jason Miller of the U.S. in nine-ball banks. Two high-stakes ring games attracted so much attention that they could become features at other tournaments; the two winners, Johnny Archer and Cory Deuel, both of the U.S., each pocketed $30,000.

      The main American organizer of men's tournaments, the U.S. Professional Poolplayers Association, held its World Summit of Pool at New York City's Grand Central Station. Filipino Santos Sambajon won the $30,000-added event, with Americans Mike Davis second and Earl Strickland third. The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) world nine-ball championships, the richest event in pool with a prize fund of $350,000, was held in Taiwan after five years in Cardiff, Wales. Alex Pagulayan, a Filipino living in Canada, won $75,000 by defeating Taiwan's Chang Pei-wei. The U.S. Open, held in Chesapeake, Va., in September, saw a surprise winner, 26-year-old Gabe Owen of the U.S., who had never finished higher than seventh in a major professional tournament. He netted $30,000 by topping Germany's Thorsten Hohmann. German Thomas Engert won the winner-take-all prize of $50,000 at the International Challenge of Champions in Uncasville, Conn., in August, adding to his victories in the Italian Open, the European championships, and the World Pool Masters in The Netherlands. Reyes dominated the Asian tour and also won the first-place prize of $20,000 in the WPA world eight-ball championships in Al-Fujayrah, U.A.E.

      The popular Classic Tour events of the Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) continued to be dominated by England's Allison Fisher (see Biographies (Fisher, Allison )) and Karen Corr of Northern Ireland, both former snooker champions. Fisher won three of the first four majors and thereby displaced Corr from the top of the rankings. The pair's grip on first place was broken at the Cuetec Cues Canadian Classic in Windsor, Ont., in October when Ireland's Julie Kelly topped Fisher in the final. Later that month, the diminutive Kim Ga Young of South Korea beat Corr to take the U.S. Open in Albuquerque, N.M., and in December Kim was crowned women's world nine-ball champion. In the Cuetec Cues National in Lincoln City, Ore., it was Corr over Austria's Gerda Hofstatter, and American Jeanette Lee defeated Kelly to win the Cuetec Cues Florida Classic in Hollywood, Fla. With her fourth-place finish in Florida, Fisher overtook Corr to end the year as the WPBA's top-ranked player.

      Despite the loss of tobacco advertising, World Snooker Ltd. found other corporate sponsors to keep prize funds high. A deal was signed with Eurosport for 200 hours of coverage over three years, which would bring the game to 95 million viewers. England's Ronnie O'Sullivan earned £250,000 (about $445,000) for winning the world championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Eng., and reclaimed his place atop the world rankings. He also won the Totesport Grand Prix in Preston, Eng., but in November lost to Stephen Maguire of Scotland in both the British Open (where fellow Scot John Higgins defeated Maguire for the title) and the season-ending U.K. championship. Maguire, a former world amateur champion, started 2004 ranked 41st and by year's end had climbed to 3rd place. Eddie Charlton, a 20-time winner of the Australian national title, died in November at age 75.

Robert Byrne

▪ 2004


Carom Billiards.
      In early 2003 the Billiards Worldcup Association (BWA), the generally recognized professional organization for three-cushion billiards, reorganized, acquired a new board, and announced plans to “relaunch” a new tour with at least three and perhaps as many as five Worldcup tournaments. Two tournaments were held, and a third that was scheduled for Dortmund, Ger., was canceled. Open dates remained to be filled in late fall. On December 6, in Oosterhout, Neth., the BWA board resigned en masse, stating that “irresolvable problems” in negotiations with players to renew their contracts had made it impossible to continue the organization's activities. Administrative activities would continue until a general assembly was held in the first quarter of 2004.

      Sweden's Torbjörn Blomdahl defeated Billiard Congress of America (BCA) Hall of Famer Raymond Ceulemans of Belgium 1,512–1,475 to take the BWA Grand Prix Barendrecht (the International Dutch Open) in January. The Las Vegas (Nev.) Worldcup tournament in July went to fan favourite Semih Sayginer of Turkey, who defeated Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands 2,000–1,730. The 10th Crystal Kelly tournament, which featured just eight players, was contested in The Netherlands rather than Monte-Carlo, its customary home. The “home court” advantage might have helped Jaspers, who won with 12 match points. Ceulemans had an impressive high run of 18. At mid season, after the two BWA Worldcup events and the Crystal Kelly Invitational, Blomdahl led the Worldcup rankings with 283 points. Jaspers had 228 points, followed by Marco Zanetti of Italy and Sayginer.

      Meanwhile, the Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB) announced plans to launch a competing world cup series of its own. In February Sayginer led Turkey to the title in the UMB world national team championship, held in Viersen, Ger. He followed up with a victory over Filippos Kasidokostas of Greece in the final of the UMB single world championship in Valladolid, Spain, in November. In the semifinals, Sayginer had defeated Blomdahl, while Kasidokostas had overcome Zanetti.

Pocket Billiards.
      The Women's Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) continued to be the best-organized and most consistent professional tour in an otherwise chaotic pocket billiards world. With its perennial lineup of international players, the WPBA was the de facto world tour for women. With its ongoing ESPN television contract, the WPBA maintained its status as the face of billiards for most enthusiasts, as the men's professional game continued to suffer from disorganization and the lack of a viable governing body.

      At the end of 2002, England's Allison Fisher had regained the top spot on the WPBA tour from rival Karen Corr of Northern Ireland, and she parlayed the momentum into 2003. Fisher won three of the first four contests of the 2003 season—the Delta Classic in Robinsonville, Miss., the San Diego (Calif.) Classic, and the Midwest Classic in East Peoria, Ill. At the season's midpoint she was firmly atop the rankings, followed by Corr, Helena Thornfeldt of Sweden, Taiwan's Jennifer Chen, and newcomer Kim Shaw from England. In sixth place was American Jeanette Lee. Corr defeated Fisher in the final of the BCA Open 9-Ball Championship in Las Vegas in May and came within 85 points of her rival in the rankings after winning the WPBA U.S. Open in September and the Canadian Classic in October. In early November Lee won the four-player Tournament of Champions at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., and the winner-take-all purse of $25,000. In the season's final contest, the National 9-Ball Championship in Lincoln City, Ore., Fisher beat Lee in the final and kept her top ranking for the season. Corr, who finished in third place, and Thornfeldt held at numbers two and three, respectively, while Lee bettered her final ranking to fourth.

      The world nine-ball championships were again sponsored by Matchroom Sport and held in Cardiff, Wales, with the blessing of the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA). Hours of live TV coverage and high production values marked the contest, which included an uneven mix of WPA-qualified contestants and Matchroom picks. Thorsten Hohmann, a relatively unknown 24-year-old from Germany, defeated Filipino-born Canadian Alex Pagulayan 17–10 in the final to take the WPA world title and $65,000.

      With its patchwork of international contests and competing governing bodies, the men's professional game continued to strive for credibility, and the 2003 season comprised a smorgasbord of independent tournaments. A struggling U.S. Professional Poolplayers Association (UPA) sanctioned nine tournaments in 2003. The Mid-Atlantic in January was a $15,000 payday for Efren Reyes of the Philippines. American Johnny Archer won $10,000 at the Brunswick Pro Players Championship in March, and the BCA Open winner on the men's side was Ralf Souquet of Germany. The UPA refused to sanction the U.S. Open, which was won by American Jeremy Jones in Chesapeake, Va., in September. The International Billiard Council (IBC) sponsored 10 events, including the season-ending joint IBC-WPA World Tour Championship in Tokyo. Pagulayan came out on top of an all-Filipino final four, taking the $15,000 top prize.

      At the European championships, held in Bialystok, Pol., from March 27 to April 6, the European Pocket Billiard Federation (EPBF) crowned Denmark's Charlotte Sörensen the women's eight-ball champion and Germany's Sandra Ortner the nine-ball titlist. On the men's side, Oliver Ortmann took the EPBF nine-ball title and Souquet won at eight-ball. Sweden and Germany, respectively, captured the men's and women's team titles.

      The BCA remained stalled in its quest to earn pocket billiards a spot in the Olympics. The trade association, which was recognized by the WPA as the North American governing body, made changes to its bylaws to conform more closely to U.S. Olympic Committee requirements. Additional board positions were created for player delegates, and elections were held in conjunction with the BCA's annual open amateur tournament. BCA officials, however, said that they might create a separate, player-oriented entity to pursue their Olympic dream.

      Welshman Mark Williams used a trio of wins to distance himself from the pack in the world snooker rankings at the close of the 2002–03 season. He became only the third player to sweep the game's three biggest tournaments in one season. (Snooker legends Steve Davis of England and Stephen Hendry of Scotland were the only other players to win a single season's Embassy world championship, U.K. championship, and Benson & Hedges Masters tournament.) Williams ended the season well atop the rankings with 52,600 points. More hotly contested was second place; Hendry had 44,800 points, while Ronnie O'Sullivan of England finished third with 44,750 points.

      The first goal of the hat trick occurred at the U.K. championship, where Ken Doherty of Ireland challenged Williams but came away with a 10–9 loss in the final. Williams made his mark in February at the Benson & Hedges Masters, beating Hendry in the final 10–4. In May the world championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Eng., was the last jewel in the crown for Williams. He defeated Doherty 18–16. It was the last year of the Benson & Hedges Masters tournament, which was a casualty of the U.K.'s ban on tobacco advertising. Nicknamed “Wembley,” the popular tournament ran for 29 years.

      In women's snooker, England's Kelly Fisher finished a 69-match, 15-tournament winning streak when she lost in the quarterfinals to Maria Catalano (O'Sullivan's cousin) at the Scottish Open in March. Catalano went on to lose 4–1 in the final to Belgium's Wendy Jans. Despite the loss, Fisher remained atop the rankings, and the next month she won her fifth world championship in six years.

Kirstin Pires

▪ 2003


Carom Billiards.
      Swedish carom billiards star Torbjörn Blomdahl ended 2001 with his ninth Billiards Worldcup Association title, scoring 325 points and winning four of seven tournaments during the year. He was trailed by Semih Sayginer of Turkey, with 277 points and two tournament titles, and Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands, with 240 points and one title. Blomdahl racked up points by capturing the Oosterhout, Neth., and Lugo, Spain, tournaments in late 2001. He also led the world rankings (calculated separately on a 12-month basis) going into 2002. In February Blomdahl defeated Belgian legend Raymond Ceulemans, the 2001 Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB) champion, for the world three-cushion Supercup. In the summer it was announced that Ceulemans was to be knighted by King Albert II of Belgium for his contributions to the international sports scene.

      Frédéric Caudron of Belgium began 2002 with a strong challenge, taking the Dutch Open Grand Prix in January with an impressive 1.721 average and then following with a win and a 1.670 average in Oporto, Port., in March. Blomdahl managed only an unfamiliar third place in Portugal despite having a 1.909 average. In June Jaspers won his fourth Crystal Kelly tournament with a record-setting grand average of 2.536. The ninth edition of this lavish invitational event brought eight of the top three-cushion specialists together for 50-point round-robin competition. Sayginer and Caudron tied for second place.

      Sang Chun Lee's 12-year reign as U.S. national champion came to an end in February as his fellow American Pedro Piedrabuena was named 2002 champion. Piedrabuena averaged 2.083 in the title match with Lee, toppling the former champion 50–25 with a high run of 12.

      In October Italy's Marco Zanetti won his first UMB world championship, besting Dion Nelin of Denmark in the final with an average of 2.360. Zanetti had defeated Jaspers in the semifinal, while Blomdahl, Sayginer, and Caudron all fell in the quarterfinals.

Pocket Billiards.
      Organizations rather than competition made the biggest news in the pocket billiards world in 2002. A new professional men's organization continued to develop in the U.S., and a new international tour organization took shape in Japan. The Billiard Congress of America (BCA) took steps toward becoming an Olympic governing body. The manufacturer-dominated BCA approved a bylaw change that added significant player representation to its board of directors and brought its structure into line with U.S. Olympic Committee requirements.

      The United Poolplayers Association (UPA) became a legal entity composed of most of the top male players. The UPA was launched by American player Charlie Williams and a handful of supporters in an attempt to fill the gap left when the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. discontinued its Camel Pro Billiards Series after the 1999 season. By mid-2002 the UPA had established standards and scheduled its first three self-promoted tournaments.

      The International Billiard Council (IBC) made big news in late 2001 with its ¥100,000,000 (about $800,000) tournament in Tokyo, won by Efren Reyes of the Philippines. The 2002 IBC Tour got under way in May at the Nanki Classic in Shirahama, Japan. American Cory Deuel won $14,000 for first place, in contrast to Reyes's $163,000 for first place in the 2001 kick-off event in Tokyo. As the season proceeded, the top prize settled at around $7,000. In Munich, Ger., in early June, Filipino Francisco Bustamante pocketed $6,000 for first place. At the Holland Open in July, Ralf Souquet of Germany defeated 2001 world champion Mika Immonen of Finland to take the $7,000 prize; then in September he took home another $7,000 for beating American Johnny Archer at the U.S. championship in Nashville, Tenn. In November Souquet lost the season-ending Tokyo 9-Ball International (and the $10,000 top prize) to Bustamante, but the German earned enough points to be named the overall IBC Tour champion.

      The Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) marked its 25th year by expanding the field of its Classic Tour events from 48 to 64. The WPBA tour continued to be dominated by two former snooker players, England's Allison Fisher and Northern Ireland's Karen Corr. Corr had swept the entire 2001 season, but Fisher battled back and took the 2002 season's first title in March at Valley Forge, Pa., and the Amway Cup in Taiwan in April. Corr came back to win the Spring Classic in Viejas, Calif., and the BCA Open in Las Vegas, Nev., in May, but she lost to Fisher at the Fall Classic in New York City in October. Sweden's Helena Thornfeldt, who resided in the U.S., upset the status quo with a win in September at the U.S. Open in Albuquerque, N.M. It was her first WPBA title since 1997.

      Perhaps pocket billiards' most-watched event, the World Pool–Billiard Association (WPA) men's world pool championship, held in Cardiff, Wales, in July, was televised in over 70 countries. In the U.K., viewers were treated to more than 60 hours of live coverage, including American Earl Strickland's nail-biting 17–15 victory over Bustamante for the $65,000 top prize. Earlier in the month, Liu Shin-mei of Taiwan bested Corr for the women's WPA title, worth $12,000.

      In September live televised pool coverage returned in the U.S. after a decade-long hiatus with Billiard Club TV's presentation of the finals of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship live on pay-per-view satellite television. Souquet defeated Filipino-born Canadian Alex Pagulayan 13–11 in the exciting final just three minutes before the broadcast was scheduled to end.

      The 2002 men's professional snooker season ended with a thrilling world championship title in May at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Eng. The tournament produced a new champion, a new rankings leader, and remarkable television ratings. In a 35th-frame victory, England's Peter Ebdon defeated Stephen Hendry 18–17 to deny the Scotsman his eighth world championship title. The suspenseful final drew 7.5 million viewers for a 60% share of the TV audience. Ebdon entered the season finale ranked number seven in the world and moved up to number three, while 2001 champ Ronnie O'Sullivan of England consoled himself over the loss of his title with the number one ranking.

      Despite hours of TV coverage and loyal audiences, the loss of tobacco-company sponsors loomed large. Tobacco sponsorship was due to begin phasing out in Europe in 2003, much as it had in the U.S. in the late 1990s. In July the players, who controlled the game through the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), held a vote to choose from the companies proposing to take over management of the professional tour. None of the three companies received a majority of the vote, however, and after one of the companies withdrew its proposal, the WPBSA decided to appoint World Snooker Enterprises as its new commercial management team.

Kirstin Pires

▪ 2002


Carom Billiards.
      Swedish carom billiards star Torbjörn Blomdahl defeated American Pedro Piedrabuena in the International Dutch Open, held in Barendrecht, Neth., on January 12–14, 2001. The champion compiled an average of 1.794, with a high run of 12.

      On February 4 South Korean-born Sang Chun Lee of New York City captured his 12th consecutive U.S. Billiard Association three-cushion championship. Lee finished the tournament with a 9–0 record and a high run of 12 and averaged 2.667 in the final game against American runner-up Carlos Hallon.

      The first event of the 2001 Carom Corner Tour was held in Peabody, Mass., in March, with Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands defeating Piedrabuena for the title. Jaspers had a high run of 15, scoring 4.286 in his best game.

      Greece played host to the three-cushion stars in February, with Semih Sayginer defeating a strong field for the title. The Turkish star compiled an average of 1.809 and had a high run of 9. At the Billiards Worldcup Association tournament in Bogotá, Colom., in May, Sayginer won for the second straight year, prevailing over Jaspers in the final. Sayginer had an average of 1.452 and a high run of 12.

      In June Frédéric Caudron of Belgium captured the title at the St. Willebrord (Neth.) Invitational, with Blomdahl taking second. Caudron had an average of 2.140 and a high run of 14. The Monte Carlo Crystal Kelly tournament also was held in June. Jaspers avenged his earlier loss to Sayginer for the win. Jaspers had an average of 1.832 with a high run of 10.

      In July Las Vegas, Nev., hosted the Carl Conlon Memorial Worldcup. It was the largest three-cushion event ever held in the U.S., with 152 competitors representing 21 countries. Blomdahl defeated Jaspers 3–1 for the title and posted an impressive grand average of 2.039 with a high run of 14. Legendary Belgian three-cushion star Raymond Ceulemans, who lost to Blomdahl in the second round, was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) Hall of Fame just days before the tournament. Ceulemans had captured over 100 international titles in his 40-year career and was the first non-U.S. player to enter the hall since Alfredo de Oro of Spain was inducted in 1967. American journalist Robert Byrne was inducted with Ceulemans.

Pocket Billiards.
      The 2001 pool season kicked off in January with Shannon Daulton defeating former U.S. Open champion Johnny Archer in the Music City Open in Nashville, Tenn. In the Derby City Classic, held in Louisville, Ky., later that month, Jose Parica took the nine-ball banks title, Buddy Hall the one-pocket crown, and Daulton both the nine-ball title and the all-around championship. At the Lexington (Ky.) All Star Championships, Jeremy Jones defeated Corey Deuel and Parica for the nine-ball crown, while John Brumback captured the nine-ball banks title.

      Efren Reyes of the Philippines pocketed $20,000 for his 13–9 victory over Earl Strickland in the Masters Nine-Ball Championships in Chesapeake, Va., in April. One week later Reyes lost to fellow Filipino Francisco Bustamante in the finals of the Turning Stone Classic in Verona, N.Y. May saw the players head for the desert and the BCA nine-ball event in Las Vegas. Rising star Deuel knocked off Parica 7–5 to claim the winner's check of $15,000.

      Eight invited players descended on Uncasville, Conn., during July 11–12 for the International Challenge of Champions. Chao Fong-pang of Taiwan brushed aside Bustamante in a one-game sudden-death final to pocket the winner-take-all prize of $50,000.

      At the World Pool–Billiard Association (WPA) men's world championships, held July 14–22 in Cardiff, Wales, Mika Immonen of Finland defeated Ralf Souquet of Germany 17–10 in the final to take home $65,000.

      Back in Chesapeake in September, Deuel crushed Immonen 11–0 to capture the U.S. Open nine-ball championship. Deuel pocketed $30,000 for the win. At season's end Deuel was the highest-ranked man in points, but Reyes, with more than $230,000 in winnings, topped the money list.

      The Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) seemed like a two-woman show in 2001 as Karen Corr, originally from Northern Ireland, and England's Allison Fisher between them won nearly everything in sight. The tour kicked off in March with the Players Championship in Valley Forge, Pa. Corr took home the winner's check of $6,500; she followed with another title a month later in the Spring Classic in Alpine, Calif., where she defeated Taiwan's Jennifer Chen for the second consecutive event.

      Taiwan hosted the Amway Cup in early April, with Fisher pocketing $20,000 and the title. At the BCA championship in Las Vegas in May, American Jeanette Lee relegated Corr to a second-place finish with a 7–5 victory in the final. Lee snagged $15,000 for the win in the year's only major women's event that neither Fisher (who finished third) nor Corr won.

      In a battle of former snooker professionals, Corr defeated Fisher 7–3 at the Cuetec Cues Carolina Classic in Charlotte, N.C., in June. With this victory, Corr's third of the season, she overtook Fisher atop the WPBA rankings. Fisher had held the number one spot since September 1996. By season's end Corr had swept the WPBA tour, winning all six official events. Fisher, however, captured the $25,000 prize at the International Tournament of Champions in Uncasville on November 8 and then bested Corr 11–8 in the final of the WPA world nine-ball championship in Quebec two weeks later. Though Corr held onto her number one ranking in points, Fisher outearned her on the year's money list.

      England's Ronnie O'Sullivan capped off a sensational season in May 2001 by defeating former champion John Higgins of Scotland 18–14 to capture his first world professional snooker championship. O'Sullivan's title was his fifth of the season and added £250,000 (about $350,000) to push his season earnings to nearly £700,000 (almost $1 million). O'Sullivan, described by many observers as the greatest natural talent ever to play the game, climbed to number two in the world rankings, just ahead of Higgins. Though defending champion Mark Williams of Wales had crashed out in the second round, he retained his number one ranking for the 2001–02 season. In January Higgins, with teammates Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus, defeated a team from Ireland 6–2 to win the 2001 Nations Cup for Scotland.

      Canadian Cliff Thorburn, who remained the only overseas player to have won the world snooker championship (1980), celebrated his return to the amateur snooker ranks with a dramatic 4–3 last-ball victory over another former professional, Tom Finstad, to capture the Canadian amateur snooker championship.

Bill Bradley

▪ 2001


Carom Billiards.
      The Billiards Worldcup Association (BWA) World Cup final standings for 1999 saw Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands on top with 200 points. South Korean-born Sang Chun Lee of New York City was second with 190 points.

      In January 2000 the carom specialists headed to The Netherlands for the International Dutch Open, where Jaspers defeated 1999 world champion Torbjörn Blomdahl of Sweden 3–1 in the final. Jaspers amassed 290 points in 156 innings and averaged 1.859 points per inning, with a high run of 14. Jaspers also picked up 36 world ranking points. Blomdahl scored 226 points in 155 innings, with an average of 1.458.

      Spotted balls were used for the first time in the Dutch Open. For better viewing, the white and yellow balls were provided with six red dots. A time clock was also introduced. Both players had a starting time of 150 seconds, with another 30 seconds per shot added. The time a player used was then subtracted, and if a player used up all of his or her time he or she lost the set. In a final-16 match, Jaspers lost his first set to countryman Ad Koorevarr when he used up all of his time.

      The first World Cup event of 2000 was held in Bogotá, Colom., in May. Blomdahl once again was a bridesmaid, losing to Turkish star Semih Sayginer 3–2 in the final. Sayginer averaged 1.404, with a high run of 7. Jaspers finished ninth, while Sang Chun Lee, who had captured his 11th consecutive U.S. three-cushion championship one month earlier, lost in the final 16.

Pocket Billiards.
      Team U.S.A., led by Johnny Archer, defended its title in the Mosconi Cup in London. The American squad trounced Team Europe 12–7 to capture its fifth title in six years. Archer, the 1999 U.S. Open champion, sealed the match with a 5–2 victory over six-time world snooker champion Steve Davis of England.

      Billiards Digest named the 50 greatest players of the century. The top five were Willie Hoppe, Willie Mosconi, Ralph Greenleaf, Alfredo de Oro, and Mike Sigel. Current stars Allison Fisher of England and Archer were ranked 18th and 31st, respectively.

      A jury in North Carolina awarded the Professional Billiards Tour (PBT) $886,000 for breach of contract in its lawsuit against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Two other charges of fraud and unfair trade practices were earlier thrown out for lack of evidence. Don Mackey, PBT commissioner, announced that plans were under way for an “active” 2001 pool season.

      A German player captured the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) U.S. Open straight pool championship for the third time in four years. Ralf Souquet pocketed $15,000 for his 150–95 victory over Ch'ien Ming-wei of Taiwan. Fisher trounced Loree Jon Jones 100–37 in the ladies' section to also cash out for $15,000.

      The Steve Mizerak Senior Tour attracted 69 players to Tampa, Fla., in March for the Senior Masters. Nick Varner prevailed over Jim Rempe 13–11 to claim top honours. The tour later announced that the Senior Tour championship scheduled for October had been canceled.

      Russel Stuart of Canada announced that he had set up the USA Billiards Tour and the Challenger Circuit to qualify pocket billiard players for several large purse events in 2001. Dan Basovich defeated Buddy Hall in the first event, held in Florida. Two events were canceled—one in Tulsa, Okla., and the other in Atlanta, Ga.—almost immediately. Finnish champion Mika Immonen prevailed in the Nashville, Tenn., stop, while Efren Reyes of the Philippines came out on top at the Baltimore, Md., event. On May 2, USA Billiards announced that the remainder of the tour was being postponed pending “a complete review of the tour, including sponsorship and player participation.”

      In the Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA), Fisher was elected president of the players' association and continued to show her influence on the table as well. In the first four tournaments of the year, Fisher was victorious in two—the WPBA nationals and the San Diego Classic—and reached the finals in the other two, losing to former world snooker champion Karen Corr in Valley Forge, Pa., and being edged by Gerda Hofstatter in the BCA Open event in Las Vegas, Nev. Corr defeated Helena Thornfeldt to capture the Baltimore stop on the WPBA tour in August.

      Ninety-six players from 23 countries descended on Cardiff, Wales, in July for the World Pool–Billiard Association world nine-ball championships. Chao Fong-pang of Taiwan trounced the Mexican Ismael Paez 17–6 to take the title and a check for $60,000—the largest prize in pool. Paez received $30,000. The champion also received a reported $90,000 bonus from the Taiwanese government. Americans Earl Strickland and Cory Duel finished third and fourth, respectively, and pocketed $15,000 each. Former snooker champion Davis was the story of the weeklong tournament. After barely advancing out of his round-robin bracket, Davis knocked out three former world pool champions before Duel sent him packing in the final-eight bracket.

      The 10th annual International Challenge of Champions followed on the heels of the world championships, with eight invited players dueling it out for the sole prize of $50,000. In a reversal of the previous year's final, German Oliver Ortmann defeated defending champion Francisco Bustamante in a one-game tiebreaker. Ortmann became the only two-time winner of this prestigious event.

      Reyes pocketed $30,000 with his victory in the Camel Pro 8-Ball Championship in August; Immonen earned $20,000 for his second-place finish. Strickland captured his fifth U.S. Open nine-ball title and $50,000 in winnings in September with an 11–5 victory over Takeshi Okumura of Japan. A record field of 286 players entered the tournament, with defending champion Archer ending up in a 7th place tie.

      Mark Williams defeated Matthew Stevens 18–16 in the event's first all-Welsh final to claim the 1999–2000 world professional snooker championship. Stevens held a 13–7 lead before the reigning U.K. and Thailand international champion reeled off seven of the next eight frames. Williams, a losing semifinalist in 1999, pocketed £240,000 (about $360,000), while Stevens earned £140,000 ($212,000). Williams, who also took over the number one ranking for the next season, had trailed John Higgins of Scotland 15–11 in his semifinal match, then stormed back for a 17–15 victory. Stevens reached the final with a 17–12 win over Joe Swail of Northern Ireland. Scottish defending champion Stephen Hendry lost 10–7 to England's Stuart Bingham in round one.

      Ajeya Prabraker defeated Tom Kollins 5–3 to claim the 2000 U.S. snooker championship. In a battle of former snooker professionals, Kirk Stevens defeated Bob Chaperon to take the Canadian title. All four players qualified for the International Billiard and Snooker Federation amateur world championships in Changchun, China, in October. The tournament winner, 19-year-old Stephen Maguire of Scotland, was banned from future IBSF events for allegedly damaging his hotel room.

Bill Bradley

▪ 2000


Carom Billiards.
      After a one-year absence, Sweden's Torbjörn Blomdahl again assumed his familiar role as the world's best three-cushion player. The popular Blomdahl won his seventh Billiards Worldcup Association (BWA) title since 1988, finishing the last four stops of the BWA Tour with a rush and overcoming a substantial lead in standings points held by defending world champion Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands. Daniel Sanchez of Spain won the unified BWA/Union Mondiale de Billard world crown.

      In July Las Vegas, Nev., was the host city for the first Grand Prix three-cushion tournament on American soil in a decade, despite political turmoil and in-fighting between the collaborating Carom Corner Tour (CCT) and the U.S. Billiard Association (USBA) that still threatened the event mere months before it was to take place. The USBA president's resignation defused the situation, and to the relief of both players and fans, the Carl S. Conlon Memorial World Cup drew 140 players, thought to be the largest and almost certainly the best field ever assembled in the U.S. Scoring was exceptional, with the 32 finalists averaging 1.415 points-per-inning (PPI) in the unusual and nerve-wrenching single elimination format. Sang Chun Lee won five straight matches and averaged 1.625 PPI to capture the $6,500 first prize.

      The CCT's 1999 schedule attracted another world-class field to the U.S. in August in Chicago. A $45,000 purse was at stake, and the star-studded international field responded to the challenge with blistering scoring averages and scintillating high runs. Blomdahl, the runner-up, finished with the highest PPI grand average ever recorded in the U.S., a breathtaking 1.919 (despite three losses), and posted the tournament's high run of 18. It was Sang Chun Lee's flawless streak of 11 victories in a row, however, that gave him the title and the $6,500 first prize. The South Korean-born New Yorker had only slightly less-dizzying statistics than Blomdahl, with a 1.739 PPI average and a high run of 17. Lee also won an astounding and unprecedented 10th consecutive U.S. national three-cushion title.

Pocket Billiards.
      In pocket billiards the year provided no relief for the embattled U.S. men's professional player organizations and their members as the seven-year-long struggle for control of the sport's top players and tournament-sanctioning rights continued. Oddly, neither of the major initial combatants in the squabbling, the Professional Billiards Tour (PBT) and the Professional Cuesports Association (PCA), seemed to be viable organizations any longer. For the second year neither body had a sanctioned tour, and no events were held that required (or were dependent on) sanctioning by either group. No acknowledgement of dissolution had come from either group, but veteran industry observers speculated that neither organization was likely to survive. That prospect was a bewildering one, since pocket billiards, both in the U.S. and worldwide, had been riding a strong wave of popularity for 10–15 years, and the Women's Professional Billiard Association had experienced steady increases in its tournament participation, purses, sponsorship, television exposure, and spectator attendance.

      The PBT, which had an arrangement with Camel cigarettes to sponsor several million dollars' worth of professional events over several years, lost that sponsorship and was reportedly suing Camel over the issue. Camel, meanwhile, continued the program on its own, dropping the PBT and seeking to avoid the PBT-PCA conflict by running the eight major events itself and letting the tournaments be open to everyone. In 1999, after two seasons of conducting that open tour program, Camel announced the discontinuance of the program.

      What remained for the players was a handful of independently produced tournaments about which they had nothing to say, over which they had no control, and—without the $860,000 Camel tour—offering about as much money as pool players had competed for in 1959. Even the Mizerak Senior Tour, hailed just a year earlier as a “haven of peace amidst the political tempest found at most other events,” was in 1999 publicly accused of monetary irregularities and mismanagement by a faction of players. Though evidently the accusations were not proved, their effect on the tour's future was potentially damaging.

      The World Confederation of Billiards Sports, a group of billiard and snooker supporters seeking inclusion of the cue sports in the Olympics, made significant progress in 1999. The body gained official recognition by the International Olympic Committee as an official sponsoring federation. The International World Games Association (IWGA) also accepted four cue sport disciplines to be contested in the IWGA VI World Games, to be held in Japan in 2001. Men's pocket billiards, snooker, and caroms, as well as women's pockets, were scheduled to be played.

      In December 1998 international team pocket billiards competition at the Mosconi Cup in London—the “greatest spectacle in Nineball”—Team U.S.A. turned back Team Europe in a thrilling 13–9 match. The 1998 Player of the Year awards went to both Francisco Bustamante and Buddy Hall among the men, while English star Allison Fisher won the women's title for the third straight year.

Bruce H. Venzke

      At the tournament in Sheffield, Eng., in May, Stephen Hendry of Scotland became the first man to win the world professional snooker title for the seventh time and provided the incentive for an all-around standard of excellence in 1999. (See Biographies (Hendry, Stephen ).) His maximum break of 147 in the final of the British Open at Plymouth, Eng., was emulated by Ronnie O'Sullivan of England at the Grand Prix event held in October in Preston, Eng., where the eighth 147 break in professional competition was compiled during the year.

      The Grand Prix, the 15th in the series, was won by Hendry's compatriot John Higgins, who defeated Mark Williams of Wales by nine frames to eight in the final. Overseas influence was diminished by the elimination of James Wattana of Thailand in the fifth round and Marco Fu of Hong Kong at the quarter-final stage, and by the end of the year, three British players, Higgins, Hendry, and Williams, had moved to the forefront in world rankings.

Sydney E. Friskin

▪ 1999


Carom Billiards.
      Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands won the 1997 Billiards Worldcup Association world three-cushion championship in a four-stop tournament series. Jaspers's two victories, the Turkish Open in Goynuk and the Belgian World Cup in Antwerp, earned him enough points for the overall title. Six-time world champion Torbjörn Blomdahl of Sweden won the tour's final stop, the International Dutch Open in Barendrecht, and finished the year in second place. Frédéric Caudron of Belgium was the champion at the Wetsteijn Dutch Open World Cup in Oosterhout, which earned him third place overall.

      The 1997 United States Billiard Association (USBA) national three-cushion championship in New York City was won by Sang Chun Lee with a final points-per-inning (PPI) average of 1.492. The South Korean-born New Yorker shared high-run honours (12) and posted the event's best game (15 points in four innings, with a 3.75 PPI average). The 1998 USBA national championship also was won by Lee; it was his ninth consecutive U.S. championship. He averaged 1.478 PPI over the 13 games of the event. Carlos Hallon of Miami, Fla., finished second. The tournament PPI grand average was a record 1.002, the first time the 1.000 PPI level had ever been exceeded by the field as a whole.

      Lee, who was the world champion in 1993, also was a key player in a new three-cushion billiards promotional enterprise launched in 1998. The Carom Corner Tour (CCT), a five-stop series of tournaments around the U.S., guaranteed both larger prize funds and the presence of the popular Lee at all locations. Despite sanctioning squabbles with the USBA and some financial strains, the CCT drew the world's top players to all five well-attended events. Lee won the tour kickoff in Miami, as well as the fourth and fifth stops; Hallon took the second, and Blomdahl won the third in his only CCT appearance. A highlight of the fifth CCT stop (in Chicago) was young Turkish star Semih Sayginer's breaking of the 20-year-old U.S. tournament high-run record (19) with a finished run of 20.

Pocket Billiards.
      "There's so much politics [sic] and animosity involved." Those words from veteran Buddy Hall of Kentucky spoke volumes about the status of men's professional pocket billiards in the U.S. in 1998. There seemed to be no end to the power struggles that had marked the past several years in the men's professional game. Indeed, by 1998 the two factions in the battle for control of the professional men's tournament circuit, the Professional Billiards Tour (PBT) and the Professional Cuesports Association (PCA), had apparently fought themselves into virtual extinction. The PBT had no sanctioned events in 1998; the PCA's calendar listed a few events, but none was dependent on PCA sanctioning. A veteran observer opined that "never have so many been led so far astray by so few in the quest of so little." That might prove to be a harsh assessment, but certainly neither group was a significant factor during the year.

      Without PBT or PCA tours, the players scrambled to find whatever competition was available. The first and biggest was the Camel Pro Billiard Series, which had evolved after repeated efforts by R.J. Reynolds's Camel brand cigarettes to promote an event in concert with the PBT failed. Already sponsoring several successful amateur events, Camel decided to offer a professional tournament series without the PBT's blessing. An eight-stop tour was the result, each event worth $60,000-$75,000 in direct prize money, with $300,000 in bonus prize money (based on performance points) to be awarded at year's end. Additional events and prize money were promised for the future. Camel was prevented by law from being a television sponsor, however, and since TV was considered by many to be the critical promotional vehicle in pool's effort to reach big-time-sport status, some grave concerns remained for players and fans alike.

      A few individual tournaments carried on bravely through it all, most notably the longest-running (and richest) such event in the country, the U.S. Nine-Ball Open. In the 23rd Open, in Norfolk, Va., Hall was the winner, pocketing $25,000. He also scored wins on the Camel tour (first stop), the Mali Florida tour, and the Mizerak Senior Tour (MST). The MST, in its second year, was a haven of peace amid the political tempest found at most other events.

      The Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA), meanwhile, continued to conduct its annual 12-stop WPBA Classic Tour with steadily increasing popularity, prize money, and television coverage. The primary beneficiary midway through the 1998 season was once again the transplanted English star Allison Fisher, who led the tour in both victories and earnings. In November she captured a record third consecutive World Pool-Billiard Association world nine-ball title Kunihiko Takahashi of Japan won the men's championship. Fisher also won Player of the Year honours for the second straight year; the men's Player of the Year was veteran Philippines star José Parica.


      Fourteen nations were represented at the Grand Prix snooker tournament in Preston, Eng., in October 1998, a record for the final stages of a major world tournament. Interest was expanded by a series of qualifying events in Asia, North America, Europe, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East.

      Of a nucleus of rising young players, none made a greater impact than Marco Fu of Hong Kong; he reached the final of the Grand Prix, in which he was beaten 9-2 by Stephen Lee of England. Fu had disposed of two outstanding English players, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Peter Ebdon, in earlier rounds. At age 20, he was playing in only his fourth tournament since winning the world amateur title and turning professional. Shokat Ali of Pakistan and Quinten Hann of Australia also distinguished themselves. Hann defeated the new world professional champion, John Higgins of Scotland, 5-1 in the first round, but Ali failed to reach the quarterfinals.

      Lee's success in the Grand Prix, for which he received £60,000 ($99,000), pushed him from ninth position to fourth in the world rankings, behind Higgins, O'Sullivan, and six-time world champion Stephen Hendry of Scotland.


▪ 1998


Carom Billiards.
      The Billiards World Cup Association (BWA) three-cushion billiard world championship was won in 1996 for an unprecedented third consecutive year by Torbjörn Blomdahl of Sweden. It was his sixth career world title, as he had previously won the BWA world's event in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1994, and 1995.

      The BWA championship is determined by a four-stop annual international tour with a round-robin format. Points are awarded in accordance with each player's final position in each event and accumulate throughout the tour. Therefore, it is possible to win the world title without actually winning any of the qualifiers. Indeed, Blomdahl captured his 1994 championship in that exact manner, but that was far from the case in 1996. Blomdahl claimed his latest crown by finishing third at the Dutch Open, fourth at the Korean Open, and then first at both the Belgian Open and the tour finale, the Efes Pilsen Open in Istanbul. The tour runner-up was Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands, with Marco Zanetti of Italy in third overall. Eight-time U.S. national champion Sang Lee finished a close fourth.

      Lee was perhaps even more impressive in an invitational tournament in Queens, N.Y., in late 1996. A field of 32 of North America's finest carom players was reduced to 8 over two days of preliminary rounds. As national champion, Lee was seeded into the nine-player round-robin finals, but he accepted a very unusual handicap: he would play his games to 57 points, whereas all of his opponents would need only 40 points to win. Despite this onerous burden, Lee tied with two other players with 6-2 records and then prevailed in a play-off to capture a very hard-earned and prestigious championship. Lee's points-per-inning (PPI) average was a stunning 1.594. Next-best was the 1.061 mark of tournament runner-up Pedro Piedrabuena, a stylish young player from Ecuador. No other contestant reached the 1.000 PPI threshold.

Pocket Billiards.
      The Professional Billiards Tour (PBT), the principal organization representing the men's pocket billiard professionals for the past decade, suffered what many industry observers believed could be fatal blows during 1997. RJ Reynolds' Camel brand cigarettes, the PBT tour's major sponsor in 1996, canceled their affiliation completely, citing "a lot of politics out there holding the game/sport up from getting a lot of corporate involvement." At the same time, Camel expanded its sponsorship of the American Poolplayers Association (a national amateur league pool organization) and announced plans to conduct a seven-stop "Camel Pro Billiard Series" with well over $500,000 in prize money. The series would be totally independent of any players' group, with neither the PBT nor its newer rival, the Professional Cuesports Association (PCA), having any input or involvement in the venture, but all players would be eligible to participate.

      Controversial PBT Commissioner Don Mackey, promising that bad prize-money checks from some 1996 PBT tour events would be made good, was also threatening litigation over the loss of Camel sponsorship. The PBT tour became essentially nonexistent, with a nine-month void on its 1997 tournament schedule. The PBT finally "released" its member players to participate in any tournament or event they wished. The PCA did only slightly better in generating tournaments, and both groups were, at best, leery about the new Camel series events.

      The Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) concluded the tour year at the WPBA Nationals in Crystal City, Calif., where former English snooker star Allison Fisher was victorious. Given her stunning dominance on the tour, she easily won the 1996 women's Player of the Year honours. She continued on the winning track in 1997, taking her second consecutive World Pool-Billiard Association world nine-ball title in October.

      In the men's ranks the conflicting sanctioning groups led Pool & Billiard Magazine to name both C.J. Wiley (PCA) and Johnny Archer (PBT) as 1996 Players of the Year. Both led their respective organization's annual point standings; Wiley won the PCA inaugural Dallas (Texas) Million $ Challenge, and Archer took the 1996 PBT Pro Tour Championship in Providence, R.I.

      A national nine-ball Senior Tour for players aged 50 and older was established by the Mizerak Group (headed by hall-of-famer Steve Mizerak). Player and fan response was enthusiastic, and the first eight tournaments produced eight different winners.

      Dagenham, Eng., was the site for the third Mosconi Cup competition in December 1996, pitting seven-man squads from the U.S. and Europe in team competition. Although trailing 9-12 on the final day, the Americans pulled out a stunning comeback victory 15-13.

      The Billiard Congress of America inducted Arthur ("Babe") Cranfield and Ruth McGinnis into the BCA Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Las Vegas, Nev. Cranfield was the only person to win the U.S national junior, national amateur, and world professional pocket billiard titles. McGinnis, who died in 1974, was acclaimed as women's world champion 1932-40, had had a high run of 128 balls, and had toured the U.S. extensively, giving exhibitions.


      Snooker, too, was plagued with sponsorship problems in 1997. The world professional championship, held annually at Sheffield, Eng., stood to lose its lifeblood after 1997 when the British government proposed a ban on tobacco advertising, including the sponsorship of sporting events. Existing sponsorship contracts were later allowed to run their full course, which thereby granted the world championship and the Masters tournament at Wembley, London, a new lease on life, but alternative sponsorship had to be found within five years. The Grand Prix event at Bournemouth, Eng., in October was again unsponsored, but the annual U.K. championship at Preston in November was boosted by a £4 million sponsorship package for four years.

      Four of the top 10 world-ranking events in 1997 were held outside the U.K.: two tournaments in Bangkok, the German Open in Bingen am Rhein, and the European Open in Malta. An invitational tournament was also played in Beijing. In October Stephen Hendry of Scotland received the Player of the Year award for the seventh time in eight years despite having lost the world title 18-12 to former world amateur champion Ken Doherty of Ireland in May.


▪ 1997


Carom Billiards.
      In recent years the world's top three-cushion billiard players had steadily and relentlessly pushed the scoring averages upward. In 1986 the record high average points-per-inning (PPI) for a tournament stood at 1.3, the mark set in 1950 by Willie Hoppe of the U.S. Since then the world's top players, led initially by Raymond Ceulemans of Belgium and later by Torbjörn Blomdahl of Sweden, had set new records in almost each major tournament.

      It was no different at 1995's fourth and final Billiard World Cup Association (BWA) professional tour event in Istanbul, where Blomdahl matched his own existing record of 2.3 PPI for the tournament and also set a new high minimum game PPI standard of 2.1. Blomdahl also held the world 50-point and 60-point game PPI average marks of 3.8 and 3.3, respectively. His victory over Ceulemans in the championship match in Istanbul, along with an earlier tour victory in Halle, Ger., clinched his second consecutive and fifth overall BWA title since the BWA World Cup series began in 1986.

      The United States Billiard Association (USBA) national tournament was held in Simi Valley, Calif., with the winner to represent the U.S. at the Union Mondiale de Billiard world championships in Viersen, Ger., in 1997. Sang Chun Lee of New York City, USBA champion for the previous seven years, prevailed again with a 50-42 play-off victory over Detroit's Mazin Shooni after the two had tied for best record in the round-robin competition.

Pocket Billiards.
      The three-year joint agreement signed in December 1992 by the American Poolplayers Association (APA), consisting of more than 100,000 amateur players, and the Men's Professional Billiards Association (MPBA)/Professional Billiards Tour (PBT) groups of professional players ended in October 1995. The APA declined to give the PBT control of the Camel Pro Exhibition Tour (an APA-developed concept) as the PBT had demanded, and the agreement was terminated.

      Unrest in the men's professional ranks did not stop there. The MPBA and the PBT battle over control of the professional men's tour was punctuated by five resignations from the MPBA board of directors in mid-November 1995. The five, all touring pro players, left the organization to protest "a lack of fiscal accountability and the exceeding of proper authority" by the PBT commissioner. Just prior to the year's final PBT Tour event in December, the PBT terminated the Tour-playing memberships of the five, along with those of three others who were rumoured to be planning to bolt the Tour. The players obtained a restraining order, the PBT retained a lawyer, and on the day before the start of the PBT world championship in Winston-Salem, N.C., a local court ruled that the players had the right to play in the Tour finale.

      In early 1996 the former Tour players did in fact spearhead the establishment of an organization to compete with the PBT, the Professional Cuesports Association (PCA). It proposed to engage in "direct promotions, sponsorship of charitable events, setting of stringent standards in the selection of sponsors and phased-in player drug testing." The PCA's first tournament was held in April in Dallas, Texas, and featured a special $1 million prize to any player who could run off a string of 10 consecutive game wins during the event. Though the odds against doing so were calculated to be as much as 7.8 million to 1, on the first night of the event, Earl Strickland of Greensboro, N.C., promptly stunned the billiard world by running a string of 11 straight games.

      The World Pool-Billiard Association held its 1996 nine-ball championships in Borlänge, Swed. Ralf Souquet of Germany was the men's champion, and Allison Fisher of the U.K. won for the women.

      The ongoing quest for pool and billiards to achieve Olympic sport status took a small but potentially important step forward when the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) granted provisional membership to the World Confederation of Billiard Sports. WCBS membership in GAISF allowed organizers of the 1997 World Games in Finland to consider including some form of pool or billiards as a "festival" (or nonmedal) sport. Positive reaction to a cue sport in such a tournament would greatly enhance the likelihood of eventual recognition and inclusion in the Olympics.

      The Billiard Congress of America inducted Dallas West of Rockford, Ill., as the 35th member of its Hall of Fame. Still active on a world-class level, West won the 1975 U.S. Open 14.1 crown and the 1983 World Series of Tavern Pool, finished second in two world open nine-ball tournaments in 1995, and won countless state and regional titles throughout his more than 40 years of competition. Straight pool (14.1 Continuous) was his strongest game (high run of 425), but he also played world-class carom billiards as well.

      The 1995 men's and women's Player of the Year awards were won by Efren Reyes and Loree Jon Jones, respectively. It was the first such honour for Reyes, though he had long been widely considered one of the sport's finest all-around players. For Jones, it was her fifth Player of the Year prize in a 15-year span during which she had won 30 professional titles. (BRUCE H. VENZKE)

      No obvious challenger to Stephen Hendry's position as the world's number one snooker player emerged in 1996, either before or after the remorseless Scot won his sixth world professional title at Sheffield, Eng., in May. The much-criticized ranking system would have put Hendry's compatriot John Higgins in front had he qualified for the final of the Grand Prix tournament at Bournemouth, Eng., in October, but his chance disappeared in the third round when he lost 5-3 to Tony Jones of England. Hendry himself stumbled in the first round of the tournament.

      Peter Ebdon of England lost his chance to overhaul Hendry by losing 5-3 to Mark Bennett of Wales in the first round at Bournemouth. The event was won by Mark Williams of Wales, who was elevated to fourth position in the provisional world rankings after his 9-5 victory over Euan Henderson of Scotland. Earlier, Ebdon had won the Regal Masters tournament at Motherwell, Scot. In November Hendry, Higgins, and Alan McManus won the World Cup for Scotland with a final-round victory of 10-7 over Ireland. (SYDNEY RISKIN)

▪ 1996


Carom Billiards.
      The 1994 Billiard World Cup Association (BWA) three-cushion championship was won by Torbjorn Blomdahl of Sweden, despite his inability to finish first in any of the four international BWA Tour events used to determine the champion. But the accumulated point total from his strong and steady performances at all of the tour stops enabled Blomdahl to become the first man to win four career BWA world three-cushion titles (his previous championships were in 1988, 1991, and 1992).

      Blomdahl's first-place finish was aided by the fact that no one else could muster more than a single title in the series. At the first meet, the Efes Pilsen World Cup in Istanbul, legendary Belgian star Raymond Ceulemans defeated Blomdahl in the semifinal round, relegating the Swede to third place. In Oosterhout, Neth., Blomdahl lost in the final of the Wetsteijn Dutch Open World Cup to emergency fill-in entrant Christoph Pilss of Austria. At the German Open World Cup in Halle, the runner-up spot again went to Blomdahl, with The Netherlands' Dick Jaspers the champion. Blomdahl's improbable "victory without a victory" was realized at the last tour event, the World Cup Final in Ghent, Belgium, where he was again second, this time to Semih Sayginer of Turkey.

      Blomdahl's four-tournament PPI (points-per-inning average) was a fine 1.761, though overall runner-up Jaspers did post a slightly higher 1.770 PPI. Only Jaspers' 12th place at the Oosterhout event enabled Blomdahl to edge past him for the championship. Oosterhout was also the scene of new BWA records by Blomdahl: tied (with Jaspers) for best match PPI, 3.124, and best PPI for the tournament, 2.250 (breaking his own two-year-old record of 2.204).

      The world championship in five-pins billiards was held in October in St. Vincent, Italy, where the top-ranked player in the world, 22-year-old Gustave Zito of Argentina, went undefeated to win the $61,000 first prize. He also won $64,000 in the four-tournament qualifying series.

      As in 1994, Sang Chun Lee of New York City and Carlos Hallon of Miami, Fla., finished first and second, respectively, in the U.S. national three-cushion championship in New York City. It was the sixth time Lee had taken a U.S. national title.

Pocket Billiards.
      Nine-ball competitions dominated professional pocket billiards. The Professional Billiards Tour (PBT) Players' Championship in King of Prussia, Pa., was won by Jim Rempe of Scranton, Pa. Efren Reyes of the Philippines won the 19th annual U.S. Open 9-ball championships in Chesapeake, Va. In Reno, Nev., the Sands Regency Hotel was host to its usual two semiannual PBT events; Sands XX was won by Johnny Archer of Raleigh, N.C., and Sands XXI by Reyes. The Philippine star also won both the sixth and seventh Bicycle Club invitationals in Bell Gardens, Calif., raising him to the top of the PBT player rankings for the first time.

      The PBT also held its first world 8-ball championship in Toledo, Ohio. Nick Varner of Owensboro, Ky., was the winner. Varner was also named 1994 Player of the Year by both Billiards Digest (third time) and Pool & Billiard Magazine (fourth award).

      At the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) world women's nine-ball championship in Arlington Heights, Ill., Ewa Mataya-Laurance returned to the top spot. The 10th Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) U.S. 9-Ball Open in Chesapeake, Va., was won by Jeanette Lee, who also won four WPBA tournaments and the 16th WPBA national championship in Sioux City, Iowa. That onslaught was enough to secure for her the number one WPBA tour ranking. Loree Jon Jones won $60,000 in prize money on the rich 1995 Gordon's Women's 9-Ball Series, held in Nashville, Tenn., Chicago, and San Francisco.

      International mixed-team nine-ball was featured in the inaugural Miller Pilsner Mosconi Cup in Romford, England, where the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) team defeated the European Pocket Billiard Federation squad 16-12. The BCA inducted Cisero Murphy, the first African-American to win a world pocket billiard championship (1965), to its Hall of Fame in ceremonies at its 12th International Trade Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.

      The winners of the WPA world nine-ball championship, held in Taipei, Taiwan, in November, were Gerda Hofstatter of Austria and Oliver Ortmann of Germany. The junior champion was Kun-chang Huang of Taiwan. (BRUCE H. VENZKE)

      Stephen Hendry of Scotland maintained his mastery at snooker by winning the world professional title at Sheffield, England, in April 1995. His victory over Nigel Bond of England in the final by 18 frames to 9 enabled him to achieve his fourth successive triumph in the event and the fifth in all. He went on to defeat Peter Ebdon of England 9-5 in the Scottish Masters final at Motherwell, Scotland, in September and John Higgins of Scotland by the same score in the Grand Prix final at Sunderland, England, in October. At Preston, England, in December, he beat Ebdon again by 10-3 in the U.K. final. He had earlier won the European Open title at Antwerp, Belgium, in December 1994 by defeating John Parrott of England 9-3 in the final. Higgins gained the British Open title in April at Plymouth, England, with a 9-6 win in the final over Ronnie O'Sullivan of England to reverse the result of the English Masters final at Wembley in February, when O'Sullivan won 9-3.


▪ 1995


Carom Billiards.
      The 1993 World Billiard Association (BWA) three-cushion championship was won by an American for the first time in 40 years at the BWA's World Cup in Ghent, Belgium. Sang Chun Lee, a native South Korean who moved to New York City in 1987, won the crown despite lagging in cumulative tour scoring at the onset of the sixth and final tour stop. The 39-year-old Lee trailed both 21-time world titlist Raymond Ceulemans of Belgium and defending champion Torbjorn Blomdahl of Sweden in the standings. But an upset of three-time winner Blomdahl by Raimond Burgman of The Netherlands in the first round, coupled with Ceulemans' fall to his fellow Belgian Fredric Caudron in the second round, opened the door for Lee to claim his first world championship with a final match victory over Caudron. He did so with a powerful four-set win, 15-4, 6-15, 15-6, 15-8, averaging 1.457 points per inning (PPI). Blomdahl was the runner-up, and Ceulemans finished third.

      Lee also played host and promoter of two World Open three-cushion tournaments in New York City. In the first, Caudron, ranked seventh in the world, averaged a somewhat modest 1.303 PPI but won key close matches to finish first with an 8-1 record. Lee was second with a sizzling 1.749 PPI average. The second event, won by Blomdahl with a 6-1 finish, saw these new records set: 50 points in 14 innings (U.S. record) by Semih Sayginer of Turkey; 60 points in 18 innings (world mark) by Blomdahl; 1.370-PPI field grand average for eight-player round-robin tournament (world); 82 points by two players, Sayginer and Lee, in 14 innings (world). Sayginer claimed second place with a 5-2 mark.

      It was Lee in the winner's circle again at the U.S. national three-cushion championship in Chicago. The 24-player test was won for the fifth time by Lee in a play-off with Carlos Hallon of Miami, Fla., after both players finished round-robin play with 6-1 records.

Pocket Billiards.
      Pocket billiards in the U.S. continued to be the scene (and perhaps the victim) of unceasing turmoil and discontent as several groups and factions vied for control. At stake was control of the player groups that seemingly were the key to a long-awaited financial breakthrough for the sport. Several changes in leadership of the most prominent player and promotion groups again took place during 1994, some with alarming dispatch. The year ended with little apparent agreement between the parties in conflict and with many questions regarding the future of the professional tour still to be settled.

      Meanwhile, however, play continued generally unabated. The final major event of the 1993 nine-ball tour year, the Professional Billiards Association 1993 Tour Championship in Bell Gardens, Calif., was won by Francisco Bustamante of the Philippines. At one of 1994's most prestigious events, the Professional Billiards Tour (PBT) Players' Championship in Valley Forge, Pa., Mike Sigel of Baltimore, Md., became the first winner of 100 professional pool tournaments with his 9-5 victory in the finals over Danny Harriman of Springfield, Mo. The Sands Regency XVIII title in Reno, Nev., went to 1993 Player of the Year Johnny Archer of Raleigh, N.C., while the Sands Regency XIX event was won by Tony Ellin of Hollywood, S.C.

      The PBT's second annual World 9-Ball Championship in Las Vegas, Nev., featured live national television coverage of a U.S. pocket billiard tournament for the first time; the live feed was picked up in more than 50 countries. Earl Strickland of Greensboro, N.C., snared his fifth world title by whipping Efren Reyes of the Philippines 9-2 in the final. The competing World Pool-Billiard Association 9-Ball Championship in Arlington Heights, Ill., was won by Takeshi Okumura of Japan and, in a popular comeback, Ewa Mataya-Laurance. Earlier in the year Strickland had captured the 18th U.S. 9-Ball Open in Chesapeake, Va.

      New York City was the site of the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) 16th Annual U.S. Open straight pool (14.1 continuous) championships. Germany's Oliver Ortmann won his second Open title, and Liu Hsin-mei of Taiwan took the women's crown.

      The Women's Professional Billiard Association's 15th annual National 9-Ball Championship in San Francisco was won by the top-ranked Loree Jon Jones, while the year's richest first prize of $20,000 was rung up by Robin Bell with her victory in the $50,000 Gordon's 9-Ball (women's) Championship in Santa Monica, Calif. The top prize at the $32,000 Bicycle Club Women's Classic in Bell Gardens, Calif., was won by Vivian Villarreal.

      The Association of College Unions-International national billiards championship for 1994 was held at Arizona State University, where defending champion Max Eberle, a senior at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va., became only the seventh man to win the title for two consecutive years. He defeated Randy Tate, a junior from Illinois State University, 7-5 in the final. The women's division was won by University of Washington senior Rachel Ross, who turned back University of Wyoming senior Dean Leath 6-4 in the championship match.

      The BCA inducted pool stars "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore and Ray ("Cool Cat") Martin as player members of the BCA Hall of Fame at its 11th International Trade Expo in Las Vegas. (BRUCE H. VENZKE)

      Stephen Hendry of Scotland retained the world professional snooker title in 1994 with a dramatic victory over Jimmy White of England by 18 frames to 17 in the final at Sheffield, England, in May, winning it for the fourth time in five years for a record prize of £180,000. In April Ronnie O'Sullivan of England won the British Open title at Plymouth with a 9-4 win over James Wattana of Thailand in the final. Ken Doherty from Ireland became Scottish Masters champion by defeating Hendry 9-7 in the final at Motherwell, Scotland, in September. Alan McManus of Scotland, earlier the winner of the Masters title at Wembley, England, in February, went on to win the Dubai Classic in October with a 9-6 victory over Peter Ebdon of England in the final. Former world champion Steve Davis of England secured both the Welsh Open and Irish Masters titles. Another Scot, John Higgins, won the Grand Prix in October at Derby, England, after defeating Dave Harold 9-6 in the final. Hendry regained the U.K. title with a 10-5 victory in the final over Doherty at Preston, England, in November. (SYDNEY E. FRISKIN)

▪ 1994


Carom Billiards.
      The World Billiard Association (BWA) 1992 World Cup for three-cushion billiards was won by defending champion Torbjorn Blomdahl of Sweden. After a slow start on the six-city international tour, Blomdahl won three of the last four events to claim his third title. At the tour's Japan Open World Cup in Tokyo, Blomdahl set a new world record, averaging 2.204 points per inning (PPI) for the tournament. Belgium's Raymond Ceulemans, 21-time world titlist, was runner-up, with Sang Chun Lee of the United States third.

      Rini van Bracht of The Netherlands captured his second European championship in three-cushion billiards at Corbeil, France, defeating Germany's Maximo Aguirre 3-2 in the final. Van Bracht, who won his first European crown in 1984, averaged 1.231 PPI for the event, while runner-up Aguirre posted a PPI of 0.958. Paul Stoobants of Belgium finished third.

      Blomdahl and Ceulemans met in the finals of the Briljant championship in Rotterdam, Neth., where Blomdahl made the tournament high run of 23 points on his way to a 50-35 victory in 20 innings. He set a new world record for tournament PPI average, 2.252, breaking the mark he had set in the Tokyo World Cup tour event earlier in the year.

      The Efes Pilsen Open Grand Prix three-cushion tournament in Istanbul was won by Dick Jaspers of The Netherlands, who defeated Lee 3-2 in the final match. Lee, ranked second in the world to Blomdahl, garnered his fourth U.S. national three-cushion championship, held in 1993 in San Jose, Calif. He was undefeated (7-0) and had the high average of 1.489 PPI in the round-robin finals. Lee also had the tournament high run of 17 points as well as the best game (50 points in 27 innings: 1.852 PPI).

Pocket Billiards.
      The 1990s seemed certain to be remembered as one of pocket billiard's most tumultuous decades. Reminiscent of the power struggles that had fragmented boxing's structure and strained its credibility with much of the public, pocket billiards became the object of surprisingly intense battling between various industry groups. Each contended that it could and would provide the necessary wisdom, guidance, and control to lead pocket billiards into the next century and realize its full potential as a mass-market, big-dollar sport. While the tussles continued behind the scenes, an increase in televised events and in the variety of playing sites generated some guarded optimism among followers of the game.

      Johnny Archer of Twin City, Ga., did his best to "unify" the various groups and sanctioning bodies by trying to win everything, and he came very close. The 24-year-old World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) champion went unbeaten to win the 1993 McDermott Masters IX in Las Vegas, Nev.; lost his first match but went on to win the Third Annual Bicycle Club Invitational 9-Ball Tournament in Bell Gardens, Calif.; and, when the WPA threatened loss of playing status to any members who entered the first Professional Billiard Tour Association World 9-Ball Championship in Las Vegas, not only ignored the edict (along with some 110 others) but also won the event. Add to that his tour money-winning lead, his number one world ranking, and several regional titles, and the result was the 1992 Player of the Year award for Archer from both major billiard publications.

      The officially sanctioned WPA World 9-Ball Championship was held in Königswinter, Germany, on December 7-12. Chao Feng-pang of Taiwan won the men's title, while Loree Jon Jones of the U.S. captured the women's.

      In other major men's events, the 1993 Billiard Professionals of America (BPA) Los Angeles Open overall title went to Mark Tadd; the 1992 U.S. 9-Ball Open in Chesapeake, Va., was won by Tom Kennedy; the 1993 Challenge of Champions in Las Vegas went to Allen Hopkins; and Ed Kelly was victorious in the 1993 One-Pocket Super Tournament in Reno, Nev.

      Women's Player of the Year honours for 1992 were split between two top tour performers: Vivian Villarreal of San Antonio, Texas, and Ewa Mataya of Grand Ledge, Mich. Villarreal defeated Mataya to win the 1992 Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) Nationals in Milwaukee, Wis. Robin Bell of Cypress, Calif., won the 1992 U.S. 9-Ball Open in Chesapeake, Va.; Villarreal took the 1993 McDermott Masters in Las Vegas; and Gerda Hofstätter of Austria won the 1993 European 9-Ball Championship in Oslo, Norway.

      The Association of College Unions-International (ACU-I) 1993 Collegiate Pocket Billiard Championships were held at the University of California at Irvine. Max Eberle of James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va., won the men's division, and Carla Swails of the College of Southern Idaho took the women's title.

      The Billiard Congress of America inducted two new members into its Hall of Fame. They were Irish-born inventor, author, manufacturer, player, promoter, and patron of the sport Michael Phelan (1817-71) and the legendary undisputed "King of Bank Pool," Eddie ("The Knoxville Bear") Taylor (born in 1918).

      Aficionados and casual fans alike were saddened at the passing of the best known of the sport's great stars, Willie Mosconi. One of the finest pocket billiards players in history, he was 15-time world champion beginning in 1941, when he burst upon the scene with a record-smashing tournament victory. (See OBITUARIES (Mosconi, William Joseph ).)


      Stephen Hendry of Scotland retained the world professional snooker championship in May 1993 after defeating Jimmy White of England by 18 frames to 5 in the final at Sheffield, England. Hendry's 9-3 victory over Steve Davis of England at the Dubai Classic final in October was preceded by the 10-6 defeat of Davis in the Sky International final in April at Plymouth, England, and by his 9-5 victory over James Wattana of Thailand at the Wembley (England) Masters final in February. Davis, however, won the European Open championship at Antwerp, Belgium, in February with a 10-4 victory over Hendry in the final and triumphed in two more finals: the British Open at Derby, England, in March, when he defeated Wattana 10-2; and the Irish Masters in March in County Kildare, where he achieved a 9-4 victory over Alan McManus of Scotland. Wattana defeated Davis 9-6 in the world match play final at Doncaster, England. In November 17-year-old Ronnie O'Sullivan of England became the youngest winner ever of a world-ranking tournament when he defeated Hendry to take the U.K. championship.


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