Back on July 10, I competed in the Ultimate Trick Shot Tour Stop #4 at Willow Billiards in Hoboken, NJ. It's a nice little pool room with 11 9-ft Gold Crowns, mostly with Simonis, and a couple other tables out front. The tournament itself had a healthy 13 player turn out. We split up in to 3 groups and were guaranteed four matches each. I ended up playing Paul Danno, Dainius Stipinas, Jamey Gray, and Steve Markle.
Paul is a cagey veteran whose results don't justify his skills and our matches are always tight. This one was no different. I had a 4-2 lead heading in to the last three shots, but he persevered and pushed me to the limit. His final pick was a center spot, two diamond draw shot, which made me nervous as soon as he picked it. He made it on his third attempt to bring the score to 4-4. On my turn, I took a few warm up strokes, closed my eyes, and was as surprised as anyone as the cue ball drew back straight to the corner pocket and letting me escape with a victory.
My match against Dainius was only slightly more comfortable. The creativity in some of his shots was bewildering and I only made one of his challenges. Luckily, I made four of mine and rode those to a 5-3 win with one shot remaining.
I figured my match against reigning world champion Jamey Gray was going to be tough. Surprisingly, he only made one of his challenges and looked out of sorts as I thrashed him 6-1 with four shots left. I'm sure he'll use that motivation the next time I have to face him though.
My final match was against an impressive Steve Markle, fresh off a tie with Andy Segal. I didn't quite carry the momentum over from my previous match and had to gut it out at the end for a 5-3 victory on the final shot. Perhaps I got a bit fortunate as Steve missed a couple shots I'm sure he'd usually make 90% of the time.
That preliminary round left me undefeated and atop of my group, getting a quarterfinal matchup against Gil Olsen. He was hosting me for the weekend and we had driven down together, so it was a friendly affair. He shot well making five of his six challenges and I showed my lack of practice with the APTSA book shots. We were tied going in to the final shot, which was my choice, and I picked a double one-handed jump shot (jumping two balls with two cues in one hand simultaneously). I squeezed that one in and his unfamiliarity with even how to hold the cues was evident as I took a 7-6 victory.
That set up a semifinal showdown with Andy Segal, the reigning ESPN Trick Shot Magic champion. The first shot he pulled out against me was an extension of the double one-handed jump, except using both left and right hands and executing it twice with each hand. That was too much for me. He ended up making 5 of his 6 challenges while I made 3 of 5, neither of us making the other persons shots. There was no 3rd place match, so I shared the position with Bruce Barthelette.
All in all I thought it was a pretty good showing from me. I've never placed higher than 3rd though, so I'm still looking to crack the ceiling. Perhaps my downfall was choosing shots against Andy that I hadn't even attempted earlier in the tournament. I caved in to the pressure of picking shots I didn't think my opponent could make rather than just making my own. The next tournament will be the season ending Ultimate Trick Shot Tour Championships in Las Vegas in a few weeks!