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The Greatest Moments of the 2011 US Open 9-Ball Championship Tournament
A few of the pros
This year I had an extraordinary opportunity.
I was able to attend this years US Open 9-Ball Championships. The tournament was held in Chesapeake, VA, in the Chesapeake Conference Center. A guy I knew had made pans to go and I decided to take the ride with him. Once we arrived, it took us a few trips around the block trying to locate the correct building. Finally, we pulled into a well lit parking lot and followed the crowd of people. As we walked towards the entrance, we passed Larry Nevel leaving the arena. He is known to billiards pros and enthusiasts as the man "with the hardest break in the game". I have played in a few tournaments with Mr. Nevel, and he is an absolute gentleman, contrary to popular opinion.. He gave me a quiet nod and continued walking towards his ride. My backer/associate and I entered the building and paid our admission, and followed the paper signs thru the row of vendors to the entrance for the arena. The guy took our ticket, and we stepped inside of the event. There were matches going on all over the place. As we navigated our way through the crowd, I am seeing pro players in every direction I look. This crowd is a collection of the finest billiards minds on earth. Shane Van Boening, Alex Pagulayan, Earl Strickland, Shawn Putnam, Johnny Archer, and many many more were all in attendance. Every great player that I have ever heard of was there to compete in this event. We did not take long before we walked into the stands and found a seat. The two of us started by watching the defending champ, Darren Appleton, playing his 3rd round match against Juan Carlos Esposito. Darren won a close match, 11-7 and cruised to the next round. He followed that up the next day with a win in a hill to hill match against the Canadian Champion, Jason Klatt. At one point Klatt run seven racks in a row, putting the defending champ against the wall at 7-2. But, even though he held on to that lead all the way to 10-7 going to 11, the Canadian could not hold "Dynamite' down. (In a related note, A few days later I watched Mr. Klatt get reamed by the legendary Tony Watson for $4,000 in one of the fastest races to 11 I have ever seen.) Now back to your regularly scheduled program. The infamous Mr. Appleton won this tournament undefeated last year, was it possible that he could become the third person in history to win it back to back? Stay tuned folks. While he was on his game, so were a few others. His close friend Alex Pagulayan had a great run going as well. He was undefeated through 4 rounds, and it looked possible that the two could meet in the later rounds. Larry Nevel was back for the next set of scheduled matches, and fought out a tough win over Jason Shaw. Larry ended up going all the way to the 7th round undefeated. He was accompanied by a group of brilliantly talented pool players.
The 2011 US Open
The last 8 men standing were facing off with each other in pairs. On the one loss side, Huidje See, the 2011 World 10 Ball champion, faced off against K Uchigaki. See pulled away early and stayed there, to earn the victory by a final tally of 11-4. The other one loss match featured Dennis Hatch meeting up with the legendary Warren Kiamco. However, Kiamco's reputation was no match for Hatch that day. Dennis won by a comfortable margin with a score of 11-5. Darren Appleton run on the winners side, left the defending champion set to do battle against "Big Bubba" Shawn Putnam. The match was close, but Appleton's accuracy and confidence proved to be too much for Putnam. "Big Bubba" fought valiantly to a set ending at the score of 11-7. This outcome created the match that pitted "The Truth" Larry Nevel to duel with Alex Pagulayn. However powerful it is, Nevel's hammer could not save him from the lethal Filipino that resides in Canada. Pagulayan won a tough match with a score of 11-7.
With Kiamco and Uchigaki gone....
There were 6 men battling for the US Open title. Huidje See, Shawn Putnam, Dennis Hatch, and Larry Nevel were playing each other for their tournament lives. Hatch tore thru Nevel 11-3, and Putnam stroked his way into the next round against See 11-7. These results left Hatch to face Putnam, with the winner playing his next match to go to the finals. Darren Appleton had to square off with his friend and mentor Alex Pagulayan in the hot seat match to decide who would stay on the winner's side. The race to 11 was close early, with "The Lion" even holding the lead at 6-4. However, "Dynamite" Darren Appleton's consistency proved to be too much for his Filipino mentor. Appleton took over and finished the set by a comfortable spread of 11-6. Thus, Pagulayan would go to the one loss side to face the winner of Hatch vs Putnam. "Big Bubba" proved to be prepared for his opportunity, running over Hatch in a lopsided victory. The final score of the match was 11-2, leaving Shawn Putnam to meet Alex Pagulayan in the semi-finals. This one was extremely close, with Pagulayan putting pressure on the monstrous American. I'm not sure if you've ever seen Shawn, but he is not a little fellow. But size doesn't matter in pool, and Putnam had his heart in the right place that day. He fought off the 2005 champ for a chance to meet "Dynamite" in the finals.
The championship match was set.
Shawn entered the match looking confident, but, he made a few uncharacteristic mistakes early in the set. Those errors allowed the British champion all the space he needed to work him over. Appleton's bid to go back to back would come to fruition that night, playing like he had the ball on a string right down to the final 9 ball. "Dynamite" hoisted both arms in the air and let out a roar as the last ball fell, and the place went wild. He had done it, again. Afterwards, he gave autographs and spoke with the tournament director, Barry Behrman, on the microphone to the crowd. Darren wore the golden rack given to the winner around his neck for the photographers, all while grinning like a kid at Christmas. Congratulations to Darren "Dynamite" Appleton, the 2011 US Open 9-Ball Champion.
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