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Shamrock Shootout a Shining Star on Chicago’s Exciting Sports Menu

shamrock 2017 final awards picTop ranked Kane Waselenchuk beat #14-ranked Andree Parrilla 11-1, 11-4, 12-10 to capture the 2017 Shamrock Shootout and IRT Tier 1 Pro Stop Championship Final Sunday at Glass Court Swim & Fitness. 

Shamrock Shootout and IRT Tier 1 Pro Stop Draw

Championship Final 

Kane Waselenchuk defeated Andree Parrilla 11-1, 11-4, 12-10

Making his first IRT Tour Finals appearance, #14-ranked Andree Parrilla had a tough task on his hands when he faced top ranked Kane Waselenchuk. Waselenchuk had won all four previous matchups including an 11-0, 11-0, 11-0 drubbing at the 2016 UnitedHealthcare US Open in Minneapolis, Minn. this past Oct. Waselenchuk breezed through the first game 11-1 and followed that up with an 11-4 game two. In the third game, Parrilla led 3-2 early before chipping away at Waselenchuk’s lead to tie the game at 8-8. The third and final game would need extra innings as the two exchanged points and side-outs before Waselenchuk pulled away for the 12-10 victory.

Semifinals

Andree Parrilla defeated Rocky Carson (3-11), 11-8, (4-11), 11-5, 11-8

Making his first IRT Tour semifinals appearance, Andree Parrilla beat #2-ranked Rocky Carson in the third meeting between the two professionals to advance to his first-ever championship final. Carson held a 2-0 series lead entering the match and Parrilla had beat Alejandro Landa and Daniel De La Rosa prior to the semifinal. In the first game, Carson jumped out to 7-0 lead before easily winning 11-3. Parrilla started to find his footing in the second game and rallied three straight points after tying the game at 8-8 to even the match at 1-1. Carson showed his veteran presence and rebounded in the third game with an 11-4 victory. The fifth game was a back and forth affair. Parrilla jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Carson roared back and made the score 6-9. As the match progressed, Parrilla continued to gain confidence and the level of difficulty of his shots kept increasing. Parrilla closed out the match 11-8 to advance to his first-ever championship final.  

Kane Waselenchuk defeated Alvaro Beltran 11-2, 11-2, 11-5

The second semifinal of the evening was quite the contrast from the match between Andree Parrilla and Rocky Carson. Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk maneuvered past Alvaro Beltran with poise and ease to advance to the championship final. 

Saturday Quarterfinals 

Andree Parrilla defeated Alejandro Landa 11-8, (10-12), 11-3, 12-10

Andree Parrilla and Alejandro Landa, two quick power hitters outside the top 10 rankings, opened the quarterfinals playing top-five ball competitive with any pro on the Tour. The two met once before in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Lewis Drug IRT ProAm, where they fought a 5-game 2-1/2 hour battle that saw Landa come out on top (scores: 4,8, -2, -10,10). This time, and only after his second quarterfinal finish in two seasons, Parrilla earned his first semifinal appearance on the pro tour, where he’ll face the winner of the second quarterfinal of the day, Rocky Carson v Jose Rojas.

Rocky Carson defeated Jose Rojas 13-1, 12-10, (5-11), 11-6

Meeting for the 18th time in their careers, two top IRT players met with a game plan of shoot to kill rather rally, favouring Rocky’s style of outlasting opponents. It looked like Rojas would take both of the first two games, but as one observer noted, “Rocky makes you earn it.” Carson came from behind in each game, tying the second at 10-10 as they dove and scrambled for each point. Carson came ahead with a 13-11 win in game two, and a 12-10 win in game one. Game 3 started the same way, but ended differently when Carson didn’t claw back and Rojas took the game 11-5 to stay in the match. Rojas took an early lead in game four, but Carson wasn’t going to let another game slip away and tied it at 3 each before pulling away, point by point. Rojas fought back, but Carson won game three 11-6 to take the hard-fought match.

Alvaro Beltran defeated David Horn 11-4, 11-4, 12-10

In only his second quarterfinal appearance on the pro Tour, Horn took an early lead against the IRT veteran, until Beltran stepped into the box at 0-3 and took control, as well as the lead. Horn earned more serves and another point, but Beltran controlled the first and second games for a 2-0 lead. Beltran stepped between the famous glass relaxed and clearly comfortable for game three, but Horn kept it close before giving the crowd a scare when he took an injury time out at 4-7, favoring his arm. After the break, he returned and earned the serve and the next point as he clawed his way back into the game, 7-8 before taking the lead at 11-10 when Beltran skipped game (and match) point twice. The veteran held firm to win game three 12-10 for the match.

Kane Waselenchuk v Markie Rojas 11-9, 11-6, 11-6

The younger Rojas came out shooting aggressively, but couldn’t score until making his mark at 1-6. He pressured Kane, the dominating #1 player, overcoming the deficit and taking a 7-6 lead. Neither let up as Kane again pulled into the lead, 8-6. Rojas’s timeout cut Kane’s momentum, as the players exchanged the lead with Rojas tying at 9-9 before Kane hit the winner at 11-9. The intensity on the court was palatable as Rojas kept up the intensity in game two, falling short but not entirely out, 11-6. Unintimidated, Rojas got the first point of game three on a tight down-the-line and the second point on a lob that dropped in the corner beginning an early 3-1 lead. Kane heated up to tie the game and take the lead 5-3. Shifting from pure power to controlled power, Kane drove ahead, steady and strong before taking game three 11-6 for the match.

Round of 16s

Andree Parrilla d Daniel De La Rosa 11-3, 1-11, 11-9, 10-12, 12-10

Alvaro Beltran d Thomas Carter 11-7, 11-7, 11-7

Alejandro Landa d Mario Mercado 11-5, 11-9, 11-9

David Horn d Jansen Allen 11-2, 11-6, 11-1

Jose Rojas d Felipe Camacho 11-2, 11-6, 11-3

Markie Rojas d Sebastian Franco 11-3, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8

Rocky Carson d Andres Acuna 11-2, 11-4, 9-11, 11-0

Kane Waselenchuk d Samuel Murray 11-0, 11-1, 11-1

Friday Round of 32s

David Horn d Fernando Javier Rivera 11-3, 11-5, 11-4

Thomas Carter d Robert Collins 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-4

Alejandro Landa d Set Cubillos 11-9, 11-8, 11-0

Felipe Camacho d Edwin Galicia 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-0

Andres Acuna d Jake Bredenbeck 11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9

Samuel Murray v Christian Wer 11-6, 11-0, 11-5

Markie Rojas v Gerardo Franco 12-10, 11-4, 11-4

Andree Parrilla v Justus Benson 11-6, 11-2, 11-6

Thursday Round of 64s

Samuel Murray d Hanzel Martínez Pérez 11-6, 11-4, 11-0

Christian Wer d Scott McClellan 11-8, 2-11, 4-11, 11-2, 11-8

Gerardo Franco d Geoff Goldblatt 6-11, 7-11, 2-11

Fernando Javier Rivera d Juan Herrera WBF – No Show

David Horn d Rocco Forgione 11-1, 11-2, 11-1

Robert Collins d Thomas Carter 11-5, 11-6, 11-6

Justus Benson d Andrés Gómez 11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 12-10

Andree Parrilla d Bryan Crosser 11-4, 11-4, 16-14

Jake Bredenbeck d Sergio Acuna 11-2, 11-2, 11-0

Set Cubillos d Alexi David Cocco Hayes 11-2, 11-8, 11-2  

Edwin Galicia d Eugene Coyle 11-8, 11-8, 11-7 

Andres Acuna d Juan Salvatierra  11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9

Shamrock Shootout a Shining Star on Chicago’s Exciting Sports Menu

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St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Chicago is noted for many traditions: every year the Chicago River is dyed green: parades delight thousands of people who take in high school bands, glad-handing politicians and energetic dance troops promoting the “wearin’ of the green”; and green beer flows from the tappers of local drinking establishments. But for the Chicago racquetball community the weekend now includes the new tradition of a men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Tier 1 pro stop.

For the third consecutive year the IRT’s top racquetball players in the world come to town for the 32nd annual Shamrock Shootout and IRT Tier 1 Pro Stop at the Glass Court Swim and Fitness Club March 16-19.

The event takes on added importance as the pros enter the final few months of the 2016-2017 IRT season, and players vie for thousands of dollars in prize money as well as critical ranking points.

Area fans and amateur players are expected to see almost all of the Tour’s top 12-ranked players — as well as top amateurs entering the pro qualifying division — according to organizers.

“We are hoping for a full draw of 32, that’s our goal,” said Geoff Peters, Shamrock Shootout Tournament Director and the driving force behind the event. Last year the pro draw had 28 entrants. The tournament is quickly becoming a can’t-miss event for one of the top racquetball markets in the United States.

“Chicago deserves to watch the best players compete,” Peters said. “Chicago sent the fifth highest number of players to the UnitedHealthcare US Open this year, it is a great racquetball community.”

A new wrinkle has been added this year to help draw more fans to the Glass Court Swim and Fitness Club, the crown jewel of racquetball facilities in the Chicago area.

Pro finals are scheduled for Sunday, with semifinals and quarterfinals set throughout the day Saturday. The change was initiated by organizers to guarantee spectators could enjoy watching the pros display their talents all day long on Saturday. In many tournaments the four pro quarterfinal matches take place during the day on Friday.

“With quarterfinals all day Saturday, as well as the semifinals at night, our fans now get to see action they otherwise might miss during the day on Friday. Most people who work cannot get to the club until 6 p.m. and never get a chance to watch the rounds of eight that are extremely competitive,” Peters said.

IRT President Jason Mannino said the schedule alteration will make the tournament more viewer friendly. ”We welcome anything that helps promote racquetball, and this is a good idea. Our players looked at the proposal and all fully supported it,” Mannino said.

Peters and the rest of his team have ensured the tournament will be recognized as the region’s top spring time event.

”On top of the prize money for the pros, we are also offering $1,000 in prize money for both men’s and women’s open division play,” Peters said. Top amateurs from the Midwest are expected to enter for both a chance at prize money and a chance to enter the pro qualifying.

Players come from all over the country to compete, and one amateur looking to test the pro waters is Rocco Forgione of Peckville, PA. Forgione has risen rapidly in the Pennsylvania amateur ranks – in only his third year of playing racquetball he won the Pennsylvania state championship in the 35-over Division last year and won the state’s A bracket as well. What motivates Forgione to travel 700 miles to take a shot at the pros after such a brief amateur career?

“Most tournaments I have entered so far I have won, so I want to take it to the next level and see how I stack up against the best. I’ve beaten a lot of players who are better than me, but I am athletic and play a power game, a different style than a lot of opponents are ready for. Mostly though, I want to have fun and be competitive,” said Forgione, who played Arena Football in Chicago years ago and is entered in two other amateur divisions.

This year’s pro draw is expected to feature the Tour’s top ranked players like Kane Waselenchuk, Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran. Third-ranked Daniel De La Rosa is a question mark due to the likelihood of his wife giving birth to their first child in April.

Only three more Tier 1 pro stops are scheduled before the end of the 2016-17 IRT season, so competition for ranking points is sure to be hotly contested at the Shamrock. As of press time Waselenchuk appeared to be insurmountable once again with 3,560.67 points, followed by Rocky Carson (3,046.4). De La Rosa trails Carson by a meager margin with 2,945.66 points and Alvaro Beltran ranks fourth with 2,264 points. Only About 700 points separate the next seven players.

In the last IRT pro stop – the Lewis Drug Pro/Am in Sioux Falls, SD –De La Rosa defeated Beltran in the finals by scores of 11-9, 11-4, 11-7. Waselenchuk did not play due to an arm injury.

The high level of competition is already drawing interest from fans and players.

“Chicago deserves to see the very best racquetball in the world,” said Eric Jensen, Bolingbrook resident who has played in the Shamrock for the better part of 30 years. “I now come every year to watch the pros because they still motivate me, and I try and emulate them and improve. It is exciting to watch the best players in the world. It is also why I am a co-sponsor for the tournament. I want to make sure the younger players get a chance to watch the best of the best, and to keep playing and stay involved in racquetball.”

Peters and organizers also are going to great lengths to get fans to watch the best players in the world.

“Everyone entered in the tournament, regardless of level of play, will not be charged to watch the professional matches the entire weekend,” Peters said. Non-playing spectators will be charged a nominal fee to watch the IRT matches.

The tournament will be aired all weekend long live on the IRT Network.

TOURNAMENT FACTS

  • The Shamrock Shootout is the seventh of 10 IRT pro stops on this season’s schedule
  • Traditional St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinner served in the lounge at Saturday night’s “Party With the Pros”
  • Juniors clinic taught by the pros on Sunday at 9 a.m.
  • Tournament Ball is the Pro Penn HD
  • Finals on Sunday; semifinals and quarterfinals on Saturday; rounds of 16s and 32s on Friday
  • Viewing of pro matches free to all tournament entries; non-participants $10 each day, $25 entire weekend
  • IRT matches to air live on IRT Network
  • Glass Court Club is located at 830 E. Roosevelt Road in Lombard, IL
  • Remaining IRT Tier 1 pro stops scheduled

March 23-26       Raising Some Racquet for Kids IRT Pro/Am (Dayton, Ohio)

April 27-30         Florida IRT Pro/Am (Sarasota)

May 4-7             ProKennex Tournament of Champions (Portland, Oregon)

 

By Don Grigas

Don Grigas is an award-winning journalist who grew up on the south side of Chicago and is now living in Bolingbrook, IL, where he first developed a passion for racquetball. In 1979 Don played his first game of racquetball at the Bolingbrook Park District Racquet and Health Club. Within two years Don rose from a Novice to an Open player, and shortly thereafter became the club professional at the Naper Olympic Fitness Center for more than 20 years until that facility closed in 2007. After winning three state championships in doubles, Don retired from active playing and now writes for the IRT web site, as well as working on other freelance projects.

Media Coverage

Around Town: Men’s Professional Racquetball Tournament via WGN Morning News