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LION ROARS INTO HALL OF FAME
Jul 16, 2019, 2:00 PM

Over the years, Alex Pagulayan, the comical, mischievous and lethal Canadian-by-way-of-the-Philippines pool star, has parlayed his talents into the World 9-Ball Championship, a U.S. Open 9-Ball title and a pair of Derby City Classic Master of the Table crowns. Those achievements have now earned the 41-year-old “Lion” the “ultimate accomplishment,” induction into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.

The United States Billiard Media Association announced that Pagulayan will enter the sport’s most exclusive club, along with table manufacturer/promoter Greg Sullivan and Johnston City Hustlers Jamboree creators George and Paul Jansco. All will be formally honored during ceremonies at the Norfolk Sheraton Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va., on Friday, Nov. 1.

Pagulayan, who earned election in a run-off against England’s Kelly Fisher after the two had tied on the initial ballot, will enter the Greatest Players wing of the Hall of Fame. Sullivan, 70, and the late Jansco brothers will be honored in the Meritorious Service category.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Pagulayan after being informed of his election. “For a pool player, this is the ultimate accomplishment, right? And I’m happy to become the first Canadian in the BCA Hall of Fame.” Pagulayan, who moved from the Philippines to Toronto at 16, made his presence felt in 2002, when he reached the final of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships. After losing to Germany’s Ralf Souquet in the title match, Pagulayan, then 24, reached the final of the World Pool Championship a year later. Again, he lost in the final. Again, he lost to a German player, Thorsten Hohmann. But it was clear that Pagulayan had championship ability, and in 2004 he returned to the title match at the World Pool Championship in Taipei, Taiwan. This time he emerged victorious, topping local hopeful Pei Wei Chang for the title. A year later, Pagulayan exorcised his U.S. Open 9-Ball demon as well, winning the title. In addition to World Summit of Pool and World Pool Masters titles, Pagulayan is the only player to have won titles in all three divisions of the annual Derby City Classic — One-Pocket, Banks and 9-Ball. He also earned Master of the Table titles in 2015 and 2016.

“The Derby City All-Around titles are my biggest career highlights,” Pagulayan said. “They are such big fields and you have to play all three games well. And it’s really hard to win all three disciplines. I feel like I won pool’s triathlon.”

It was the first year of eligibility for both Pagulayan and Fisher. Each were named on 62 percent of the ballots, forcing a run-off vote. In the special election, Pagulayan received 21 votes, while Fisher received 16. Holland’s Niels Feijen (27 percent) and American Corey Deuel (24 percent) were the next highest vote-getters on the initial ballot. Shannon Daulton, Jeremy Jones, Stefano Pellinga, Vivian Villarreal and Charlie Williams were named on less than 10 percent of the ballots.

For Sullivan, admission into the BCA Hall of Fame caps a life of service trying to elevate pool from a recreation to a legitimate professional sport. An Indiana native, Sullivan became a poolroom owner and, with input from top players, began constructing pool tables to professional specifications.

Sullivan launched Diamond Billiard Products, with his tables quickly becoming the preferred playfield of the pros. Frustrated by coin-operated tables that forced players to use magnetic or oversized cue balls, Sullivan is also credited with introducing optical sensor to coin-op tables so that standard cue balls could be used. For Sullivan, it marked another victory in putting professional equipment into the hands of all players.

In the 1990s, Sullivan contracted the Pantone Company to research the optimum color for pool cloth. The testing resulted in the Tournament Blue prevalent in today’s professional tournaments.

As a lifelong fan of the Johnston City Hustler’s Jamborees of the 1960s and ’70s, Sullivan launched a similar multi-discipline event, the Derby City Classic, in 1998. The annual event has drawn thousands of professional and regional players to Southern Indiana for 21 years.

“I have to say, I’m in shock,” Sullivan said when informed. “My whole life has been about pool, just trying to turn it from a game to a sport. It’s all I’ve ever done.”

That George and Paulie Jansco should join Sullivan in the same Hall of Fame class is appropriate, since the Southern Illinois club owners founded the famed Johnston City Hustlers Jamboree and All-Around Pool Championship in the 1960s. The Janscos contributed to the pool’s romanticized image as a gunslinger’s activity. Their promotion of the gambling aspect of the sport contributed to its rise in popularity with the public, with their tournaments drawing media coverage from major television networks and national magazines like “Sports Illustrated.” So popular were the Johnston City events that the Jansco’s launched a second event, the Stardust Open in Las Vegas. The Janscos could also be credited with moving 9-ball and one-pocket into the game’s forefront during a time in which straight pool was considered the only professional game. They were also among the first promoters to welcome integrated fields, paving the way for players like African-American Cicero Murphy to compete for world titles. George Jansco passed away in 1969. Paul Jansco died in 1997.


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