Can Efren Reyes nail a third world title?By Manolo R. Iñigo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Billiards great Efren “Bata” Reyes will again be among the favorites in the 22nd World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) Men’s 9-Ball Championship slated in Doha on June 22 to 29.
The 1999 winner in Cardiff, Wales, Reyes still packs a wallop at 57 years old. His friend and 2010 champion Francisco “Django” Bustamante is also expected to give the field a run for their money.
The (WPA) and the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation (QBSF) will stake a total cash prize of $250,000, with $36,000 going to the champion.
Whenever Reyes competes, this writer can’t help but recall the Pampanga native’s rise to fame.
Reyes almost did not make it to the United States in 1995 after a US embassy staffer denied his visa application. He was to compete in a major pool meet in Reno, Nevada. The embassy staffer obviously had not heard of Reyes’ exploits.
But with the help of the Puyat brothers Jose “Popit” and Aristeo “Putch”—Reyes’ longtime benefactors—and several concerned friends, the US visa was issued although a bit late.
Bucking the visa hassle in Manila and overcoming jet lag, Reyes still managed to rule the 1995 Sands Regency 9-Ball Open over perennial rival and many-time world champion Earl Strickland, 13-12, in the finals. It was his third triumph in the tournament after his 1985-86 conquest.
“It’s nice to see a man with humble beginnings rise from the pits of poverty. Efren has brought so much honor to his country and entertained millions all over the world with his talent and humility,” said Putch Puyat.
Reyes also won the World 8-Ball crown in 2004. Among his other achievements are the 2010 Billiards Player of the Decade, Presidential Legion of Honor, Hall of Fame, Athlete or co-Athlete of Year (three times) by the Philippine Sportswriters Association and inclusion in the list of Time Magazine’s 60 Asian heroes in 2006 (alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dalai Lama, the late President Cory Aquino, Inquirer founder Eugenia Apostol and Inquirer editor in chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc).
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