by Meredith Lynch (http://www.meredithlynchpool.com/)

.

The first day of a tournament is always a day of hope. The room practically glows with every dream brought to be tested. A full, bright, hopeful 64-player field filled Shooter’s Friday, August 18th to prove themselves at the NAPT Summer 10 Ball Classic. A four-day event consisting of races to 7 games was played on beautiful nine-foot diamond tables at Shooter’s in Grayslake, IL. As the third day opened, the field was much smaller and the hope, more focused.

One person especially focused was April Larson. Defending her title from last year, April went into the final day with a matchup against Brittany Bryant. April, 17, is rounding out her last year as a junior player and solidifying her position in the pro arena. After winning her first NAPT title here in Grayslake last year, she won the 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic in Calgary this June, and came runner up to Michele Jiang just a few weeks ago in the BEF Junior Nationals in Vegas. There’s a lot of momentum and fanfare behind the upbeat youngster with the signature headband.

Her opponent, Britanny, however, also had her start as a junior player and has many pro titles to her name. So, when Larson pulled ahead in their match initially, getting to the hill (needing one game to win) first, Bryant was experienced enough to fight back and claim victory. Larson’s road to defending her title was over, as her first loss had been to a previously unknown player, Molly Bontrager (7-5).

Molly Bontrager blindsided the entirety of the tournament and was the dominant topic of conversation throughout. For good reason. Molly plays out of Elkhart, Indiana, about two and a half hours south of the tour stop and has little to no pro play on record. According to her, she plays mostly barbox tournaments against men and rarely has access to this level of play. Despite this, Mrs. Bontrager took third this weekend, beating not only April Larson (7-5), but also Jia Li (7-6), Kia Sidbury (7-1) and several other seasoned players along the way. Her first loss came against world class Hall of Fame player Karen Corr (7-4) in the winner’s side final, and then was put out by tournament runner up, Eleanor Callado.

Eleanor in contrast has tested herself under the lights for many years. She has had some great wins, but in recent years has been focused elsewhere. She talked afterwards of starting graduate school this week, and what a grand step that is. Watching her play in this event, however, you would be forgiven for thinking Ms. Callado has been solely thinking of pool for months. Eleanor said afterwards that this weekend renewed something in her. You could see why as the only person to beat her this weekend was Karen Corr (7-3 and 7-1.)

Karen Corr, a player with so many titles It would be futile to try to list them here, took the trophy at the NAPT Summer 10 Ball Classic. Brittany Bryant tallied the highest score against the hall of famer (7-5) earlier in the bracket, while Corr remained dominant in the rest of her matches. Eleanor put up three games in their first meeting, but in the finals Karen closed out with the score at 7-1.

Eleanor scratched early in the match, giving Karen the first opportunity to build momentum, and build she did. Corr ran that rack out, broke, and left Eleanor hooked shooting on the three ball. Eleanor kicked, barely missed, and Karen ran out. Pressing on Eleanor’s kicking wound, Karen then broke and played an effective safe, forcing Callado to kick again. The wound grew with another missed kick, and Karen used the opportunity to play a nearly 90-degree combo shot on the ten ball to win the rack instead of going for the run out. This was very uncharacteristic of Karen, but the ten went in! What a shot! Eleanor broke next, but much to her dismay, the one and ten rested near enough for Karen to combo again! In a matter of minutes, Karen had claimed 3 games to make it 5-0.

At this point, Callado needed to rally. Karen broke dry (did not pocket a ball on the break) the next rack and left a carom (glancing off a ball) shot open to make the seven in the side. It was difficult and lower percentage than she’d have liked, but it was the only thing visible to get on the board in this race to 7 and even then, she would have still needed to win another set after. She went for it and made it! Taking full advantage of the first real chance at the table she’d had, Eleanor ran that rack out. The next rack, score 5-1, Eleanor broke dry, giving her chance back to Karen for the moment. Karen ran down to the eight, missed, but left Eleanor without a shot in true Corr style. Kicking again, Eleanor hits the eight and leaves a tough cut for Karen, which did not prove troublesome for the world champ. Karen makes the cut and moves on to the hill game.

On the hill, with the score at 6-1, Eleanor Callado hoped for an opportunity to turn things around. As if the table was itself invested in suspense, Karen broke dry and the balls rolled into a funny layout. Thus forcing both Corr and Callado to attempt early combination shots, which were both misses. Eleanor missed a four ball in her last opportunity, and Karen closed the rack with near mechanical ease. The final ten ball went in seconds before the table was rushed with adoring fans.

Handshakes and pictures garnished the final moments in Grayslake, wrapping memories in lights and faces. The players started packing their belongings: Karen took home a beautiful cut glass trophy, the rest of us took home lessons. Some of us took hope.

This was the second stop of the 2017 NAPT tour at Shooter’s, hopefully the next stop is just as exciting in Dickson City, PA. Go to www.playnapt.com for more information.