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Three-cushion billiards showcased in Flushing

The obscure game of three-cushion billiards took center stage at a Flushing pool hall Saturday, as three borough players joined 17 others from around the world for the finals of a tournament held in honor of a Korean immigrant from Queens who had a dream of seeing the sport join the mainstream.

Unlike tradition billiards, three-cushion billiard tables have no pockets and the game is played using three balls. The objective is to hit the cue ball off of three sides of the table, or cushions, before hitting the two other balls in the same stroke. One point is awarded for hitting one of the balls, while two points are given for a shot that hits both balls.

The Sang Lee International Open, held every year since 2005 at Carom Cafe Billiards in Flushing, was named after a Korean immigrant from Flushing who was a champion three-cushion player. Lee was the owner of the billiard hall, which opened in 2000, until his death from stomach cancer in 2004.

"His dream was to build familiarity of this game and he wanted to promote this game in this country," said Ira Lee, promotional director for High Rock Promotions, a company that broadcast the tournament for Korean television.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who helped kick off the final round Saturday, said the game "is the true example of the experience you find when you come to Flushing," referring to diversity.

He noted that three-cushion was invented in America, but started losing its appeal during the Great Depression.

"We're going to do everything we can to bring this back into America and to Flushing," Liu said.

Three Queens players — Sonny Cho, Hugo Patino and Miguel Torres — were among the 20 finalists who hailed from countries around the world, including Belgium, Turkey, South Korea, Colombia and Ecuador.

The top eight players competed in what was called the "A" finals, where the winner - Torbjorn Blomdahl of Germany - walked away with $15,000 out of a $125,000 prize pool. The other 12, who competed in a consolation round or "B" finals, still received prize money, although significantly less than the top players.

Michael Kang, co-owner of the billiard hall — which also has mainstream billiard tables — said three-cushion is the more interesting game because players have more ways to make a winning shot.

"You can create your own choice and nobody's going to laugh at you," he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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