Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Earl Strickland spices up Green Time

SUPER CUP While local hero Wu Chia-ching may be the main attraction in Taipei this weekend the American legend is doing his part to add excitement to the event


American Earl ''the Pearl'' Strickland lines up a shot during the Green Time Super Cup pool tournament at the the Core Pacific Mall, yesterday.


Fourteen of the world's top pool players are in town for the five-day Green Time Super Cup which concludes today. Nearly 400 spectators a day have been packing plywood stands in an arena housed in the basement of the Core Pacific Mall.

The line-up of competitors includes a trio of Philippine stars -- Effrem Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, and Marlon "Marvelous" Manalo. There's also the irascible American Earl "the Pearl" Strickland and German Ralf "The Kaiser" Souquet.

These colorful players have been overshadowed by the exploits of 16-year Taiwanese Wu Chia-ching, now known as the "Taishan Kid," whose recent victory last weekend at the World 8-ball Championships in Dubai made him the only person in history to hold both World 8-Ball and 9-Ball titles.

Given Wu's sudden success, he is the favorite to walk away with the tournament's top prize of US$20,000.

Wu continued to tell reporters he planned to use his winnings to purchase an apartment for his grandmother in Taipei County, joking that some real-estate companies may like to consider offering him a discount in exchange for becoming a celebrity spokesperson for their agency.

"Right now we're living in a relative's place," Wu said. "Though I hope to buy a three or four bedroom apartment very soon."

Wu is not only a young-prodigy, but also something of an inspirational figure as he was raised by his grandmother after his mother left him at a young age. His doting grandmother allowed him to play pool even as his grades were suffering, eventually investing in a 20-table pool hall so her grandson could play free of charge.

"I began playing pool at the age of 6, though I started to take it seriously at the age of 9," Wu said. "When I was 10, my grandmother invested in a pool hall so I could play between 2-3 hours a day."

Wu said his childhood hero was Effrem Reyes -- a player he feels can create magical shots. Nevertheless, Wu says he is mainly self-taught, having little interaction with local or foreign players.

The Green Time Super Cup has been held in one form or another since 1990 -- beginning as the Taipei Open and then renamed the TIM Cup.

The Super Cup smaller than the 100-person field who turned out earlier this year at the World 9-Ball Pool Championships in Kaohsiung.

A smaller field is giving local audiences more chance to watch colorful performers such as Earl "The Pearl" Strickland.

Yesterday, Strickland ran the gamut of poor behavior, such as taunting his opponents, chastising the audience, booing himself, clapping his feet and even fouling on his last shot to concede defeat to opponent Ralf Souquet.

For all of his bad etiquette, some are enjoying Strickland's antics, reasoning that Strickland is simply trying to liven up a sport which has been perceived a dull and unemotional.

Strickland is also known for developing a diverse line of pool accessories, such as Velcro wrist wraps, pool gloves, and oversized pool grips, some of which have never been seen before this week in Taiwan.

Strickland's been critical of local referees -- a sentiment that may be born out of frustration after having won only one of his first five matches in the tournament.

One opponent, Marlon "Marvelous" Manalo, escaped Strickland's taunts and a late-match run to win 7:6.

Chang Rong-lin of Taiwan defeated Strickland in a late-afternoon match, tuning out distractions and showing good concentration.

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