Swimming with pool sharks

Capital City Classic draws a diverse group of top players

Posted: Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Ya got trouble, folks!

Right here in River City!

With a capital "T"

And that rhymes with "P"

And that stands for pool!

- lyrics from the song "Ya Got Trouble" from the musical "The Music Man"

Pool got a bad rap in the musical "The Music Man."

There was no trouble with pool this weekend in the Juneau Billiards Association's Red Hook Ale-Capital City Classic pool tournament at the Viking Lounge, as the top players from Southeast Alaska, and even a couple of Lower 48 sharks, met in the top local tourney.

This weekend showed how pool can unite a community. Yes, pool is frequently played in bars and yes there's a bit too much smoke, but what other sport brings together white-collar business executives, lawyers, barbers, fishermen, custodians, students and pizza deliverymen.

In fact, the finalists were a nice cross-section of Juneau and Southeast Alaska, with Caucasians, Tlingits, Tsimshians and Filipinos all having a chance to win titles.

A visiting industrial supply business owner from New York knocked off a hotel employee Ketchikan in Nine-Ball. A city employee from Juneau edged out a commercial fisherman from Ketchikan in Eight-Ball. And the Ketchikan commercial fisherman teamed up with a barber from Juneau to win the Scotch Doubles title over a state employee from Juneau and a driver/drafting student from Anchorage/Sitka.

"You meet a lot of nice people," said Frank Madden, a retired commercial fisherman from Ketchikan. At 77, he was the oldest person in the tournament and said he has been playing pool over 60 years.

"Some you only get to meet once a year (at this tournament), but they're nice people," Madden said.

For most of the players, the Capital City Classic is a chance to renew acquaintances while playing pool. But every year or two there's a wild card in the mix, a ringer who tests the local players, sometimes with mixed results.

This year, the wild card was Joe Cutler of Bay Shore, N.Y., the visiting industrial supply business owner. Not many people knew Cutler when he showed up, but when he blitzed his way past Dan Adams of Yakutat in one of the early rounds of Nine-Ball on Thursday, several of the other players booted up their computers and searched Google.

By the end of the day, they were carrying printouts detailing Cutler's third-place finishes in the 2002 and 2003 U.S. Amateur Championships, a tournament that mixes Eight-Ball and Nine-Ball. The only other non-Alaskan in the tournament was Lee Hall of Gilbert, Ariz., who entered the tournament on the invitation of his old college roommate, Sean Henderson of Juneau.

"I had some friends in Petersburg, and they let me know about this tournament," Cutler said. "I make frequent business trips and I had business up here. It created a reason for me to come up and play in the tournament."

Cutler dominated the Nine-Ball tournament on Thursday, rarely losing a game in the 49-person, double-elimination bracket. He continued that domination into Sunday's championship match, beating Ketchikan's Ryan McDonald 7-1 and twice sinking the 9-ball on the break while running the table on three other breaks. Late Thursday night, Cutler beat McDonald 7-2 to win a spot in the championship match.

"I played well, but I think things rolled my way a little, too," Cutler said. "To make two 9-balls on the break is not something that happens a lot. Normally, I miss more than one shot."

"It was fun shooting with him. I got to play him five times in all the events," said McDonald, who works at the Landing and joined Adams as the only two players to finish in the money in all three events. "I had a great time and it's a great event. But second place sucks."

While there were a few players who grumbled about an out-of-stater coming up and winning their local tournament, most of them seemed to enjoy having a chance to watch and play a top shooter like Cutler.

"Juneau's grown and there's so much competition now," said 27-year-old David Dunker, who has been playing in JBA events since he was 19 and was on a pool league team with his parents. "I really wanted to play him, and Nine-Ball's his game. I didn't get to play him in the tournament, but I may ask him if he'll give me a game."

"I've never played ... outside of Alaska," said Charlie Stultka of Sitka, who beat Cutler 5-4 in Eight-Ball on Friday. "These guys play around the world and are rated. But we've got talent here."

In Eight-Ball, the tournament returned to form as Juneau's Rick Paulo beat Ketchikan's Jim Scudero 5-4 in the finals. Paulo has lost track of how many titles he's won in the Capital City Classic, but this was his first since he won both the Eight-Ball and Nine-Ball titles in 2002. Scudero was last year's Eight-Ball champion.

Paulo, who works for the City and Borough of Juneau at Centennial Hall, and Scudero, a commercial fisherman, rarely missed in their championship match. When one did miss, the other ran the table. They even made the hard shots, as Paulo jumped the 8-ball to sink the 2-ball in the eighth game and just missed sinking the 8-ball after jumping the 12-ball on his next shot, only to have Scudero run the table to tie the match.

Paulo wasn't happy with his shooting in Nine-Ball, but he found his game in 60-player Eight-Ball tournament and didn't lose a match on Friday, clinching a spot in the finals with a 5-4 victory over Stultka while Scudero was playing his way through the losers' bracket. Paulo closed out the championship match by running the table off the break.

"In Nine-Ball, I couldn't put two shots together," Paulo said. "I'm still shaking. Especially in the Eight-Ball, I was playing great. You can't afford to miss when we're playing like this."

Scudero's back was bothering him so much he had to put heating pads on it between the Eight-Ball and Scotch Doubles finals, but that didn't stop him from teaming up with Juneau's Gerry Carrillo to blank defending champions Tom Kitka of Anchorage/Sitka and Sonny Cortez of Juneau 5-0 in the championship.

Scudero and Carrillo had never been partners before, but they played into each other's game well. In Scotch Doubles, teammates alternate shots so players have to be aware of their partner's strengths and weaknesses. The Scudero-Carrillo team rarely let the Kitka-Cortez team have a shot, running the table once off Carrillo's break and another time running it after Cortez broke and no balls went down.

Kitka and Cortez had a chance to win the fourth game, after Scudero missed on the 3-ball and Kitka sank the 8-ball, but the cue ball found a pocket and Kitka-Cortez lost on the scratch.

"I've known Gerry for 10 to 12 years and we've never shot together," Scudero said. "That (the Kitka scratch in the fourth game) was like a blessing. But we did have a comfortable lead at the time. It was fun."

"This is the first time we've played, but we got a little chemistry together," said Carrillo, who won his first major title since the 1983 state championships in Sitka. "We helped each other out. We did good tonight. I closed my shop for three days so I could play."

• Charles Bingham can be reached at charles.bingham@juneauempire.com.


Final results from the Juneau Billiards Association's Red Hook Ale-Capital City Classic pool tournament held Thursday through Sunday at the Viking Lounge. Listed are the players who finished in the prize money in the three events - Nine-Ball, Eight-Ball and Scotch Doubles.

Nine-Ball - 1. Joe Cutler, Bay Shore, N.Y., $930; 2. Ryan McDonald, Ketchikan, $485; 3. Charlie Stultka, Sitka, $265; 4. Dan Adams, Yakutat, $175; 5. tie, Alfred Torres, Juneau, $100; 5. tie, Aaron Lynk, Juneau, $100; 7. tie, Roy Gunayogay, Sitka, $75; 7. tie, Jim Goenett, Juneau, $75.

Eight-Ball - 1. Rick Paulo, Juneau, $1,125; 2. Jim Scudero, Ketchikan, $595; 3. Charlie Stultka, Sitka, $320; 4. Joe Cutler, Bay Shore, N.Y., $210; 5. tie, Dan Adams, Yakutat, $125; 5. tie, Ryan McDonald, Ketchikan, $125; 7. tie, Tam Homan, Ketchikan, $100; 7. tie, Alfred Torres, Juneau, $100.

Scotch Doubles - 1. Gerry Carrillo, Juneau, and Jim Scudero, Ketchikan, $1,240; 2. Tom Kitka, Anchorage/Sitka, and Sonny Cortez, Juneau, $660; 3. Rick Paulo, Juneau, and Dan Adams, Yakutat, $370; 4. Robert Nezdecky, Ketchikan, and Ryan McDonald, Ketchikan, $260; 5. tie, Darcy Robinson, Juneau, and Justin Kanouse, Juneau, $175; 5. tie, Campbell Jackson, Juneau, and Larry Hotch, Klukwan, $175.

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