elleni.com @ the WPBA San Diego Classic


Left Minneapolis on a packed flight to San Diego. The flight was ok. Sat next to two high school girls. Got to the hotel and while waiting at the lobby counter stood behind Jeanette Lee.

The night before the tournament there was a Charity Pro Am. The WPBA and the casino were raising money for the "Anna Fund." Amateurs paid $50 to be on a team with one or two other amateurs and one touring pro. I was on a team with Ming Ng, ranked number 16, with two other guys. The mini round-robin tournament works like this... Teams play two twenty minute sets against two different teams. In that time teams play as many racks of "scotch-doubles" nine ball, with three or four people taking turns to shot, after the two sets the two teams with the most wins play each other in the finals. Now, since its all for fun, sharking of all sorts are allowed-- except touching the other players. Look out.

Our team played against Melissa Herndon's in the first round. Ming was really peppy, but our team was not that good at the sharking thing. We tied with Melissa's team 3-3.

The second round we played against Jeanette Lee's team. Well, Jeanette knows a thing or two about sharking. She chalks in your ear as you are down on a shot or stands in your line of sight while telling you that you're going to miss. At one point my shot was on the eight ball, the pervious shooter left me with only a bank shot. I lean over the table to shoot and Jeanette leans down next to ma and says, "Those are really nice glasses... I really like those..." I stopped an handed them over to her to hopefully distracter her while I shot. I made the shot, but scratched! Jeanette jumps up and downs and high-fives her team mates. Darn. We ended up losing to them 1-5. That five was enough to put Jeanette and team mates into the finals. Check out some great photos by Paul Parks of me and many others at the Pro Am.

The other team in the finals was Allison Fisher's team. They ended up wining. Her team meats got bags of prizes, dinner certificates, tournament passes, etc.

After the mini-tournament audience members got to again donate to the charity for a chance to play against a player of their choice. I'd looked forward to playing Vivian Vivarreal, but her plane was late. I chose Jeanette instead. Don't tell her she was my second choice. I got to play two racks with Jeanette. After losing the first rack, I went to rack, but she racked and told me to break the second rack as well. She let me shot both, but I really only had a chance in the second. She missed and I shot the six, but ran too far on the seven. I had a tight shot and made the ball, but did not get out to the way in time and fouled. Don't give Jeanette Lee ball-in-hand wit only two balls on the table.

All in all it was a fun evening. The tournament starts tomorrow morning.


Day One.

For the first day of the actual tournament I was not too sure about seating. They had set up two bleacher sections the night before with a few tables and chairs. I was the fifth person in line and got a good set right up front. The room was laid out with six nine-foot Brunswick tables and the seating for the audience all around.

The tournament format was double elimination, race to nine racks, alternating breaks. There are always 64 players in a WPBA tournament. For this event the top 48 finishers get prize money, although those at the bottom only got $525. The top prize was $9000.

The first round of matches started around 10 AM. The biggest surprise of round one was the loss of Jeanette Lee to Fujinaga. Jeanette was down something like 6-8 and was at the table faced with a difficult run out from the six ball. She tried to cut the six in the side and missed leaving Fujinaga to run out for the win. That knocked Jeanette to the losers bracket facing a long haul to try and make it into the finals.

Vivian Vivarreal played two matches the first day and won both. She beat Vicki Paski, 9-4 in round one, and then Lisa Marr, 9-3.

The most exciting match of the night had to be the battle between Sara Ellerby and Tiffany Nelson. They were playing at the one table of which I had an obstructed view and I'd not really watched them too closely. At one point Sara was up 8-3. I remember thinking that match would be over soon, but it kept going. Tiffany must have just decided she was not going to give up that easily and even with the alternating break format got back to 8-8, hill-hill! It was an amazing come back. In the final rack Tiffany had the break, I think. She ran down to the eight,but rolled too far for the natural shot in the corner. She stood there thinking for a while and I'm sure she was really frustrated that an hours hard work may go down the drain for a little too much roll. After thinking for a while, she shot the eight and left it on one rail with the cue on the other. Poor Sara, once all but having won, came to the table with only an attempt at the safety or a long bank. By this time quite a crowd had grown around their table, even though it was after 11 PM. Some of the other players in the event standing behind me debated the best choice. They deiced, as Sara did, to go for the bank. She missed. But she left Tiffany a short rail bank and very narrow at that. Back a the table, Tiffany again thought a bit and then went for it. The eight just barley made it in the pocket and set hew up with a straight in shot on the nine. After being up 5 racks, Sara Ellerby was sent to the losers bracket.


Day Two.

This was the day where players began to be eliminated. The first part of the day was filled with one-loss matches. One players stays, the other goes home (or joins the audience as many did).

Jeanette, now in the losers bracket, had her first day two match against a young girl named Rhee. Jeanette beat her 9-3. Already in the losers side, Rhee was out of the tournament. That afternoon, she played Sharon Weis and won 9-5 moving on in the losers' side to face Sara Ellerby the next morning.

Vivian, with two wins on day one under her belt, faced Melissa Herndon for her only match Friday evening. Vivian won 9-7 in a tight set that showed a bit of the practice at safeties Vivian must have been doing. Now, only three matches between her and finals. It'll be Helena Thornfeldt or Tiffany Nelson in the next round.


Day Three.

This day saw my favorite player knocked to the losers bracket. Vivian lost to Helena Thornfeldt, 4-9, in a round four afternoon match. Vivian's "go for it" style does not work well against traditional safety play. She'd prefer to try to make a shot than to play a safety when there's not a guarantee of a run out. When faced with the results of safeties, she can become frustrated. This loss meant she needed to win the next five matches to get to the finals. Its a hard time on the losers' side.

Her first match in the losers' bracket came later in the evening. Vivian met Kim Shaw, another Englishman and snooker player. Kim, like her fellow countrymen, plays a good safety game. Vivian answered her safeties well with some of her own, and led 4-2 half way through the match. Unfortunately, Kim got some really lucky rolls that turned the match in her favor. With Vivian in the lead having just played a good safety, Kim was forced to jack up to attempt a hit. She barely go the hit and although she couldn't make the ball, the seven caromed off some other ball and went in. Kim went on to run the rack and won the match 9-5. After the match I asked Vivian to sign my shirt and she was heard to say, "I don't mind losing, but hate losing like that... I should have been up 5-2 but for that lucky roll of the seven ball [in rack seven]."

Another big name got knocked out earlier that Saturday morning. Jeanette Lee faced Sarah Ellerby and lost 5-9. Jeanette's will to hang in the match showed as she called for several hit watches from the tournament director, Steve Tipton. That's OK, Jeanette, Loree Jon Jones would take out Ellerby in the next round later that day.

The end of day three saw the last six players fighting for the final four TV spots. Having knocked Helena Thornfeldt to the losers side earlier in the day, Alison fisher was guaranteed a spot in the finals. Helena, for her late round lost was guaranteed TV time, but had to battle in the semis to meet Allison again.

The other four players left were, Julie Kelly versus, the girl that knocked out Vivian, Kim Shaw; and Karen Corr versus Melissa Herndon. I just could not hang in there through the end of the eveing, past 11 PM, and just assumed Kelley and Corr would pull out their matches.

Check the brackets to see how every progressed.


Day Four, the Final Four.

TV day! My friend Vicki came out to watch the televised finals with me. The night before she asked if she should dress up. I really didn't know,b ut told her to wear something she'd be willing to be seen on TV in. We got great seats right up front and are sure to be seen on TV when the matches air on ESPN. Look out for a future update with the air dates.

After three days of play there were only four players left: Alison Fisher with no losses, Helena Thornfeldt with only one loss to Fisher, Karen Corr with one loss, and Julie Kelley also with one loss. Helena would play the winner of Karen and Julie for the chance to play in the finals against Allison.

The first semifinal match was Karen and Julie. They are good friends. That afternoon, Karen was not feeling well and had to leave to arena a couple of times. Early in the set Karen was down 3-2 against her friend. Julie got some really lucky rolls... One crazy shot that left her with only another crazy kick that she made. The crowd loved it and she laughed. After a second rest break Karen made quite a come back to beat Julie.

Still not feeling too well, Karen then had a 30 minute break before having to face Helena Thornfeldt. Helena is a tough player, but not as stoic as Karen and Allison. She's the one that sent my personal favorite, Vivian, to the losers bracket. I should have been rooting against her for that, but the prospect of yet another Fisher-Corr final was going against it.

Karen seemed a bit shaky still, but put up a fight against Helena.



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page last modified: Tuesday December 27, 2005