By NYC Grind founder & contributor, Jerry Tarantola
The Predator Tour’s Amateur 9-Ball and Open/Pro 10-Ball events were hosted by Bayside, Queens pool room Cue Bar (CueBarBayside.com) for the pool tour’s seventh stop of the season on May 4-5, 2013. Cue Bar features a nice combination of great equipment, good food, and a modern design layout, including a DJ booth and couches that are converted pool tables.
The host room and Predator Tour owner Tony Robles rolled out the red carpet for the nice mix of big-name talent, ever-improving amateurs, and breakthrough players. The Predator Tour’s tournament director William Finnegan, penciled in a total of 42 players who participated in the Amateur 9-Ball event on Saturday.
NYC Grind contributor Brian Leong was on site for the event for both days of the event, check out his photos at the links below.
The final six Amateur 9-ball players were called back on Sunday to play alongside the Open and Pro players, who would play call-shot 10-ball. There were a few veteran players who brought out a renewed love and excitement for the game, and one player who really stood out from the rest, in terms of energy, excitement, and growing a strong fan following.
That player was the event’s lone junior competitor, Charles Darwin Vergara, who played the game with a relaxed confidence and showcased his impressive arsenal of pool knowledge and talent. While Darwin (as his friends know him), has been around the game as long as he can remember… his upbringing is unique and remarkable.
While Darwin is plugged in to technology and enjoys sports and digital games, he has a deep respect and understanding for the art and skills needed to be a champion in the game of pool. By the time the dust settled at stop #7, it was clear in my mind that this kid has what it takes to be a great player that can make a positive impact.
Darwin, who is Filipino, was introduced to the game by his father, Open level player Mhet Vergara. Mhet and his closest friends are part of a circle of some of the greatest Filipino players to ever play the game, allowing Darwin the ability to watch and learn from many of the greats in the game while growing up in Queens, NY.
A number of Filipino legends, including Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Jose Parica, Santos Sambajon, Warren Kiamco, and Dennis Orcollo helped him develop and encourage his innate ability. Darwin has also worked with some of the great American players including Earl Strickland since he made his new home here in New York. Darwin is currently sponsored by Steinway Billiards, where he practices approximately four times a week in a very unstructured and free-form manner.
I’ve had the chance to watch Darwin grow and evolve both as a young person and as one of the top junior talents in the game today. He’s currently ranked as a ‘B’ player at age 16, and after watching him play in this event, it’s clear that the hard work is paying off…and helping to remind many of the veteran players what this game is truly about. It’s clear that Darwin looks at the game as an art form, and embraces the challenges he’s up against with a positive attitude while digging deep to attempt difficult shots at times. Through a combination of powerful yet elegant stroke, advanced knowledge for his age, and an overall fast and loose style… Darwin is having fun competing, growing, and learning.
One ongoing concern for our industry’s growth and development in the future has been the sport’s ability to gain the interest of the youth. Pool is a game/sport that is more accessible than many sports, and there are a lot of talented people doing what they can to support young players and our sport’s future. The BEF (www.billiardeducation.org) recently teamed up with Allen Hopkins and his amazing staff at the Super Billiards Expo to contribute to what’s exciting and hopeful around the game, while Tony Robles and other top pros also invest time into supporting the youth in different ways.
Darwin’s strong support system of family and friends who came out to watch him seemed to fuel his drive to win, helping him make it to Sunday undefeated. On Sunday, Darwin Vergara defeated always-tough Zee Shan Safdar 7-3 earning a spot in the finals by way of the winner’s bracket.
While Darwin Vergara’s breakout play was a major highlight of the weekend, veteran tour player Juan Guzman (ranked as an ‘A’) was quietly earning “W” after “W” on the one loss side. Juan ended up winning a total of nine consecutive matches after a second-round loss to Steve Kallo (B). Juan had a gritty battle with Tom Hagan in the quarterfinal before edging out with a 7-5 win, and followed it up with a 7-1 performance over Zee Shan Safdar in the semifinal.
Juan Guzman has been hot on the table as of late, having recently won two Tri-State Tour events, and brought a tactical and patient approach to the table in the finals… along with spurts of pure firepower. Darwin would battle against Juan in impressive fashion, but wasn’t able to stop the momentum that Juan brought from the one-loss side.
It was really enjoyable watching both Darwin and Juan play in the finals, and it was pretty cool to see the young junior player start to embody the elements of a champion. Darwin is a player to watch as he continues to learn, evolve and grow. Congratulations to both Darwin and Juan on their solid play throughout stop #7.
1st: Juan Guzman – $800
2nd: Darwin Vergara – $600
3rd: Zee Shan – $400
4th: Tom Hagan – $300
5th/6th: Christian Smith, Shawn Sookhai – $200
7th/8th: Raphael Dabreo, Carl Yusuf Khan – $160
The next Predator Pro/Am Tour event will be stop #8, held on June 1-2 at Raxx Pool Room in West Hempstead, NY on Long Island.
The Amateur 9-Ball event will begin Saturday at Noon, while the Open/Pro 10-Ball will begin Sunday at Noon, with a total of $1,500-Added.
For the entire 2013 season schedule and other tour information, visit www.predatorproamtour.com.