Kollins To California For Another Championship Title Chase
filed on Saturday, May 19, 2012. 7:41am PT/USA
For 35 years he has been involved with snooker in the United States, holding a record five United States National Snooker Championship titles, Chicago's Tom Kollins will again next week hit the Championship title chase as he competes at the Embassy Billiards Club in San Gabriel, California.
Tom Kollins pictured at the ACES Snooker Club in Crystal Lake, Illinois
Photo © SnookerUSA.com
In an interview for the SnookerUSA.com website, Tom shares some of his memories from those arly Championships he competed in, and also thoughts about this year's up and coming event.
In the first ever Championship back in 1991 played at what was then Preacher's Pool & Billiards in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, Tom recalled that he faced John Abruzzo in the final. He said: "John had twice won the National 8-Ball Championship on a bar size pool table, and he demonstrated that he was a very competent player even on a twelve foot snooker table."
Tom defeated Abruzzo 4-2 in that final for his first title, and the following year he came up against John Lewis in the final.
Lewis at the time was employed by the Billiard Congress Of America (BCA) and was an accomplished billiards player and writer, and Tom remembered that he was 3-2 down in this match though went onto win the last two frames to edge out Lewis 4-3 for a second Championship title.
Lewis now is an integral servant of snooker in the United States as he holds the position of secretary of the USSA.
The 1993 Championship saw the entry of the internationally renowned pool player Mike Massey, who went on to lose 5-0 in the final to David Yao. Tom said: "In 1993 I lost in the semifinals to Mike Massey, and in '94 I lost to David Yao in the final.
"In '95 I was knocked out early by Tang Hoa who went on to win the title, but I don't recall very much about the '96 and '97 events."
After three years of being played in California, in 1998 the Championship returned closer to Tom's home in the Chicago area.
"1998 was the year I made a 123 break against Wayne Thielsen," Tom recalls. "It was on a BCE table that had been covered in a very heavy club cloth that was super slow and did not give up breaks very often.
"In the final, I had to win the last three frames to shade Tom Karabotsos, a highly ranked pool player, 5-4."
Tom's 123 back in 1998 remains to this day as the top break ever to be compiled in the Championship, and it helped him along his way to a third title.
In 1999 Tom breezed his way through to capturing a fourth title, however the following year a new player on the scene by the name of Ajeya Prabhakar upset the odds.
"Ajeya surprised me in 2000, beating me 5-3 for the title, but I returned the favor in 2001 besting Ajeya 5-0," Tom said.
Prabhakar himself would go on to be an integral figure in snooker in the United States, as he reached two further Championship finals, won several USSA Tour events and is the current serving President of the USSA.
The Championship was not then contested in 2002 & 2003, and although since its revival in 2004 Tom has failed to hit the heights he achieved in previous years, he has remarkably had a string of consistent performances.
In the previous six Championships since 2006, Tom has appeared in five quarterfinals - only losing in the round of 16 back in 2010.
His best Championship performance since his last victory arguably came last year in the quarterfinals, when he almost caused a major shock by running the defending champion, Ahmed Aly Elsayed, to the final colored balls in the final frame for a narrow 3-2 defeat.
Tom's snooker home is now the ACES Snooker Club in Crystal Lake, Illinois, established by Don Sitarski (see video clip below of Tom in action at the ACES Snooker Club).
Tom said: "Don has been kind and generous enough to install a proper table at his place of business to enable myself and another dozen or so snooker enthusiasts to practice regularly. Don will be playing in the National Tournament this year too."
The game of snooker has been a huge part of Tom's life. Having played in ten IBSF World Snooker Championships and thirty annual International Snooker League events, he has traveled the world and developed friendships all over the planet. He has been lucky to meet, watch and even play against some of the sport's greatest players.
Since the inception of the USSA in 1991, Tom has contributed to the sport enormously in various roles within the association, and currently serves as Vice-President.
Tom is very much looking forward to participating in this year's Championship, and he told SnookerUSA.com: "I've been involved in snooker in the United States since 1977 and can state, without fear of contradiction, that this year's field in the National Championship will be the strongest ever.
"My thanks to the USSA, its officers and members for all their efforts."