Nick competed! And very successfully I might add. He was a four time POY and won eight world championships in five different disciplines (9-Ball, One Pocket, Eight Ball, Banks and 14.1). I don't think ANYONE else has done that. Nick is also the only back to back U.S. Open champion.
Jay, it was a great night for sure. This was not the usual Legends and Champions exhibition as we didn't do our usual show but did what Sal & Butereas Billiards wanted us to do. Everyone was glued to the matches and as usual I stood in the background and at 6ft 4 I still had a problem seeing around the great crowd. Buteras did a great job getting the word out for this and we appreciate there support.I was there last night for the "show" at Butera's Billiards in Moorpark, CA. Very cool new room with four 9' Diamonds and six 7' Diamonds. They are big on league play every night.
First Nick played young Brendan Crockett (he's all of 14!) a Race To Seven 9-Ball. If you think this was a 'just for show' kind of match you would be very wrong. This young kid can play! He has a great future in pool if he sticks with it. Nick quickly saw what was going on, that this kid wanted to beat him, and it evolved into a very good match. Nick was looking for "lock 'em up" safeties and played some very tight (and serious) pool. He managed to eke out a 7-5 victory over a tough opponent.
Next up was Johnny's match with owner Sal Butera. In case you may not know, Sal (who is HOF'er Lou Butera's son) used to play on the pro tour in the 1990's. He only came back to playing pool in the last year and already has three top five finishes in regional tourneys with strong fields. This was a much longer match, Race To Nine, Ten Ball. You could really see what a difference one extra ball makes. I sat next to Nick during this match and he commented to me how much better a game Ten Ball is than 9-Ball. He said that in Ten Ball "You have to make many more decisions."
It was neck and neck until the score reached 4-3 Sal. Johnny just took over at this point, basically shutting Sal down and taking complete control of the match. He put on a display worthy of a THIRTEEN TIME PLAYER OF THE YEAR, running out every time he came to the table and winning the last six games in a row. Did I say this was on a very tough (and tight) Diamond Pro-Am. While watching this onslaught of brilliant pool, Nick looked at me and said, "You are looking at the last great American player. There has not been another great player to come from America since Johnny. Before him was Earl and that's about it for the last twenty five years."
Nick went on to comment, "In my era we had several GREAT american players. I played against Sigel, Mizerak, Buddy, Hopkins and Rempe. All great pool players." (He forgot to mention himself but I will) "As far as I'm concerned I played in the golden era for pool in America." I swear he used those exact words. Nick went on to say that he thought Parica may have been the best filipino player he ever played, not Efren. In 1990 Nick was invited to play Efren a Challenge Match in Manila, a Race To 60. Nick won easily 60-42 on Efren's home turf!
I just wanted to share these interesting comments from a man who was there and competed against all the best players of the last forty years. Unlike me, who was more of an observer than a player, Nick competed! And very successfully I might add. He was a four time POY and won eight world championships in five different disciplines (9-Ball, One Pocket, Eight Ball, Banks and 14.1). I don't think ANYONE else has done that. Nick is also the only back to back U.S. Open champion.
I asked Nick what he thought were the greatest accomplishments he had witnessed in his years in pool. He said the absolute greatest accomplishment is Johnny's thirteen POY awards in an eighteen year period. Especially so because the game was predominately 9-Ball, which has a high degree of luck to it. The second greatest is Earl's five U.S. Open titles. He said no one would ever match that.
Anyway, the place was packed and we had a great time. If you're ever out that way, be sure to visit Butera's in Moorpark, CA. Thanks to AZ'er Mark Cantrell for putting this exhibition tour together.