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Ortmann Saws Through See's Defense to Win 14.1 Championship
Jul 16, 2007, 11:13 AM

Ortmann remains passionate about straight pool.
East Brunswick, N.J. — When Oliver Ortmann won the 1989 U.S. Open Straight-Pool title, the 22-year-old from West Germany was a distant long shot against American Steve Mizerak in a game dominated by the U.S. Eighteen years later, he was the prohibitive favorite against Huidji See of the Netherlands in a game that has been mastered by Europeans and nearly forgotten in America.

In a cat-and-mouse final, Ortmann edged See, 200-171, to win the second annual World 14.1 Straight Pool Championship, produced by U.S.-based Dragon Promotions. The competition is in part an effort to repopularize straight pool in America, and its two champions so far both have hailed from Germany, including Thorsten Hohmann in 2006.

John Schmidt, perhaps the best straight-pool player in America, had no bones to pick with this year’s winner.

“Oliver plays straight pool the way I think it should be played — flowing, confident and natural,” he said. “He outplayed everyone here this week. He really is a world champion."

Ortmann outlasted a tough, 64-player international field in the six-day championship, held July 9-14 at the Hilton East Brunswick. The format called for a six-group round-robin stage to winnow the field to 32, double-elimination through 16, and then single-elimination to determine the winner. Only two Americans made the quarterfinals — Schmidt, and on-and-off-again pool pro Danny Harriman.

Ortmann had a close call against Harriman in the semifinals. "I practiced hard for this event — six hours a day of only straight pool, and I'm a much better player this year for it," warned Harriman. Ortmann looked like he would cruise at the onset, but Harriman came back with a 70-ball run and gave the German many second thoughts. But Ortmann would not be denied and closed out the match, 200-123.

In the other semifinal, See matched up again with Austria's Martin Kempter. See demolished Kempter in the round of 32, and the second time would be the same as See cruised, 200-41.

The two finalists had played a multitude of straight pool to get to the title match. See had played a total of 12 matches with 3 losses and 9 wins and over 1,400 balls pocketed in the event. Ortmann had played 13 matches with 2 losses and 11 wins and over 1,700 balls pocketed.

The match see-sawed with See leading, and then Ortmann, and back and forth again as neither player could post runs of more than 25 balls at a time. The nerves were showing.

"The first player to run 40 balls is going to win this match," observed Niels Feijen of the Netherlands, speculating that such a swing in momentum would dishearten the opposing player.

In the end, Ortmann initiated a safety battle that eventually led to an open table-length chance for Ortmann. "The Machine" from Germany made the shot and ran a nervy 18 balls to claim the title 200-171.

"This title means a lot to me. The fans here watching as well as myself understand what straight pool means. We all love straight pool," said Ortmann in his championship speech to the fans.

His victory, and this championship, helped cap a long-fulfilled prediction he made way back in 1989 after winning the U.S. Open.

“There are many great players in Europe, but we are all young, between 20 and 25 years old,” he said after beating Mizerak. “We still have much to learn, but I think in five years or so we will be even with the Americans.”