By NYC Grind Editor, Alison M. Fischer
On the weekend of March 23-24, the Predator Pro-Am Tour held the Steinway Billiards stop that was originally scheduled for February, but was postponed due to the blizzard that hit New York that weekend. Along with the great turnout of 92 players for the tournament which payed out $1,300 for first prize, the event was also impressive as the tour joined forces with player Kim Meyer-Gabia to help raise funds for the New York Humane Society. The players and others attending the event contributed to raising a total of $1,050 for animals in need.
Out of the original ninety-two player field that started out in the Amateur 9-Ball division…none could stop first-time winner Billy Santiago from taking the title. Santiago, who hails from Bridgeport, CT, has been a longtime player on the tour and was named 2011 Sportsman of the Year, made this two-day event his first victory after an undefeated showing. At the end of the first day of competition, Billy Santiago was among the eight players to move on to the second day from the winner’s bracket.
On day one, Santiago had a first-round bye, then defeated Niko Berdzenishvili 7-6, Brian Hunter 7-3, and Jack Smith 7-3… and went on to win against Zee Shan Sabfa (forfeit) and Jimmy Rivera 7-3 to go to the hot seat match. Brooklyn player Nick Chan would meet with Santiago in the match for the hot seat, after defeating Patrick Meyer 7-5, Ambi Estevez 7-5, Anna Grintsuk 7-5, Ross Lacey 7-3, Mike Panzarella 8-6, and Bogie Uzdejczyk 7-4. In the hot seat match between Nick Chan and Billy Santiago, Chan did not pose a threat to win the match, with Santiago walking away with a 7-3 win.
Sixteen players were left standing on the one-loss side of the bracket at the end of day one, hoping for a chance at a comeback. The top player to start out the day on the one-loss side was Ray Lee, who had lost his last match on Saturday night to Mike Panzarella at 9-8. Lee got started with day two by defeating Junior Sanchez 8-7, then went on to win against Mike Yednak in another hill-hill fight at 8-7. Lee then continued on to defeat me (Alison Fischer) 7-3 to make it to the final four of the one-loss side.
In the final four of the one-loss side, Ray Lee defeated Zee Shan Sabfa 7-3, while Mike Panzarella defeated victor Nau 7-6. Previously, Panzarella (rated A+) defeated Roberto Mendoza following his loss on the winner’s side to Nick Chan. Mike Panzarella was then matched against Jimmy Rivera, who had just been sent to the loser’s side by Billy Santiago. Panzarella won by a landslide 7-2 score, to move on to the semifinal to take on Lee, who finished a successful win against Bogie Uzdejcyk at 7-4.
In the quarterfinal match, Ray Lee (rated a ‘B’) would get three games on the wire in a race to eight against Mike Panzarella (A+). Panzarella played strong to dominate this match and keep Lee from getting many chances at the table, leading to an 8-3 win. Having just been moved to the B class from the C+, Ray Lee had a great run to finish in fourth place for his first time as a B, and showed some impressive play at Steinway.
Mike Panzarella would then move on to the semifinal match, where he would face Nick Chan for the second time in the event. As in the quarterfinal, Chan would get three games on the wire in a race to eight. Out of the gate, Panzarella won the first two games, to trail 3-2 with the spot. Chan then won the following two games, at put the score at 5-2. While Panzarella made some errors that were not characteristic of his previous match, Chan was able to capitalize, and went on to win at 8-3. Mike Panzarella had a strong run to finish in 3rd place, with his only two losses being to Nick Chan.
Nick Chan would then have his second chance to take on Billy Santiago in the final match. With Chan being rated a ‘B’ and and and Santiago rated ‘B+’, Chan would get a one-game spot in the final. The final would have an extended-race format, where Santiago (with no previous losses) would only need to reach seven games to win. If Chan reached seven games first, the race would be extended to nine games.
Santiago would win the opening game of the match, to tie at 1-1…but Chan would go on to take a three-game lead at 4-1. In the next rack, Santiago would win with an early combination on the nine, which would begin his comeback to tie the match at 4-4. Chan would edge ahead and go up 5-4, but Santiago followed up to win the next rack and tie it again 5-5. Billy Santiago would then take the lead for the first time in the match at 6-5 to get one game away from the win.
But, Chan tied the match again to go hill-hill, 6-6. With the pressure on, both players played tight, but the nine ball would end up getting knocked to sit in the corner pocket, giving one player the chance to end the game early. The match would end up hinging on a jump shot on the three ball by Nick Chan…but Chan missed the ball and gave Santiago ball in hand to make a combination on the nine to win the match.
“It feels great to win for the first time. I would like to thank Tony Robles, Gail Glazebrook, and Bill Finnegan for doing a great job with the tour, as well as Steinway Billiards for hosting the event,” said Santiago.
Both Billy Santiago and Nick Chan played tough in the final match, and throughout the event. While Santiago earned his first win, Chan made a strong run to finish second in his first event playing as a ‘B’ after being moved up from the ‘C+’ class. This would be Chan’s second time taking runner-up so far this season, with his first being at the Empire State Championships in February.
1st: Billy Santiago – $1,300
2nd: Nick Chan – $1,000
3rd: Mike Panzarella – $600
4th: Ray Lee – $400
5th/6th: Jimmy Rivera, Bogie Uzdejczyk – $250
7th/8th: Zee Shan Sabfa, Victor Nau – $200
9th-12th: Roberto Mendoza, Steve Wright, Alison Fischer, Jack Smith – $150
13th-16th: Michael Yednak, Joe Torres, Brian Tierney, Rene Villalobos – $100
17th-24th: Ross Lacey, Dinko Busanich, Sammy Alvarez Jr., Yesid Garibello, Adrian Daniel, Junior Sanchez, Naldo Troncoso, Alex Osipov – $70
Tour owner Tony Robles would like to acknowledge Steinway Billiards for their support of the tour, along with tour sponsors Predator Cues, The National Amateur Pool League, Delta-13, NYCgrind, and PoolOnTheNet.com.
The next Predator Pro/Am Tour stop will be held on April 13-14 at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, NY in Queens. For more tour information, visit www.PredatorProAmTour.com.