The Iceman goes undefeated to win Predator Pro Am Open/Pro Championships

Ten years ago, in what was reportedly his best earnings year ever, Finland’s Mika Immonen (aka The Iceman) cashed in a total of 29 events all over the world, 21 of which he finished as either the winner (13), the runner-up (4; to include his appearance on Europe’s Mosconi Cup team) or in third place (4). Six of his 13 victories that year were chalked up in the state of New York; he won a stop on the Tri-State Tour, two on the Joss NE 9-Ball Tour, and three on the Predator Pro Am Tour. Many of the cash winners in those three 2009 Predator events were present for the 2019 Tour Championships held on the weekend of December 14-15 at the event’s traditional location, Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY. They included Jorge Rodriguez, Frankie Hernandez, Mhet Vergara and Tour Director Tony Robles, who, in the 2009 events won by Immonen, finished third in February, 5th in July and 9th in October. Notable, as always, in his absence from this year’s event was George “Ginky” Sansouci, who was 5th in that 2009 February event, 13th in July and tied with Robles for 9th in October.

The Predator Pro Am Tour’s defending Open/Pro Tour Champion and the 2018 runner-up met in this year’s semifinal; Jorge Rodriguez and Tony Robles, respectively. It was, though, Mika Immonen who became the 2019 champion, going undefeated through a field of 24 entrants, on-hand for the $1,000-added, 10-ball event at Raxx Billiards.

A concurrently-run, $9,930-added A/B/C/D Amateur event (separate story), which drew 93 entrants, was won by Pascal Dufresne, one of the tour’s 18 event winners this year. Sent to the loss side early, Dufresne won seven in a row before meeting and defeating hot seat occupant Ryan Dayrit in the finals.

For the second year in a row at the Open/Pro Championships, Rodriguez battled for the hot seat; last year, versus Robles, this year, against The Iceman. This year, Robles was sent to the loss side by Frankie Hernandez and like Dufresne in the Amateur event would win seven on that side of the bracket for the right to face Immonen in the finals.

Immonen advanced through the field to draw Joey Korsiak in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Rodriguez, in the meantime, faced Mike Salerno in the other one. Immonen gave up only a single rack to Korsiak and moved on to the hot seat match. He was joined by Rodriguez, who’d sent Salerono west 7-4. The Iceman and Rodriguez battled to a somewhat predictable double hill battle that eventually sent Rodriguez to the semifinals.

On the loss side, Robles chalked up wins #3 and #4 against John Francisco (7-2) and Mhet Vergara (double hill) to draw Korsiak. Salerno picked up Frankie Hernandez, who’d eliminated Jimmy Conn 7-2 and Jonathan Smith 7-3 to reach him. A potential rematch between Hernandez and Robles loomed in the shortly-distant quarterfinals.

Robles did what he could to affect that rematch with a 7-5 victory over Korsiak in the event’s first money round. Salerno, though, ended Hernandez’ weekend 7-4.

Robles downed Salerno 7-5 in the quarterfinals, setting up a repeat of the 2018 hot seat match and final; Robles versus Rodriguez. They split those two matches last year. Robles, winning the first one and Rodriguez, claiming the title in the finals. Robles earned his shot against The Iceman with a 7-2 win over Rodriguez in that semifinal matchup, guaranteeing himself at least a repeat, runner-up finish and a certainly possible finish as the Open/Pro Champion.

According to Robles, he lost that final matchup, early. He missed an early shot that he says he shouldn’t have missed and The Iceman used the resultant momentum to move on and win the match 7-4.

“I made one mistake in that final match,” said Robles later, “and it cost me.”

Robles thanked Holden Chin, Matthew Harricharan, Troy Deocharran, and Joshua Friedberg’s Raxx staff for their hospitality, his own Predator Pro Am staff (to include his lovely wife, Gail) and title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, PlayNAPL.com, The DeVito Team, PoolOnTheNet.com, Cappelle (BilliardsPress.com), AZBilliards, Pool & Billiard Magazine and Billiards Digest. The Predator Pro Am Tour will open its 2020 season at Amsterdam BIlliards with an event scheduled for the weekend of January 18-19, 2020

Story by Skip Maloney AZBilliards

 
L-R Mike Salerno (4th), Jorge Rodriguez (3rd), Mika Immonen (1st),
and Tony Robles (2nd)
Complete Payouts
1 Mika Immonen $1325
2 Tony Robles $900
3 Jorge Rodriguez $600
4 Mike Salerno $300
5 Joey Korsiak $100
5 Frankie Hernandez $100
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