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From ballroom to billiards hall

700 pool players vie for share of $17,000 purse in Hagerstown

700 pool players vie for share of $17,000 purse in Hagerstown

October 22, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

More than 700 pool players from the Mid-Atlantic region visited Hagerstown for a "three-day vacation" this weekend.

Sixty-seven teams from various leagues in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey are competing in The Association for Pool (TAP) Regional Titleholder Tournament at the Clarion Hotel, which began Friday night and runs through today.

The Clarion's Grand Ballroom was turned into a billiard haven for those playing for $17,000 in prize money - with $4,000 being the top prize.

"It's like a three-day vacation for a lot of these guys and we do it three times a year," said Scott Emory, who does most of the leg work in organizing the tournaments. "I've heard a lot of people compare these tournaments as being the Las Vegas of the East Coast. It's a good time for everybody."

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All teams begin the tournament in round-robin format and those with the best records advance to single-elimination play. Quarterfinals action got under way Saturday night and the semifinals and tournament title will be decided today.

Roger Munson, captain of the Hagerstown Billiards team, expects his squad to play an important role in today's outcome.

"Our chances are pretty good. We're usually always in at least the quarters or semis," Munson said. "We have five banners in six years. The only time we didn't get one was the first year."

Teams that aren't good enough to make the final eight will be separated into second- and third-place brackets of eight teams each. Most teams will be vying for the eight-ball title, but there is a smaller bracket of 12 teams that is battling for the nine-ball crown.

Teams must earn a spot in the tournament by competing in their respective league for 16 weeks. There are no buy-ins for the regional tournament and expenses are paid for by each league.

"A lot of people look forward to getting away to play a sport they love," said Scott Hurley, a league operator out of New Castle, Del. "Most of the players are average - there might be 10 percent that are really good - but it's more about having fun."

Those players who pointed out the Vegas-like atmosphere were referring to players' ability to return to their hotel rooms between playing sessions, or to hang around in the ballroom to drink and watch others play.

"It's a really nice venue, right in one place," said Emmett Wood, a player out of southern New Jersey. "When you're not playing, you can go up and relax or do whatever you want. (Emory) has done a great job of putting this together."

Emory is the Penn-Mar league operator and manages more than 100 teams in Maryland and Pennsylvania - one of the top five largest leagues in the country.

"As league operator I try to give the best of everything," Emory said. "It's a game for everyone. We have everyone from business owners, to blue collar workers, to unemployed guys. We look at it as a family-type atmosphere."

The semifinals begin this morning at 9:30 in the Clarion's Grand Ballroom.

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