Laha and Sinkhorn Take State Billiard Title Events

Laha and Sinkhorn Take State Billiard Title Events
by Tom Fryer
Rick Beams and Chris Duncan hosted their first annual Kentucky State Championships in 9-ball and 8-ball at their Paradise Billiards Café in Bardstown, KY. This April 12-13 event was restricted to Kentucky residents—but no pros allowed. Played on 8-foot Gold Crowns, the tournament was well-received with 60 total entries, with Duke Laha and Donnie Sinkhorn winning their respective divisions.
The 9-ball division saw a match-up of pre-tournament favorites in the winners’ semifinal. “New York Dave” Grau dropped a 7-0 bomb on David Rice to advance, while the other semi saw Duke Laha move on 7-3 over Gregg Pagulayan (the world-renowned Alex’s uncle). That defeat inspired Gregg as he then eliminated Rice and then knocked out 13-year-old straight-shooting future pro Landon Shuffett by a 7-4 count.
The winners’-side final pitted Laha against Grau, and helped by two 9 balls on the break, Laha took the hot seat at 7-4 while Grau went left to play Pagulayan. Gregg kept his underdog bid going with another win. In the finals, he needed to defeat Laha twice to win it all. A little-known fact in Kentucky is that Laha won consecutive European Armed Forces straight pool championships in 1982 and ’83. In a well-played final by both men, Laha garnered another title by the score of 7-4.
After a late night Saturday, the 28 8-ballers went at it in races to 4 Sunday. Bardstown’s own Alan Foster made a strong bid and finished in fifth. Mike Brown was a force throughout before settling for fourth. Laha was making a bid for both titles and made it to the winners’-side finals before being sent left by Sinkhorn. David Rice then knocked Laha out in third and would need to best Sinkhorn twice to win it.
When Sinkhorn entered, he had not hit a single ball in three weeks. His plan was to play his way into stroke. After failing to cash in the 9-ball division, he arrived Sunday and announced his readiness, saying, “I ain’t played bad two days in a row since 1983.” And at hill-hill in the first set, Sinkhorn backed up his prediction by executing a very tricky run-out to win his own State title.


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