Martinez Breaks Through for Straight Pool Gold
Defeats Owen in U.S. Open 14.1 Championship final at Qlympics

by Paul Berg, InsidePOOL Magazine Staff
Rafael Martinez-Chavez and Gabe Owen are respected cue-sporting professionals, but neither was known for straight pool prowess prior to this trip to Louisville. The only two players to cash in as many as three of four U.S. Open events at the Qlympics over the past two weeks, it would be Martinez taking the only gold medal between the two, escaping from a long stretch of spotty play for both with a 29-ball-and-out run that concluded an extended 200-164 final match. Owen was undefeated until today, including a previous 150-95 victory over Martinez in the winners’-bracket final, while Martinez would start Friday in a semifinal match against Huidji See.
Runner-up at this year’s World Straight Pool Championship, See opened scoring with a two-rack run of 28, but Martinez responded, running 43 and then playing a safety with no fruit from his side-pocket break shot attempt. Martinez ran 40 more from the resulting opportunity to take a commanding 83-28 lead but yielded a shot to See there. The recent émigré to Florida from Holland wasn’t able to overtake Martinez, getting as close as 134-130 before missing a break ball with the bridge. Martinez reached 149 from that error but, only a ball away, was forced to play a sequence of safeties that included an intentional foul. See attempted a long combination from there and missed, yielding the two balls Martinez would need to wrap up a 150-130 win and earn a chance at revenge facing Owen.
Initially, it seemed that Owen would control the match, as Martinez won the dance for a shot from Owen’s opening break but only claimed the first group of 14 balls, missing the first break shot and ceding a four-rack run. Owen returned the favor after taking those 42, however, and Martinez regained the upper hand, jumping out to a 72-42 edge before trying to force a break of the pack out of a too-straight 14 ball and blasting it out of the pocket and off the table. The foul allowed Owen to grab a tenuous 82-71 lead with a couple of clearances. Each began to make positional mistakes and miss outright with abnormally high frequency, Owen holding his last lead at 151-149.
A final skidded miss from Owen of the 9 ball up-table left Martinez an open look with a 171-164 lead, and bridging across three racks. Martinez slowly worked his way through the last 29 balls for the 200-164 victory. With the conclusion of the straight pool event, U.S. Open play has ceased at the Clarion Conference Center, but there is still more pool to finish out the weekend. BCAPL Singles 9-Ball events are near conclusion, and tomorrow will bring play for juniors and 9-ball teams.
The marquee event remaining is The Action Challenge II, where Shane Van Boening held a first of three-day lead over Earl Strickland. The two will wind up a race to 100 in 10-ball Saturday, the winner claiming $20,000. Strickland is sponsored by Mike Gulyassy Cues and Baby’s Pro Shop, while Van Boening has put himself in the box to try to duplicate his victory over Corey Deuel 100-70 in The First Action Challenge. Check back with InsidePOOLmag.com for more from the Qlympics in Louisville.