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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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December: American Duty
December 2019

Some things just donít make sense to me. To many, this may not come as a surprise, but hear me out. In this instance, I think you will agree.

Letís assume there is little argument with my contention that the International 9-Ball Open is one of the best pro tournaments staged in the United States. Accu-Stats founder Pat Flemingís creation of the International in the tournament-rich Norfolk, Va., area as a substitute for the relocated U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship gave the U.S. another quality professional tournament. It is a well-run event and boasts $50,000 in added money. I can count on one hand the number of $50,000-added events this country hosted from 2014-2018.

Fleming is as respectful and dependable as any promoter in the country. As a former player, he listens to the players. His match scheduling is among the best. His television production for streaming is second only to Matchroom events.

And because of his sparkling reputation, even with players around the globe, the two-year-old International has drawn the strongest international fields outside of the U.S. Open.

So, why, then, did this yearís field top out at 96 players? Even last yearís International drew only 113 players. How can this event not fill at least a 128-player board?

The entry fee? $1,000.

Too steep? The 2019 U.S. Open filled 256 spots with a $1,000 entry fee and added less money to the purse. (The 2020 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship will top $100,000 and filled up its 256 spots in less than 30 days.)

The biggest culprit here is the American pool player. Of the 96 players entered in Norfolk in late October, just 42 players were American. More than 50 players traveled from overseas, a far more expensive proposition. Of course, you can call the foreign players suckers for spending $3,000-plus to battle through murderous brackets. But while the return may not be there for most of those players, they consider themselves professional pool players and aspire to test their talents against the worldís best. It is said that competition against the best will help you improve, if that is, indeed, your goal in the first place. Novel notion.

Then again, maybe itís not surprising that American players would hide from such an event. After all, it has become painfully apparent that outside of the top echelon American players, the talent level drops precipitously. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And the pudding flavor in Norfolk was distinctly foreign, with just five American players finishing in the top 32.

It has also been argued that, perhaps, players in the U.S. can only afford one $1,000-entry event a year and they are choosing the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Las Vegas. Perhaps. Nearly 100 American players got their checks in on time, seven months ahead of the event! That seems odd to me, since the all-in cost of that event is probably three times the cost of traveling to and staying in Norfolk. And with a 256-player field overflowing with world-beaters from overseas, most U.S. players are donating to the prize fund anyway.

I would hate to see the International go away. With the U.S. Open and World 10-Ball Championship added to the roster, the International gives the U.S. three incredible international events a year. For years, players in the U.S. (who refuse to travel to overseas tournaments) have groused about the lack of good-money events on American soil. Well, here they are. Support them.

Fleming has announced that he will reduce the Internationalís entry fee to $500 for 2020, in hopes that the event will double its field to make up for the prize fund shortfall that the entry fee reduction would cause. I certainly hope players in the U.S. will respond by supporting the International. The reduced entry fee may well encourage an even bigger response from foreign players as well, so the sledding isnít likely to get any easier.

It is somewhat embarrasing to go to an event like the International and hear foreign players ask where all the American players are. They find it hard to believe that a great tournament with a killer field and good added money would have trouble drawing players from its own country.

I donít blame them for wondering. Iím wondering the same thing.

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