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Elated Bennett Takes Rempe's Spot at IPT Open
Jul 21, 2006, 10:12 AM

Jim Rempe’s loss is Keith Bennett’s big, big gain.

Hall-of-Famer Rempe has pulled out of the first event of the International Pool Tour’s season, leaving a space for a shocked and elated Bennett, who finished tantalizingly close to the cut at several tour qualifiers.

“It was unbelievable,” said the 27-year-old house pro at Breaktime Billiards in Wilmington, N.C. “I had some really tough beats there. … I can’t wait to get out there and try to get a title.”

The title in question is the $350,000 first prize at the IPT North American 8-Ball Open, starting Sunday at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. The 200-player field will be chasing $2 million in prizes, a record amount for pro pool.

Rempe withdrew from the tournament citing “personal reasons,” relating to his ability to hold up under the grueling IPT tournament format, according to IPT officials. He’s still eligible to compete in the season’s other four events. Rempe was not immediately available for comment.

Bennett spent much of early 2006 traveling the country and chasing qualifiers for one of 10 open tour member spots. He hit the four U.S. qualifiers, but failed to finish high enough for a slot. He then went to several qualifiers for the 50 additional spots at the North American Open, and finished third at two of them, just missing the cut.

Fortuitously, Bennett recently had been helping Hall-of-Famer Ewa Laurance prepare for the North American Open. They were in the midst of a practice session on Thursday when Bennett received the cell-phone summons from IPT tour director Deno Andrews.

Bennett spent much of Friday making hurried preparations for his week-long trip to Vegas, including making arrangements for his two children, ages 10 and 6. “I have a lot of stuff to take care of,” he said.

He wasn’t intimidated by what promises to be the strongest field ever assembled for a pool tournament, or the round-robin format that will have players competing 10 hours a day.

“I’ve been playing with the pros since I was 14 years old, so I don’t think the nerves will affect me,” he said. “And the format is pretty much alien to everyone. I feel like I have good shot at it if I get a couple rolls.”