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Behrman Philosophical As Hurricane Isabele Threatens U.S. Open
Sep 17, 2003, 11:31 AM

WITH WHAT U.S. Open promoter Barry Behrman has been through in the past three years, the threat of a hurricane must seem like a minor nuisance.

Nonetheless, Hurricane Isabele, which is expected to rattle the eastern seaboard in the next two days, will cause the 28th running of the U.S. Open to shut down for at least a day. The City of Chesapeake has ordered all public facilities, including the Chesapeake Convention Center, which is hosting the U.S. Open, closed by 11:00 p.m. Wednesday evening, and not to be re-opened before Friday morning.

"We fully expect to be back up and running Friday morning," said Behrman, who received a two-week release from prison, where he is awaiting a probation violation hearing, to conduct his annual tournament. "The forecast is for the winds to die down by the time it hits the Norfolk area."

Behrman added that his 24-hour poolroom, Q-Master Billiards, will remain open on Thursday and will be the site of a daylong "Pool Party" for the players and spectators.

Should he receive the go-ahead to resume play Friday morning, Behrman said the tournament will conclude Sunday evening, as planned.

"Hey!" said the 57-year-old promoter. "I've got to be back in the pokey Monday, so we've got to be finished!"

In Behrman's favor is the fact that the 2003 Open field closed with 154 players, 60 shy of 2002's number. With 16 tables set up for usage, Behrman contends that one extra afternoon session, and one extra evening session on Friday and Saturday will keep the tournament on track for a Sunday night finale.

Behrman, whose 2001 tournament suffered mightily from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., also insisted that there will be no prize fund adjustments in 2003.

"We're still addding $52,000," said Behrman. "First place will still be $30,000, and everyone will be paid off at the conclusion of the tournament. Guaranteed."

Meanwhile, Behrman, who was convicted in 2002 of a pair of felonies stemming from illegal gambling parties at his Chesapeake home, and reportedly has twice tested positive for illegal drugs while on probation, was philosophical about his attendance at the Open.

"I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to be here at the tournament," said Behrman, who could still be sentenced to as much as six years in jail at this Oct. 10 hearing. "The thought of being in jail during this week was heartbreaking. I will never chance it again. After being in jail the past 58 days, believe me, I do not want to spend another two years behind bars.

"This is the most inspirational week of my life."