As the final year of the decade was in its last days, I started noting a lot of “Decade in Reviews,” online, be it sports, current events or otherwise. That, of course, got me thinking about my own past decade, both personally and professionally, which inevitably led me to APA where I’ve spent the better part of the past 20 years.
As I looked back at APA’s past decade, I was somewhat surprised at how much change the organization had undergone the past 10 years. Now it’s certainly not uncommon for an organization to experience change over that many years, but the magnitude of some of the changes is what really struck me. From celebrating some of the organizations highest accolades, to suffering the devastating loss of a visionary, to moving into a new home – there were monumental changes along the way.
With that, here’s the APA Decade in Review.
Guinness Certifies APA Championship as World’s Largest Pool Tournament
The APA National Team Championships, held annually in Las Vegas, were already known to be the world’s largest pool tournament within the billiard industry. But, in 2010, the folks at Guinness World Records reached out to us to make it official! With 12,329 registered participants, the world record was set that August. Since that time, the event has only continued to grow year after year!
The Hall Calls on Bell and Hubbart
In October 2010, APA Founders Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart received the billiard industry’s highest honor when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Longtime APA members, League Operators and staff packed the induction ceremony in Chesapeake, Virginia to watch Bell and Hubbart, along with Francisco Bustamante, be inducted.
During his induction speech, Bell noted how the accomplishment wasn’t simply a reflection of he and Hubbart’s success, but the success of the entire APA organization. It was truly a special night for Team APA.
Black Widow Invades North America
Fresh on the heels of being named as one of ESPN’s Sexiest Female Athletes, APA teamed up with the one and only Jeanette Lee to bring the APA Black Widow Tour to APA members across North America. With stops in Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami, Seattle and Toronto, just to name a few, thousands of APA members got the chance to get up close and personal with The Black Widow. Some were even lucky enough to win the match of a lifetime against the Billiard Hall of Famer.
Today, Jeanette is the League Operator for the Tampa Bay APA, where League members get to regularly interact with The Black Widow. Fans can also meet The Black Widow at the APA World Championships each year in Las Vegas.
A Legend Lost – the Passing of Larry Hubbart
The low point of the decade for APA came in August of 2013 during the APA National Team Championships. APA Founder and Hall of Famer Larry Hubbart passed away after a prolonged illness. Inducted into the Hall of Fame just three years prior, the induction ceremony would turn out to be Hubbart’s last public appearance as he fell ill shortly thereafter and never fully recovered.
The devastating news hit APA staff and longtime League Operators particularly hard during the tournament that year, but just as Larry would have wanted, the team pushed forward to ensure a spectacular experience for those in attendance.
The following year, Hubbart’s name was added to the U.S. Amateur Championship Trophy of Champions, an award that features the name of every U.S. Amateur Champion. The trophy resides year-round in the Larry Hubbart Memorial Exhibit at the APA Headquarters in St. Louis as a constant reminder of Larry’s legacy.
APA Introduces 3-Point Scoring System in 8-Ball
In perhaps the biggest change ever to APA League play, 8-Ball scoring switched from the best 3 of 5 format to the 3-Point Scoring System. After being test marketed for more than a year in select markets, all APA, CPA and JPA Leagues converted to the 3-Point Scoring System by Spring Session 2014.
That summer, the 3-Point Scoring System was used for the first time at the APA National Team Championships. The system has resulted in closer match scores and has helped to reduce sandbagging by making every game within a match significant.
APA Signs Florian Kohler
During the early part of the decade, a new face burst onto the billiard scene. Florian “Venom” Kohler started making trick shot videos in his bedroom. Kohler teamed up with producer Nathan DuMoulin to create a “Venom Trickshots” DVD, which was pirated and released on the internet. The video quickly went viral and garnered millions of views from across the globe.
Today, Florian’s YouTube page has a library of content and hundreds of millions of views. In 2014, we decided to team up with Florian in Las Vegas to create this viral video hit at the old Riviera Hotel & Casino. Florian is still making trickshot videos and also runs the APA Pool League in Las Vegas.
Goodbye to the Riviera
In February of 2015, news came that the Riviera Hotel & Casino would be closing after 60 years. The Riviera had hosted the Vegas-based APA championships for nearly a quarter-century, as well as dozens of other high profile billiard events. Though the property itself had become quite dated over the years, it still held a special place in the hearts of many poolplayers who had made wonderful memories there over the years.
The Riviera officially shut its doors following the APA National Singles Championships in early May. Several APA staff and members were some of the last people to ever leave the Riv. In August of 2016, the final tower of the Riviera came tumbling down during the APA World Championships, a fitting display to truly mark the end of an era.
The ground where the Riviera once stood was sold to the Las Vegas Convention Center, and today is part of the expansion of the Convention Center between its existing location on Paradise to the Las Vegas Strip.
A New Era Begins
With every end comes a new beginning, and the Westgate Resort & Casino Las Vegas is where the APA National Team Championships would be reborn. In August of 2015, for the first time in more than two decades, a casino property other than the Riviera hosted an APA Championship in Vegas. Five years later, the Westgate Resort & Casino has become a wonderful home for both of the APA Championships held in Sin City and will be the home of APA’s Vegas-based events for years to come.
Parks Dominates the Decade
2009, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017
One name we saw a lot of over the past decade is that of Brian Parks of Bakersfield, Calif. Parks actually made a name for himself in 2009 when he secured his first U.S. Amateur Championship. He cemented that legacy by winning four more U.S. Amateur Championship titles over the next decade. Today, Parks’ five U.S. Amateur Championship titles still stand as a record. Though he hasn’t won the title since 2017, he’s still pursuing his sixth U.S. Amateur Championship title.
View the Hall of Champions here: https://poolplayers.com/us-amateur-championship/champions/.
JPA Team Wins World Title
APA Leagues expanded to Japan in December 2007 and operates as the Japanese Poolplayers Association (JPA). In 2008, teams from Japan began competing in the APA World Championships.
For most North American teams, meeting up with a team from the JPA offered a unique experience. Teams from Japan quickly became known for their great sportsmanship, and sometimes even brought small gifts for their opponents.
But, teams from Japan typically did not fare well in the tournament. Not only did they have the challenge of communicating with their opponents and tournament officials through an interpreter, but their travel to the event itself was also significantly longer than most North American teams.
However, after more than a decade of competing at the APA World Championships, a Japanese team finally came up big in 2018, winning the 9-Ball World Championship for the first time ever!
View the results here: https://poolplayers.com/2018-9-ball-world-championship-results/.
APA Adds Team Captains Championship
When you already have the World’s Largest Pool Tournament, it’s not easy to find space and time to add yet another championship event, but that’s exactly what we did in 2018. Knowing that Team Captains are the lifeblood of APA, we created an event just for them. The new format proved widely popular among participants with a team from San Diego being the first to win the inaugural Team Captains Championship.
View the results here: https://poolplayers.com/2018-team-captains-championship-results/.
Renee Lyle Retires
Renee Lyle had been a fixture of APA for nearly 25 years. Needless to say, tears were shed when she announced her retirement from APA in March 2019. Many more were shed the following month when Lyle said her goodbyes during the APA League Operator Convention in Las Vegas. Lyle’s permanent replacement, Greg Fletcher, was named President by Founder Terry Bell just before the end of 2019.
View story here: https://poolplayers.com/farewell-to-the-queen/.