LaBumbard excels at pool tournament

ESCANABA – Five years ago, Austin LaBumbard of Rapid River, who was then seven years old, made a surprising run deep into Great Lakes Youth Pool tournament, earning the nickname “King Austin.”

On Saturday, the 12-year-old LaBumbard became king of the pool tables in the age 8-12 division by gaining his first title in a tight match with 12-year-old Alex Lynch of Escanaba.

Lynch won the first game of the championship round, then moved into contention in the second by hitting three straight shots at Crazy Joe’s Pool Hall in Escanaba.

“When he made those shots I thought, ‘oh, oh, I’m done,'” said Austin.

Lynch, left with just the 8-ball, then narrowly missed on a bank shot intended for the far left-hand pocket.

LaBumbard, who still needed to hit two shots for the title, did just that by sinking the 5-ball in the far right-hand pocket and the 8-ball on the opposite side.

“I tried to be patient,” said LaBumbard, who was runner-up the past two years. “After I hit the first shot, I knew I had to make sure to make the 8. Once, it went in, I said to myself ‘yahoo.'”

Robert Bridges of Wells became the first 13-year-old player to win the 13-16 division, taking two straight games from 15-year-old Justin Martin of Escanaba in the title match.

“After the first game it was just a matter of getting into the flow of things,” said Bridges, who placed third in the 8-12 division a year ago. “The second game was real close, only I wasn’t as nervous as in the first game. I felt this was within reach after taking third last year.”

Abi Lark of Gladstone was the highest female finisher in the 8-12 class, placing third overall in her first tournament.

“I got a little tired in the end, but I’m pretty happy about taking third,” said Lark. “I actually got lucky because I kept scratching. I had a lot of fun today.”

In 13-16, Chad Leisenring of Escanaba took third and Mikayla Peterson of Little Lake was the highest girls finisher.

LaBumbard and 16-year-old Nicole Hyland of Bark River each won a $500 scholarship in a prize drawing.

“Parents can use the scholarships for any college or trade school,” said Don Shope of Rapid River, who shares the tournament directing duties with Wayne Juhl of Escanaba. “The scholarships cost us a total of $1,000. But Bill and Connie Isetts (of Escanaba) donated $250 toward those, which we greatly appreciate. We’re looking for other businesses to get on board so we can award more of these scholarships.”

Eleven-year-old Dylan LaBumbard of Rapid River and 14-year-old Alyssa Johnson of Gladstone were winners of $300 gift cards from Wal-Mart.

“I did okay,” Dylan said of his second tourney appearance. “I’ve been playing way better than last year. I’m holding my own cue stick. Last year, I needed help with it.”

This was a learning experience for Johnson, who was playing in her first tournament.

“I put the 8-ball in the wrong pocket in both games,” she said. “Although, I really enjoyed the tournament because I learned a lot from it. I’ve only been playing for about a month. One thing I’ve learned is how to shoot better.”

The tourney, held at Crazy Joe’s for the first time, drew 63 players.

“I thought the tournament went pretty well,” said Shope. “We didn’t have to move 11 pool tables as in the past. They already have 12 there. This is a real nice facility. We hope to keep it here next year.”

In the adult tournament, Jesse Caswell of Escanaba topped the field of 14 and won $70. Tom Wise of Escanaba was runner-up, with Jeremy Sebeck of Gladstone third.