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Ludo Kools, bizarre adventure ends with Dutch title

Posted by on April 29, 2021

Ludo Kools, bizarre adventure ends with Dutch title

© Ton Smilde
The champion Ludo Kools raising his hands after his last point in the final match

BERLICUM - He could hardly hold back his tears on the final podium at the Dutch championship, when the national anthem sounded through the arena. The wonderfully happy Brabant player Ludo Kools, the 53-year-old rookie at the Jumbo Masters, crowned a bizarre adventure on the final day with the Dutch three-cushion title. He was a brilliant winner, an unlikely champion, rewarded with a ticket for the World Championships in Korea. ''I'm so happy, this is so fantastic, can you imagine, a debutant with no chance who becomes the Dutch champion'', he boasted right after his victory in the Masters final against Raimond Burgman, 3-2. ''I am sure now, miracles do exist.''

The end of the tournament, after five days of billiards in front of empty stands, was almost unreal. The shy, amiable Brabant player, a former construction worker, stood there amidst professional players like Raimond Burgman, whom he defeated in the final, the number one of the world, Dick Jaspers and the billiard hero of the region Jean van Erp. Three players from the absolute Dutch top team, beaten by an absolute outsider without any major titles. ''I have been working very hard my whole life, now I don't care about making money, I just want to live'', he said with an emotional, trembling voice.

He told the journalists about his plans for this year. ''I want to renovate my house, but now I will have to postpone that to play the World Championship in Korea. I didn't even know that I was allowed to do that as the Dutch champion. Man..., these have been the most wonderful days of my life. I can't believe it. And now I'm going to drink a few beers. We didn't have carnival this year. I said to my wife when I left for the Masters: I haven't been drunk for a long time. That's going to happen now, I am going to drink to the Dutch champion.''

Ludo Kools, who lives in the cycling village of Hoogerheide, is married to Lilian, father of a 22 year old son, and they both had a great time, cheering him in this championship. ''I have been champion once in balk-line'', Kools told in the interview afterwards. ''I learned three cushion from Frans van Kuyk, who I visit a couple of times every year and who also gave me some tips for this Masters.'' The most important notes, how touching for a new Dutch champion, written down on a small paper that lay next to him on the table in the arena during his matches.

The text on it:
'Walk faster around the billiard table'
'Feel the lines'
'Defending'
'Don't care about your opponent'
'GOOD SHOT'

It was a secret note, which he revealed afterwards. The new Dutch champion says he owes his title to that little paper.

He beat Dave Christiani in the preliminaries, Barry van Beers and again in the quarter-finals, Jean van Erp in the semi-finals. The final match developped from 10-6, 10-6 for Kools in the first two sets to a 2-1 score when Burgman won the third set 10-3. That seemed to be the turning point in the match, but no way. Ludo Kools took a comfortable lead in the fourth set, missed two champion's balls at 9-3, but put his hands in the air after the winning shot.

The semi-finals:

Raimond Burgman-Dick Jaspers 2-0 (10-3, 7-10, 10-8, 3-10, 10-6 1,250/1,193)

The first sensation on the final day in this classic fight between Dick Jaspers and Raimond Burgman. The North Holland player, four times Master winner himself until now, beats his eternal rival in the Netherlands in this first semi-final 3-2 in set score. The loaded clash between the two most successful Dutchmen in the current generation is far from high in the averages, but exciting and captivating until the decisive set.

The opening set is for Burgman (10-3 in 8), Jaspers comes back with 10-7 in 7, Burgman takes a lead again in the third set with a tight 10-8 in 9. As in the quarterfinals against Joey de Kok, Jaspers is again facing a 2-1 deficit that he has to tackle. He did that convincingly against the youngster from Zeeland with two winning sets in three innings. Jaspers seems to be well on his way against Burgman after the 10-3 in 5 innings for a final score of 2-2.

The stoic Burgman, however, deals out the final knock-out: he finishes from Jaspers' 6-5 lead with an exciting 5 in the fourth inning: 10-6 in four innings. Burgman's relief is visible, Jaspers, at times unrecognisable, resigns himself to his loss with the comment that it was not his Masters after four consecutive victories in the Dutch Championship.

Ludo Kools-Jean van Erp 2-0 (10-1, 8-10, 4-10, 10-8, 1,050/0,925)

The miracle man at this Masters, the 53-year old, until no almost unknown Brabant player Ludo Kools makes his story even more impressive. By beating Jean van Erp, he reaches the final match totally unexpectedly and gives the showdown of the event a miraculous climax. Two supposed favourites, Dick Jaspers and Jean van Erp, have disappeared from the stage. Ludo Kools is the 'killer' in the marathon against Jean van Erp, which ends in a tears and fears battle. The outsider has a spectacular start with 10-1 in the first round. Jean van Erp can still change course and takes a 2-1 lead in the next two sets (10-8 in 6, 10-4 in 3). The adventure for the tense and nervous Ludo Kools seems to be over, but nobody had counted on the resilience of the real amateur.

After a nerve-racking battle with the set point at 9-9, he wins the session that brings him to 2-2. In the fifth and decisive set for the place in the final, the match is levelled at 3-3, rans to 8-8 in the final part and in the gruelling last minutes, Kools makes the liberating carom. ''I can't believe it myself, this is a miracle'', is his touching reaction in the tv-interview for Ziggo Sport.

The final podium at the Masters with Ludo Kools, the champion, second from left, Dick Jaspers (left), Raimond Burgman and Jean van Erp (right)

Ludo Kools with the flowers and the gold medal

Raimond Burgman looking at the game after a 2-0 deficit in the final match

The winner Ludo Kools shows the little paper that helped him on his way to the title

The final ranking of the Jumbo Masters

 

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