Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Did P&B Make the Right Choice for Male Player of the Year?

Ko Pin-Yi. Photo by Markus Noé.

By: Markus Noé

This past weekend Pool and Billiard Magazine released their first issue of 2016, and inadvertently caused a bit a stir. It was early Saturday afternoon as I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook news feed, when I saw the Pool & Billiard (P&B) online version of their magazine posted on Phil Capelle's wall. The main story of this issue was their picks for players of the year. On the women's side the pick was Ga Young Kim and the Men's was Shane VanBoening.

Anytime there is a choice for an award such as this there can usually be arguments made for one player or another. For instance Siming Cheng could have easily been an argument for player of the year. She is ranked number 4 on the World Pool Association(W.P.A) players list but won many non ranking events in Asia, where we all know is stacked with female talent.  However Ga Young Kim had a very successful season as well and overall I think no one had an issue with that pick.

Now for Shane VanBoening who also had a great year by repeating as Champion at the World Pool Masters. He had a runner up finish at this years World 9 Ball Championship in Qatar, and won the Challenge of Champions. A very impressive year and he won various other titles. Now usually I find myself defending SVB against his overly harsh critics. However this time, I like many thought the indisputable male player of the year was Ko Pin-Yi.

Some players were visibly bothered by the SVB pick instead of Ko Pin-Yi, the most vocal of which was Darren Appleton. He made the point that Ko won the two major events that are not only the most prestigious but the most sought after by the players, which is the World 9 Ball and World 10 Ball Championships. To win either one of these titles one has to make their way though a talent packed field of the best 128 players in the world. Make it even more difficult once these fields get down to the final 64, despite anyone's record the tournament switches to single elimination. Ko was able to accomplish this feat twice in a single calendar year, something that has never been accomplished before.

 Now despite this and not that it mattered much in my opinion, Ko was successful in other big tournaments in Asia. To me not automatically crowning the #1 ranked W.P.A player and the history making double World Champion, player of the year is not only strange, but irresponsible. Could you imagine if golfer Jordan Spieth who won five times on tour and two major major titles, did not get the nod as player of the year for 2015? I think it would be laughable, and in the pool scene the World 10 Ball and 9 Ball Championships is equal to winning the Masters or the U.S Open. Of course I mean in terms of prestige, payouts is a discussion for another article

It should be noted that Phil Capelle is the author of this article, but this apparently was a "board" decision by P&B. Obviously Capelle and the people at P&B are knowledgeable and the magazine itself and books by Capelle are a great resource. I just feel on this one they got it wrong. It is pretty clear who my pick is and other publications will have their pick as well so this was not the "end of the world" by any means.

However like I mentioned before this past season there was such a clear cut player of the year, that it was shocking and reinforces something that I have been coming across frequently. Which is either a lack of appreciation or knowledge of Asian and European players on this side of the pond. When in reality outside a few top North American players, Asia and Europe dominate the international pool scene. Now I feel that last statement should not be controversial but it will be to some which further proves my point. This is an opinion piece so feel free to post your thoughts or share this article with your friends. Also Ko Pin-Yi will be at Turning Stone which starts today so this will be a great time for those who have never seen him play to do so. I will be there for the entire event and hope to see as many of you as possible.