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Posted on by Alison Fischer

2011 US Open 10-Ball Champion Shane Van Boening with runner-up David Alcaide (Photo by Daniel Dagotdot)

By NYC Grind Editor, Alison M. Fischer

As we look back on 2011, there are numerous changes and breakthroughs that the past year brought to the pool world. Ranging from outstanding individual achievements to landmark moves by members of the billiards industry, there were plenty of buzzworthy happenings across the board. Here are some of the year’s standouts, in our “2011 Year in Review”…

Notable Men’s Players of 2011: Van Boening, Appleton, Souquet

Highlighting a number of the major men’s events for the year, Shane Van Boening has remained one of the fiercest and most consistent forces in the U.S., coming out at the top of the BCA ranking list for 2011. Van Boening started out the year in style, winning the Derby City Classic One Pocket and taking 2nd in the 9-Ball, to be named the all-around DCC Master of the Table.

(By the way, The 2012 Derby City Classic, one of the most highly-regarded pro events in U.S., is right around the corner (Jan. 20-28), check out for all the details.)

Van Boening continued through the year with more big wins, including the US Open 10-Ball Championships in Las Vegas in May, the Pool Ocho Open in Nicaragua, two wins on the Seminole Pro Tour (the Snookers Tour Stop in Rhode Island and The Steve Mizerak Championship at Hammerheads in Florida), and finished off the year by taking down Turning Stone XVIII. Widely regarded as the best talent to emerge from the U.S. in the last decade, at merely 28 years old, Van Boening may very well be one of the leaders of the pack for quite some time.

One of the current leading “British Invaders” of pool, Darren Appleton, has also proved to be another one of the most noteworthy players of the year. Following in the footsteps of his former Mosconi Cup teammate Mika Immonen, Appleton succeeded in defending his title as US Open 9-Ball Champion, winning back-to-back titles in ’10 & ’11, as Immonen did in ’08 & ’09. This feat has only been achieved by one other player–Nick Varner, in ’89 & ’90–and Darren Appleton will now have the chance to make the record books if he can defend his title in 2012 to make it three in a row.

Back-to-back US Open 9-Ball Champion Darren Appleton (Photo by NYC Grind Contributor Cleiton Rocha)

Here’s our highlight video from the final day of the US Open in 2010 when Darren Appleton won for the first time:

Following his second US Open win, Appleton went on to take down the elite four-man invitational Challenge of Champions at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT, where he defeated reigning World 10-Ball Champion Huidje See in the finals. Check out the story on AZbilliards here for more on this.

Along with Van Boening and Appleton, Germany’s Ralf Souquet also had a tremendous year in 2011, while also being inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame alongside Danny DiLiberto. “The Kaiser” has been known over the last few decades as one of the most fundamentally sound and pinpoint-precise players in the world, while also gaining notoriety as a great sportsman and representative for the game.

Just a few of Souquet’s achievements in 2011 include winning the Players Championship at the Super Billiards Expo, winning the World Pool Masters for the 6th time, taking home the World Cup title with partner Thorsten Hohmann, and helping lead Team Europe to victory in December’s Mosconi Cup. These accolades and more helped earn him the title of 2011 AZbilliards Player of the Year.

Notable Women’s Players of 2011

In the world of international women’s pro pool, Chinese players continued to show their muscle in 2011. Case in point, after only a couple short years on the international circuit, Siming Chen has launched herself into the foreground… taking the #1 position on the WPA World Rankings at the age of only seventeen. While Chen claimed the titles of All-Japan Champion & Philippine Open Champion, she did not place lower than 9th in any of the other ranking events this year. These achievements made her the winner of the 2011 AZbiliards Player of the Year.

2011 World #1 Player, Siming Chen

Along with Siming Chen, a slew of other Chinese ladies have also topped the rankings, such as Xiao-Fang Fu (2nd), Han Yu (4th), and Sha Sha Liu (6th), for starters!

Coming in at 3rd place in the WPA year-end rankings, England’s Kelly Fisher also had a fantastic year. Fisher’s distinct domination at the World 10-Ball Championships led the way to her first world title achievement, in front of one of the best audiences for pool in the world… in Manila. Kelly Fisher also made a strong mark at the Haining Cup, taking second to Allison Fisher, and again at the Philippine Open, finishing second to Siming Chen.

Back in January last year, “Kwikfire” took third at the WPBA Masters (which will be coming up again later this month) and had another battle in the finals against Allison Fisher at the Ultimate 10-Ball Championships, where she settled for second once again. With the competition from Asia continuing to get tougher, it is ever-impressive that both Kelly Fisher & Allison Fisher continue to rise to the occasion and bring the heat… in the fashion of the true champions that they are.

After years of dedication to excellence, Kelly Fisher earned her first World Title (Photo courtesy Dragon Promotions)

Pool Media Buzz: The TAR Studio & ‘Break and Run’ Instructional Videos

Over the past four years, The Action Report has grown to be known as one of the leaders in streaming live pool matches, both in challenge match formats as well as feature matches in major tournaments. The team at The Action Report continues to improve upon their formula for producing high-level matches, and in 2011 TAR took their game to the next level with the introduction of the TAR Studio.

While in the past, the TAR crew traveled to different locations around the country to put on challenge matches between top players, they have now created a professional space, located in Las Vegas, to base their match productions from. This new studio atmosphere brings an intimate, VIP feel to these world-class challenge matches, and it will be interesting to see what new dynamics may emerge.

A number of Action Challenge matches took place in the TAR Studio in 2011, including TAR 21 where Shane Van Boening rematched with Alex Pagulayan over three days and defeated him him 100-84. Van Boening followed up with another win in TAR 22, defeating Earl Strickland 75-67.

In the Studio at TAR 23: Dominguez vs Hundal (Photo courtesy Justin Acker)

In the last TAR match up of the year, California pro Oscar Dominguez defeated London-based pro Raj Hundal in a match featuring a format of best two out of three sets, each races to 25. In set one, Dominguez came out the winner at 25-16, but Hundal returned to win 25-15 on day two, to go on to the third set… which was won by Dominguez at 25-19 to take the $10,000 prize.

The Action Report has really raised the bar in 2011, and fans will be looking forward to more great action in the coming year. In the first match-up of 2012 we’ll get to see Shane Van Boening take on 2010 BCA Hall of Fame inductee Francisco Bustamante on January 13-14.

TAR 24: Van Boening vs Bustamante

Check out the video below to get a tour of the new TAR Studio.

Bringing pool instruction and trick shot videos to life with cutting-edge graphics is the claim to fame for Runout Media, another emerging media production group in the world of pool. Based out of Ontario and led by founder Nathan DuMoulin, Runout Media produced the fast-action ‘Venom Trickshots‘ DVD featuring breakout trick shot artist from France, Florian “Venom” Kohler along with Mika Immonen’s ‘Mastering Pool’ three-part instructional series.

In 2011, Runout brought a new breed of instructional video to the table in ‘Break and Run’, where an international all-star cast of many of today’s greatest players (including Darren Appleton, Dennis Hatch, Mika Immonen, Earl Strickland, and more) share some of their advanced techniques and secrets with the viewers. “The cast carries a combined twenty-two World Championships & US Open Titles,” says DuMoulin, “so the content is certainly authentic.”

The Pro Instructor Cast of 'Break & Run'

With a high level of production quality and the best in the world in front of the camera, the three-disc series really caters to the next generation of serious competitors, with the content geared toward more advanced players. When asked what sets the series apart, DuMoulin also commented, “The players’ personalities really come through as well, which I think prevents the typical ‘dryness’ that is inherent with instructional content.”

For more on the ‘Break and Run’ instructional series check out and take a look at the trailer below.

Breakthrough Pool Events

Last year also saw some new developments in special events for the New York area. During the week of the 2011 World Tournament in 14.1, on August 30, the first-ever Straight Pool Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held. With an audience including many of the world’s most highly-revered straight pool players in attendance like Allen Hopkins, Oliver Ortmann, Mika Immonen, and John Schmidt, Ray Martin was inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with straight pool inventor Jerome Keough, who was inducted posthumously. NYC Grind put together a video highlighting the career of Ray Martin in honor of his induction into the Hall of Fame, check it out below.

Another new event was brought to the world of pool in NYC, as a group of NYC-based female pool players launched their promotional group the “Rack Starz”. It has been an honor to be a part of this dynamic group of both pro and semi-pro players who all come from different backgrounds and have a wide range of interests and abilities outside of pool. The group launched their first eighteen-month calendar in November at Amsterdam Billiards, which gave fans a chance to meet and greet the players and challenge them to a game. There players were also interviewed by media sources like NBC Sports, The Bleacher Report, and ESPN…. click here to learn more and check out the video below for highlights of the launch party.

Major Event Venue Changes

In 2011, a number of major national pro and amateur events either already made a venue switch, or announced a switch for the coming years. The ACS Pool League was one of the groups to make the move out of the Riviera, and into the Tropicana Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas for their national league championship, which was held May 7-14.

Meanwhile, the VNEA (The Valley National 8-Ball League Association) also headed south bound on the Vegas strip to Bally’s for their 31st Annual International Pool Championships.

NYC Grind is also debuting a new highlight video from the 2011 VNEA International Championships, where the Women’s Intermediate Team Division was won by Michigan-based team ‘Answer That‘, who defeated Ontario’s ‘Da Bomb Squad‘ in the finals. Tragically, ‘Answer That’ team member Dawn Fital died within days of her team claiming their big win. The pool community in Michigan where she lived, along with her family, friends, and all of those who knew her from her years of national competition, have been devastated by this loss. We present this video in honor of Dawn and all those who knew her.

Prior to winning the VNEA Championship, ‘Answer That’ team member Lonnie Fox and her team BCAPL team ‘Domin’8′ers‘ earned the title of National Masters Champions when they defeated NYC team ‘New York Dolls‘ twice in the finals to win. Check out our story with the coverage of all the BCAPL events in May 2011 here.

The BCA Pool League system has also recently announced that it will be moving its big Vegas event from the Riviera to the Rio, but not until 2013.

Lastly, The Super Billiards Expo is also making a change in location. While the massive Valley Forge event was previously held at the Valley Forge Convention Center, coming this March 8-11, it will be held at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, which will provide even more space for the event’s numerous events and vendors. NYC Grind will be there again this year to cover all the action at the 2012 SBE, we hope to see you there!

Losses in the Pool World

Although there have been numerous positive changes for pool in 2011, the year was also not without tragedies that will forever change the face of pool. On March 8, 2011, the New York pool scene lost one of its most legendary players, George “Ginky” SanSouci. While Ginky came to prominence on the U.S. pool tours through the 90′s, his continual passion for excellence and willingness to inspire others to be their best made him one of the most well-loved players of his generation. The loss of Ginky was devastating to not only New York area players, but to the nationwide pool community and all who had the chance to see him play.

George "Ginky" SanSouci at the 2010 Pro Players Championship at the Super Billiards Expo (Photo by Henry Balingcongan)

In a show of great support for Ginky’s family, pro players came together at both the Amsterdam Billiards benefit and at the Super Billiards Expo to raise funds through challenge matches, raffles, and general donations from players & fans. Additionally, three NYC-area pool tours joined forces to present the 1st Annual George “Ginky” SanSouci Memorial at Amsterdam on June 25-26.

A group of players from the Diamond Pro Players Championship gather for a photo to honor Ginky at the end of the tournament (Photo by NYC Grind Contributor, John Yee)

For those who haven’t gotten to see it yet, here is our memorial video by NYC Grind founder & friend of Ginky’s, Jerry Tarantola.

The world of cue making also lost one of the greats, as Paul Fanelli passed away on January 18, 2011. Fanelli, who was from Clifton, NJ, was admired as an innovator in custom cue making and design, as well for being a great friend to many. One of Fanelli’s most unique and remarkable achievements was in 2009, when he created a custom mechanical bridge for top New Jersey player Scott Simonetti after he lost part of his left arm. Click here to read more about Scott’s remarkable story & how Paul helped him get his game back. Paul Fanelli’s gift continues to live on through this and his many other cue works that will be used and enjoyed by pool enthusiasts for years to come.

Some of Paul Fanelli incredible cue work on display during the Memorial Tournament at Castle Billiards (Photo courtesy Castle Billiard Facebook)

On April 16-17, The 1st Annual Paul Fanelli Memorial was held at Castle Billiards in East Rutherford, NJ. The event drew a huge field of players, and was won by local area player Pam Ogarek.

Paul Fanelli's daughter Annie (left) with Fanelli Memorial runner-up Dave Jusis, champion Pam Ogarek, and Fanelli's son Mike (Photo courtesy Castle Billiards Facebook)

George SanSouci and Paul Fanelli were among a number of members of the pool community who were lost in 2011, and we dedicate this NYC Grind Year in Review to all of them. Each of them have inspired and impacted lives in some way, and they will be greatly missed.

What were your most memorable moments of 2011? If you have a story to share or if you feel we left something out of our 2011 review, be sure to comment below!

From all of us at NYC Grind, we wish you all the best in the New Year of 2012!

About Alison Fischer

NYC Grind Editor & Contributor
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