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2022 BD Awards

Stories of inspiration and incredible performances highlighted a big year in pool. Compiled by Nick Leider

POY, Women: Kelly Fisher

It's a testament to Kelly Fisher's consistent greatness that 2022 proved to be a blue collar-type of Player of the Year campaign. Already possessing a BCA Hall of Fame career, she was easily the most accomplished professional in the women's game — all without winning a world title. In a game that can sometimes be judged by the size of your stack, Fisher more than doubled the total winnings ($120,674) of the runner-up, Tzu Chien Wei ($57,940). Kwikfire's season was topped by four more WPBA titles, with another $10,000 title at the Super Billiards Expo's Women's 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. Considering the health challenges and other obstacles in her way of top performance, Fisher continues to be the gold standard.

POY, Men: Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz

Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz wasn't going to sneak up on anybody at the start of 2022. The Spaniard knocked off the 2010 Junior World 9-Ball Championship and showed plenty of talent in the interim throughout his 20s. But this past season was one of unimaginable success. Opening with a win in the Derby City Classic 9-ball division, he stayed steady if not spectacular through the spring. A ninth at the World 10-Ball Championship and fifth at the World Pool Masters showed promise, which was quickly fulfilled with a runner-up finish at Matchroom Pool's U.K. Open before breaking through with a title-clinching performance with David Alcaide at the World Cup of Pool. A solid trophy for the mantle, the win proved contagious. Sanchez-Ruiz rocketed to the world No. 1 ranking with a dominant performance at October's U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship. Six weeks later, he knocked off the World 8-Ball Championship a week before he helped Team Europe prevail in the Mosconi Cup. All in all, FSR's year could be considered surprising but not entirely unexpected.

Performance of the Year: Joshua Filler, U.K. Open (and World Pool Masters)

Joshua Filler has more unreal performances than any 24-year-old pool player should have by his age. In 2022, he knocked off the World Pool Masters in Gibraltar — his fifth Matchroom title — but that was just a warm-up for his achievements a fortnight later. At the inaugural U.K. Open, Filler thumped his way through a 256-player field to reach the final against 2022 Player of the Year Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz. In the race-to-13 final, Filler fell behind, 7-5, before he scrapped his way back to even. In the next rack, Filler jumped to pocket the 1, lucked in the 2 off the 6 and then cleared for the lead. At that point, Filler went Killer mode and broke and ran five consecutive racks for a 13-7 win. The $30,000 title was an exclamation point on the $25,000 World Pool Masters crown.

Match of the Year: SVB Roars Back at WPC

Few sports moments reach the heights of the Miracle on Ice, when a bunch of college amateurs upset the Soviet Union powerhouse 4-3, at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. But that victory, as internationally politically fraught as it was, didn't win the gold for the Americans — that took a 4-2 win against Finland in the next game. Shane Van Boening's miracle on cloth on his way to the 2022 World Pool Championship took place in the single-elimination round of 32 against Mika Immonen. The American star fell behind, 10-3, in the race-to-11 set. A missed 5 ball by the Finn in the 14th rack gave Van Boening the slightest of hope. Clearing open racks and locking up Immonen when his road map faced a detour, SVB worked his way back into the match and eventually even. In the case game, he drilled a nearly full-table thin cut on the 1 and worked his way through a tricky rack for an unbelievable eight-rack comeback. Propelled by this performance, the American powered through a murderer's row of Ko Pin Yi, Chang Jung Lin, Alexander Kazakis, and reigning champ Albin Ouschan, 13-6, in the final.

Breakout Player of the Year: Amber Chen

Considering the rolling lockdowns and travel restrictions related to the pandemic of the past three years, plenty of professional players have had personal “breakout” performances at varying times in recent times. But Chia Hua “Amber” Chen, a 22-year-old Taiwanese star, proved her mettle at August's Predator Canada Open, her first international event since COVID-19. The 2018 Junior World 9-Ball Champion, she spent the better part of two years without top-flight competition. But in Red Deer, Alberta, Chen didn't have much time to loosen the elbow. With a spot in the single-elimination 16-player bracket on the line, she faced none other than Allison Fisher. The two split race-to-four sets, with Chen winning in sudden death spot shots, pocketing five to Fisher's four. After three wins in the one-and-done format, the Taiwanese star again faced Fisher — and the pair again went to sudden death. Chen again prevailed, this time in the fourth inning, to notch the $18,000 top prize and her first professional title.

Person of the Year: Mark Griffin

The recent passing of entrepreneur/promoter Mark Griffin reminds us of the power of mortality. The definition of a pool lifer, Griffin was an advocate for the game as a room owner, president/owner of the BCA Pool League, industry power player, and tireless supporter of all things pool. When companies and/or dreams needed help or a jump start, Griffin was often there to offer support, connecting people when it made sense and oftentimes supporting financially. And Griffin was true to his passions and convictions to his last day.


Pool Goes Mainstream!

The monoculture has been one casualty of 21st century communications — we no longer all get the same news, listen to the same music, and sit down at 8 p.m. on Sundays for the biggest TV shows. But while the mass media saturation of “The Color of Money” might not be possible in 2022 or 2023, pool enjoyed a bit of the spotlight. Shane Van Boening was featured on a segment of CBS's “60 Minutes, ” with correspondent Jon Wertheim, author of a 2007 Kid Delicious biography, bringing the pool legend's story to a wider audience. Nine days later, Jeanette Lee attended the premier of “Jeanette Lee Vs, ” an entry in ESPN's highly regarded documentary series 30 for 30 that details her superstardom and health battles. Finally, to close out the month, Fedor Gorst appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience, the comic and UFC commentator's eponymous podcast that nets some 11 million listeners per episode. Maybe pool won't break through to the mainstream culture — but a steady drip of attention isn't the worst alternative.

Fedor Gorst Et Al. Banned, Unbanned from Competition

If COVID-19 showed pool players the real world can't be kept from the pool table, Russian and Belarusian professionals learned that international politics aren't that far off either. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, the World Pool-Billiard Association reacted by banning all Russian and Belarusian players from sanctioned events. For Fedor Gorst, Kristina Tkach, and Margaret Fefilova Styer, dimming professional prospects and overall uncertainty led to an exceedingly hectic 2022. While Styer was prevented from competing in the World Games, she did check off a major life accomplishment with her marriage to American pro Tyler Styer. Gorst and Tkach, meanwhile, knocked around the U.S., staying in stroke with a variety of bar-table and regional events. By August, the WPA decided to rescind its ban, meaning these three could get back to the big-time action that was temporarily halted thanks to political players in various positions.

BCA Expo Moves to Spring... Alongside That Other Pool Expo

Two's better than one, right? When it comes to trade shows for the billiards industry, that's yet to be determined. After years of discussions about the date of pool's annual expo, whether the usual late-summer slot is better than a spring date, the BCA announced in the fall that 2023 would see the organization move its date to March 27-30, held alongside the Amusement Expo International. The move comes a year after a breakaway group, known as the Billiard Industry Group, decided to forego the BCA show to join the Home, Patio and Barbeque Expo in 2022. Two competing factions, though both pay lip-service to potential cooperation in the future, holding two nearly concurrent shows could prove troublesome for buyers, attendees, and fellow showgoers and could prove for an interesting 2023 for industry leadership.

Shaw Runs Past Schmidt, Mosconi

It took 65 years for Willie Mosconi's world record of 526-ball run in straight pool to fall. That achievement, courtesy of John Schmidt's run of 626 in 2019, caught the eye of Jayson Shaw. The Scotsman, more known for his rotation prowess but one of the best shot-makers anyone will ever see, dedicated himself to breaking the record in January 2022. Invited to Street Light Billiard Academy in Alexandria, Va., following 14.1 studs like Earl Strickland, Shane Van Boening and Ruslan Chinahov, “Eagle Eye” stared down the record for five long days. Scheduled to head back to New York the previous day, Shaw thought he might just be finding something special. In the early hours of Jan. 18, Shaw raced through 51 racks in less than three hours, before the cue ball found the corner pocket to end his run at 714. Upon further review by a five-person committee by the Billiard Congress of America, Shaw's run was cut to 669 balls, when he inadvertently touched an object ball, good for a foul and a 45-ball shave to his still-recording-breaking run.

BCA Hall of Fame Welcomes Briesath, Orcollo

You don't end up in the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame by accident, but the two inductees in 2022 certainly earned their entry. Jerry Briesath, as spirited an advocate for the game at 85 years old as ever, entered pool's most exclusive club after a career instructing thousands of players, from amateur to world champion. Alongside him, though thousands of miles away via a virtual streaming link in Manila, Dennis Orcollo entered the Hall of Fame as the fifth Filipino inductee. One of the most accomplished tournament and money players in Philippines history, Orcollo has been prevented from traveling to the U.S. since January when customs officials raised concerns about his visa status.


The “Don't Let the Door Hit Ya...” Award: Matchroom Ditching WPA Sanction

The World Pool-Billiard Association has had a rough go of it for the last quarter-century or so. Global sanctioning and oversight are necessary in any sport that aims to be respected on the world stage. But considering where pool has been in recent years, Barry Hearn and Matchroom Pool's decision to forego any considerations from the organization in favor of running things how they see fit is understandable. The money flowing into global events, seen in the production value of big-time tournaments like the World Pool Championship and U.S. Open, means Matchroom is the only player in the game. Dreaming of the Olympics has remained just that — a dream — while one promotion firm is raising the men's game to another level.

The “Not Only Pool Royalty” Award: Allison Fisher receives MBE

Not long after Allison Fisher picked up a snooker cue and started dominating the sport, she earned the nickname “The Duchess of Doom,” a moniker that proved prescient when she jumped across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. to dominate 9-ball tournaments in the mid-'90s. But 2022 was the year Fisher was formally recognized by British royalty, earning the title of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in October. In recognition of her accomplishments in snooker and pool, the award was given to Fisher at Windsor Castle by Princess Anne, herself an Olympian equestrian. Following in the footsteps of promoter Barry Hearn and male snooker stars, Fisher was the first female cueist recognized by the British crown for her service to the country in sports.

The “A Solution in Search of a Problem” Award: The 16 Ball

Pool needs the next “The Hustler” or “The Color of Money” is a common refrain for folks wanting for some crossover appeal. While we debate if 9-ball or 8-ball or 10-ball is the right game, maybe the problem is our dedication to geometrically pleasing shapes. What if we add a 16th ball? No longer would billiards be beholden to the neatly symmetrical 15-ball triangle. All those casual fans or curious parties would be unable to resist picking up a cue and becoming lifelong enthusiasts.

The “Look Out, Ol' Mackey's Back” Award: Don Mackey

The Pro Billiards Tour was the gold standard in the 1990s… until it wasn't. Founded in 1991, the tour produced more than 100 tournaments in six years, awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money to its stars like Johnny Archer, Mike Sigel and Kim Davenport. But plagued by scandal, PBT Commissioner Don Mackey quickly disappeared from the sport, leaving many fans and players wondering exactly what happened to the head honcho. But a PBT press release in the summer of 2022 brought Mackey's name back to pool, with him stating, “The PBT is uniquely positioned to become the world's leading billiards brand by leveraging all the platforms that access the global market. ” If the PBT is aimed at creating content alongside current pro events, it's tough to see a market big enough to support an organization one stepped removed from the actual tournament goings-on. But content is king — and enough eyeballs supporting the PBT could be a sign of overall strength.


1. Photo by Erwin Dionisio

2. Photo by Matt Porinsky

3. Photo by Taka Wu - Matchroom