The lanky Van Boening rarely failed to make a ball off his ear-splitting opening shot, and typically would sink two or three. This was too much of an advantage to overcome, especially considering that Immonen's break appeared to have completely abandoned him for long stretches.
Van Boening had a 10-game advantage after the first day, kept that advantage for the second, and then went up by as much as 25 on the last day. The final margin was 21 games. Both players appeared to be playing somewhat more loosely by the end, especially after the outcome was no longer in doubt. On several occasions Van Boening passed up obvious safeties in favor of difficult but makeable shots.
Both players arrived Tuesday after placing well in separate events. Van Boening had flown in from Central America, where he had won the Nicaraguan Open 10-ball event. Immonen, meanwhile, finished second to Oliver Ortmann in the World straight-pool event held a few days earlier in New Jersey. Both now head to Chesapeake, Virginia for the U.S. Open 9-ball event, which begins Sunday.
For pool fans, the much anticipated competition between Van Boening and Immonen had the feel of a major prize fight. The two are considered among the best in the world, both having been named players of the year by Billiards Digest. Between them, Van Boening and Immonen have won the last three U.S. Opens in a row.
Fans polled on this site gave a slight advantage to Immonen and some predicted a blow-out for The Iceman. "Mika is coming back after a long race," said one, after watching the Finnish player go down by double digits on the first day.
The winner of a poolhistory.com contest to name the final score was New Jersey resident Thomas Kozloski, who predicted a 100-86 margin in Van Boening's favor. Nobody predicted a wider margin in the American's favor, although he had plenty of fans.
"Hell yeah, go Shane," one said late Thursday. Another was even more succinct. Upon learning that the Dakota Kid had pulled ahead by 18 games and was only 12 from victory, Helene Zhu commented on the Pool History Facebook Page with just one word: "Wow."
You can read more about the fan predictions in earlier posts on the Pool History blog, which you can find here and here.
-- R.A. Dyer