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Mosconi Cup - USA Captain's Journal
 Posted on Thursday, December 08 2011 @ 19:55:21 UTCby admin
Mosconi Cup The Mosconi Cup XVIII - Las Vegas
Matchroom Sport
Las Vegas
Nevada
USA
www.matchroompool.com
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Thursday-Sunday 8-11 December 2011


Mosconi Cup - USA Captain's Journal

This has been one of the greatest honors of my life. It's also a little intimidating and surreal, coaching and leading some of these great players that I myself have looked up to when I was younger. I also wanted to clear up some inaccuracies or perhaps miss-perceptions about my chosen role as the Captain. One of the items, is my nationality. So to clarify, I was indeed born in South Korea. My birth parents were both Korean. They split near the time of my birth, and I was adopted by my stepfather, who was a sergeant in the US Army. I was raised in Virginia from the time I was 2 months old till 21 when I moved to Orlando, Florida, my current home of the past 13 years. South Korea is one of the biggest allies of the US. In America, I grew up taking Tae Kwon Do and one thing you will notice in every Korean martial arts school, is there will be a USA flag always side by side with the Korean flag, this includes on every uniform that students wear as well. That's how strong the tie is between Korea and the USA. When I visited Korea, I received notoriety as a Korean American player, same as Jeanette Lee my fellow American pro player with Korean heritage. I have played for Korea in some exhibition events, and have been very proud and pleased of my acceptance of it even though I am a US citizen. I can say this, my selection as one of the youngest Captains of the Mosconi Cup and first Asian American, this is a pleasing thing to the Korean and Asian community. And though the masses have been very supportive, I wanted to explain the dynamics to those who may have any questions. I like to add, I played for Team USA five times myself, with a winning track record 4 out of the 5 times contributing to 4 wins for the USA in Mosconi Cup history. Special thanks to Johnny Archer, Mike Dechaine, Rodney Morris, Shawn Putnam, Shane Van Boening, and Europe's Darren Appleton for their public and vocal approval of this honor given to me. To be forward , anyone to doubt my loyalty to the USA Team or America I find very amusing as it is so far from the truth.

Please enjoy my re-cap of a Team USA Captain's log.

Charlie Williams, Korean American professional pool player.



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DAY 1 - Sunday 4 December 2011

Left China and took my 12 hour flight to Las Vegas. Had a layover in Los Angeles where I caught up on numerous calls and texts due to be gone 45 days overseas. After producing back to back successful international events, was really looking forward to my new job as captain of Team USA. This will be my final major billiard project of the year. I plan on giving it my all and end the year on a great note.

I land with my friend Justin picking me up and his wife Jenny making me a nice Korean dinner which I swallow. He gives me good news that one of my star players Shane Van Boening just defeated Earl Strickland in a long challenge match. Good! He will be in stroke, and we are really going to need him. Johnny Archer calls me and lets me know he will be arriving late the following day, and Mike Dechaine already reports in he will be there early.

I pass out at my hotel after check-in.


Mike & Johnny share a joke at 8am

DAY 2 - Monday 5 December 2011

Mike reports in and I grab him and head to run errands on supplies I need for the Team. Justin and Jenny are a big help as they chauffeur us around town and I pick up what we need for the week. We grab lunch and Ive been eating Chinese food for a month, so I'm dying for a cheeseburger and we have a great one. Max Eberle and Eric "Fatboy" Peterson hook us up with the owner of Best Billiards and we can practice there free of charge. Paying pooltime is the pet peeve of pro players. I call up Rodney Morris and Shane.

They meet us there and we start training and strategizing. Johnny and Shawn not arrived yet but texts us. Shawn asks if someone can pick him up at midnight, and Shane says "He got 2nd at US Open, he can get his own 10 minute taxi!" and we all laugh and agree. We head to Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Rodney agrees with me later the interaction thus far has been good. Johnny gets into hotel and we all meet up for a final day meeting. They leave my room, and I pass out.


Shawn, Rodney, (shane in back) working hard at Best Billiards

DAY 3 - Tuesday 6 December 2011

Today the complete Team meets. Several weeks of emails, phone calls, Skype, and texts climax today with our first Team meetings face to face. We have lunch together and head out to play tennis. It's cold, but we get warmed up fast by Derrick Bauer, my tennis pro friend who helps us. Shawn, Johnny, and Rod help Mike learn crash course on playing tennis. The Boys have a great time and Dechaine swears he is going to now take up tennis. We have a Team USA ground rules meeting and all the guys seem to be agreeing and clicking well. I'm pleasantly surprised, but not too surprised. I wonder at times if I'm imagining this cohesion or if it's really real, when separately, Rodney mentions that as a team this time, "you've already done a thousand times more than what's been done in the past". It's a compliment that motivates me further. Everyone showers up and we head out to practice. We work on several areas and we end on really terms, and I take note of many key things. The formulation of partners is becoming more apparent. We have a great Italian dinner and call it a night. It's been a 12 hour straight day with the team never leaving each other's sight, but no one complains and each man is ready to step up and do his part. I sleep easy.


Rodney and Johnny in some off table Doubles Action


Team USA At Red Rock Country Club with Derrick Bauer

DAY 4 - Wednesday 7 December 2011

We get together for breakfast and share a great meal together. Everyone is in good spirits and many jokes and laughter fill the air. Mike is impressive each meal eating very healthily. Rodney and I split a meal, which turns out perfect proportion for us. We break off and meet later for a TV commercial. After filming we head to practice room that is set up for us at MGM. I have the Boys work on many things and they are very compliant on my methods. It's really nice to work with such talented individuals. I make mental comparison notes to other players I trained such as Allison Fisher, Rodney Morris, Yu Ram Cha. They ask more questions and I give more answers. The trust is getting bigger and better between all of us. Egos have not been a factor at all, and sometimes its easy to forget you are working with the best in America, and some of the best in the world. The guys have done everything I have asked of them to do, and with sincerity and focus. We break off again and get ready for the evening Mosconi Dinner reception. I haven't even had a chance write my speech yet. A wave of fatigue hits me and I lay down for a power nap. I wake up and dress in my suit and tie and head out. I bump into the Euro squad first and say hello. Everyone is nice, though you can feel some tension in the air. I have a nice speech ready but as I go on when called upon as the captain of USA, the MC whispers to me to keep it really short. So I skip a lot, including mentioning each individual player on both sides, especially mine. After me, Europe's great Captain Johan goes out and makes a speech 4x longer than mine and individually recognizes each team member. I can't help feel a little bothered I missed my chance. Mike whispers to me, "why didn't you mention us?" and I can't help but laugh.

So here's my 2nd chance at what I was going to say about the teams:

Team Europe
Chris Melling - He is their young, confident newbie.
Niels Feijen- A familair and worthy foe.
Nick van den Berg - A very steady, solid player who will for sure have 2 USA Boys aiming hard for him.
Darren Appleton - The hot hand of Europe.
Ralf Souquet - The anchor.
Captain Johan Ruijsink - A proven great captain and respected by team Europe and myself.

Team USA
Mike Dechaine - Our young gun full of energy and fire.
Shawn Putnam- In my opinion, a very strong player who many fear and may not admit. His last time playing was when I was on team with him. We won by a big score. A good omen for us.
Shane Van Boening - proven to be one of the greatest champions America has. And no doubt, one of the top 5 in the world.
Rodney Morris - If there was a player who defines what the Mosconi Cup is , this is the man. The Heart and Spirit of Team USA.
Johnny Archer - For a long time, the role model and soul of American pool.

Dinner is delicious and my Boys are coming to me anxious to leave and get ready for one more practice session. We slowly disappear into the air one by one... And meet down in the "Team USA Temple".


Team Europe and Team USA in a pre-event congenial picture before the war starts

We work a long while. Mike is exhausted and is excused after our final team meeting on deciding the first day roster of match order. Johnny heads out next. Shawn is tired but wants to keep practicing along with Rodney and Shane. Everyone is playing great. We all agree that this is the most organized and disciplined USA Team ever. For me, by far this group of guys have the best chemistry I've personally witnessed. Shane is the last man in the room and wants to keep working. I help out a little while longer, and Johnny comes back one more time unexpectedly (it is a good 20 minute walk round trip from the hotel room to the playing room). Johnny seems happy at the progress of the team and work ethics. He heads out a bit later, and Shane and I are alone for few more minutes. Shane still wants to continue, and I realize at that point, he may wants some alone time and I leave him reminding him on next day's meeting in the morning and to get some rest. We will definitely be needing that talented arm of his tomorrow. I pass out on my bed too tired to take my clothes off. I'll brush my teeth in the morning.


Team USA filming a commercial for Sky Sports

That's it for now. Wish us luck and your best thoughts.
CW







DAY 5 - Thursday 8 December 2011 - First day of matches

*Captain's note: Though I can discuss some general notes, I cannot disclose anything too in depth, personal, or secretive in our methods for obvious reasons. Still, I hope this is
fun and interesting for fans and readers.


The night before, I study the lineup for our side. Actually, been studying it for weeks and now I have better idea of adjustments according to what I saw the past few days in person.

Also made a mock lineup of the Euro side, but that wasn't a big factor because you cant really control or worry about it but so much. I predicted Nick and Niels would be together at some point as well as Darren and Ralf, though my team didn't think they would put the former paired. I told them if we lost a match today, it would likely be the 1st match which is a strange 5 on 5 affair with each playing game by game. It's a trash shoot and luck plays a big part, so if we lost we would disregard it. The first game Shane comes with 3 back to back killer shots, but misses the 4th hard shot and loses the game. From there it didn't turn out good for us.

Johnny and Shawn paired up nicely , which I suspected they would being such close friends. Turns out this would be our only win for the day. Mike and Shane practiced together as a team religiously, but at 4-0 up, the wheels fell off and left open too many chances for Darren and Ralf. Shane came up next against Melling, whom Shane is 3-0 against. At 5-5, Shane breaks and makes 4 balls on break and is left with no shot. He plays a decent safe and leaves Chris long, but he is such a monster shot maker that he makes it and runs out. We end the day at 4-1 down. I talk to the guys after the match, and though no one feels great about the day, there were no excuses and everyone seemed determined still. We have a nice dinner together at Rain Forest Cafe, a children's restaurant. Its for the benefit of Johnny's kids and wife. No one is upset. Will have to re-group and plan for the next day.

DAY 6 - Friday 9 December 2011 - We strike Back

I change our daily routine some to refresh things. I take a hot shower and go over all the scenarios for today. No matter what, we have to win the majority of the matches today and make a gain. If things really go well, we can take the lead. I jog the normally 15 minute walk to the USA Practice Temple. The first man in the Practice room is Mike. We have a very good one on one chat. I give him a thorough talk about strategy against Souquet. He is winless against Ralf in his career so far. I know Mike's match against Ralf could be pivotal for us and would make a big statement if he wins. We work on shots. The other guys drift in one by one. I scramble drills and rack the balls as fast as possible to get each man enough table time and to get ready. Each player seems completely refreshed with rest, and everyone is charged up. I observe each player is pocketing balls really well and better than the previous days. I'm hopeful. I call a team meeting and we go over the day's mission and strategy.


The Team USA Temple

Johnny and Shane go out first. I run back and forth from the match to the practice room to make sure Mike is ready. He is intensely sweating the match on our TV screen. I turn it off at 5-5 to Mike's dismay. I tell him to not worry, Johnny and Shane will win and to have faith and focus on his game. We hear the applause from USA side and we know we got it. Mike goes out and defeats Souquet 6-1 playing absolutely flawless. He comes back jubilant and runs around the room, looking like he can take on Europe all by himself. He tells me "I did everything you told me to do". He really is a talented kid, one who could be around a long time.

Shawn and Rocket go out next. Our 2 left handers. In the middle there is controversy with some fans and Rod isn't happy. Darren says something I cant hear and Rod gets more agitated. I get concerned. I step in and have a few words with both guys, and even Johan. Things calm a bit. We have tied ! Melling misses for only the 2nd time in the event after making difficult shots over and again. Mike yells out "he finally missed!'. Rod and Shawn win. We are tied! Team Europe is seen scrambling back with their captain to the locker room. It has been a very bad day for them so far. Unfortunately things roll sour for us the next 2 matches, but we still end the day being the winners of this round with 3 wins and 2 losses. We have dinner together at Aloha Kitchen, Rodney's recommendation and the food is delicious and the price is amazing for the amount they give. It crosses my mind why Rodney and Hawaiians are generally so big and strong.


SVB treats Johnny's kids to ice cream at Aloha Kitchen

Memorable highlights and notes thus far:

    - Mike whiffing the tennis ball a few times on the serve during our tennis outing
    - Rodney banking the 1ball around the table and while it still had 8 feet to travel, he turns to face the audience and gets into a "can I hear it drop" stance. It drops and leaves perfect shape and Shawn and him run out.
    - Someone comes in and steals Mike's Ipod and Shane's watch out of our practice room on Day 1, adding salt to our wounds
    - Originally the rack rule was to be regular rack and no "Magic Rack" template, which was applauded by the USA Team. Later on just a couple days before the start, it was told we would have to use it to the dismay of all of us. But due to the troublesome issues the refs had on using it after Day 1, it was changed back to regular rack. Again, the guys applauded this even though it threw us off on the preparation again. "Someone should burn the Magic Rack" said one of the guys.
    - As the crowds chanted 'Go USA!" and " Go Europe" back and forth, Rodney yelled out in between "Go Southeast Asia!" , cracking up the fans and all the players with laughter. Rodney, by far, the funniest and charming player ever in the Mosconi Cup
    - As I walked away from Rod and Shawn's match to the practice room to get Johnny ready, Europe was running out for the win. As I spoke to Johnny my eye caught the Tv screen with Chris missing in the final game and I surprised myself, and Johnny, as I found myself leaping into Johnny with his cue hitting his head and mine (he was ok) with a hug exclaiming "He missed!"
    - As Team Europe walks by us at the lobby of MGM after Day 2, Rodney walks up to Darren and shakes his hand and quashes whatever happened for the day
    - Mike and I were surprised to find that we can actually wear each others clothes. Should this bother me?



DAY 7 - Saturday 10 December 2011 - 3rd Day Matches

Though we trailed daily, Team USA never gave up for a second!

Big day today as we all meet for breakfast and join at the USA Practice Room. We worked on the lineup the night before and felt confident that we could take the lead today. The first 2 matches we don't have a choice as the format dictates that the guys who haven't played singles and last pairing in doubles must play. So We already know they are sending out Niels & Darren and then Darren again in singles. And they also know it will be Mike and Shawn with Shawn coming back to back. We feel pretty good as Shawn is undefeated with 2 wins and Mike played a flawless match against Ralf yesterday. Our two hot hand players together. And then we have Rodney and Johnny up next as partners followed by SVB and Mike in singles. Can't ask for much better.

Niels look a little shaky as he misses 2 banks but gets a safety off the first miss, and then lucks in the other bank into wrong pocket. He also makes a cut shot and send the cueball towards the side pocket, hits the point, goes towards the corner pocket and again misses a scratch and gets perfect shape. Not looking like the rolls coming our way.It starts off bad as Mike and Shawn fall to Niels/Darren. And then in singles, Shawn comes out strong in 1st rack against Darren but the crowd gets too excited and fast on cheering every shot and I can see it throws off Shawn's rhythm as he misses the 9ball. I ask him if the crowd is over-applauding on the monotonous shots, and he nods his head yes. Darren wins the match a few games later.
Rodney and Johnny come out next but they don't get the opportunities we need and we fall again. This could be a short day. We need Shane to pull a win. If we lose the next two matches its over.

Shane has alot of heat on him but he comes out strong up 5-2. Nick comes back though and now its 5-5. We are all on the edge of our seats. Nick comes up dry. Shane has a long off angle 1ball. If he misses its over. Its a shot none of us would like to shoot and we all silently pray for Shane to hold up. I watch his technique. He stays smooth, deliberate, and down on the shot. The 1ball floats in without touching a rail. We jump up and cheer. He runs out and lets a primal yell out. We all run down to cheer him. It's unreal the heart he has.
No matter what, we are into tomorrow. Mike comes up next.

It's a bad match. Chris plays great shots and at same time gets a couple key rolls his way. In a key game, he misses a bank and lucks it in another pocket and wins. Mike looks devastated and looks at me with frustration and despair. I nod my head and motion him to stay focus. There's not much else can be done. Chris runs out the next rack and its over with Europe at 10-5.

Johnny and I meet up to discuss the lineup. We both have the same ideas. We call Rodney up and ask him to compare notes. He has the exact same lineup in mind as we do and also identical with Europe's lineup. We know what we have to do. I tell Johnny before he leaves, "It may sound crazy, but I still feel like we can win this.". He agrees.


The whole team prepared and was organized and ready daily

DAY 8 - Sunday 11 December 2011 - The Final Day

We all meet for breakfast. Everyone is in great spirits. We have a prayer before we eat . Jokes and smiles surround our table. I remember being on past teams even with a lead, and the team beating each other up like we lost already. These guys are really special. We walk to practice room. I have a team meeting and go over the day's strategy. First , I remind the players that there is more to life than pool, and how great this team's spirit has been. Not once ever has anyone's spirit been broken. I look to each man, and can see they are all ready to win today and believe. It's amazing. I get the players warmed up. Shane is going up first.

He texted me the night before that he wanted to go first and guaranteed us the 1st win. Johnny wanted to go right behind him. Shane plays unbelievably under the pressure. I whisper something to Johnny that he once told me as a lesson, and figured it was a good time to remind him of his own wise words.

He smiles and nods. He delivers the win. They both deliver for us today. Our whole team celebrates, but not too much because we know can be a long day. Rodney comes out and has a re-match with Niels. I think its perfect.

Shawn is in practice room getting ready to play Ralf once Rodney wins. He is ready to redeem himself. Mike will re-match Chris in the second to last match. He is dying for the re-match. We really see it all happening for us today. I glance over to the Europe squad. Its quiet as we win the first 2 matches. Europe looks a little nervous in the seats.

First game and Rodney errors. Niels errors right back in a bad scratch. Nerves are showing. Rod runs out. Later its 2-2, crucial game. Rod misses and lucks a ball! Shane turns to me and says "finally the rolls are coming our way after 3 days". I agree. I speak to soon. The next ball Rodney hits skids on him badly and we all slump into our chairs at the misfortune. The next game Niels makes 3 very tough shots in a row. He makes a long 9ball off the backrail and fires it in. It feels like a dagger.

Later, at 5-3, Rodney has an open table after break, and looks like its going to be 5-4 and alot of pressure on Niels to deliver. The 2ball again, skids. Unbelievable. I cant help but show my disgust at the ill fortune. Rodney looks at us, and we feel his pain. Niel misses and now Rodney is left open, but I already feel that he is afraid of another skid and will not roll the ball. He proves me correct. He fires it in hoping to get position but instead is left with a safety. He botches it.

Niels has a mickey mouse out. Europe wins and we all go out and shake their hands. They have played well. Fortune smiled on them a few more times than us, but they took advantage of every opportunity and played solid behind it all. A great team. So was ours.

Europe was a worthy opponent

A few key games we lost could have turned the Mosconi Cup differently. We all know this, but no one complains. Rodney comes in and apologizes "Sorry boys". We all hug him and bump fists. Rod has been the backbone and saved the teams in the past. We win and lose as a team.

Europe has had the advanatge of having strong programs for thei players ever since they were junior players. Johan tells me his job was definitely easier since he trains and works with these guys during the year, and they all know his program. He tells me he knows I tried to start a program with the USA this year. I agree. It needs to be continued and perfected. 11-7 was the scoreline. I cant help but feel that if we had a little more time together that this team wouldve won the Cup.

I tell the guys that even if I dont captain the team next year, that any players returning should remind the others and the new captain to keep much of the program intact and running to perfect it. And add on of course. They agree. Mike mentions a few good ideas and hope the team will remember. For five guys to be thrown together for the first time, the chemistry was unbelievable. Johnny even mentioned it surpassed his expectations.

Mike asks me to walk with him to the Euro room. He wants a few autographs for his friends. I see the team again and again congratulate them . They are still our professional brothers after all. I tell Niels he should go get the final 9ball as it is a big honor to make the last ball as I kept mine when I once made the final ball and kept it. He sends someone to run and fetch it.

I go back and the USA Team signs autographs and pictures. We sign program books for each other as each player wants to share them with their friends. No one is upset. We all meet one last time and every man admits aloud how much fun they had this week. Shane speaks up, "I had alot of fun this week". Each man agrees it was a great team. For me even in defeat, in many ways it was the best team I've been a part of.

"We fought and believed to the very end. We would still be playing if we could."

Charlie Williams.









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