As One Season Ends Another Begins
You can really say what you like about Barry Hearn but what he has managed to do with what was a dwindling professional snooker game is little short of magical.
In the mid-late noughties Snooker was struggling to find sponsors and had fallen to around 7 ranking events per season, nowhere near enough to sustain a professional tour, In steps Barry Hearn and 4 years later snooker is in it’s strongest position since the 1980’s with new territories being visited as part of ranking, or Players Tour events. In addition he has brought in sweeping changes to the structure of the tour to not only open it up to more players but also to ensure that those players are capable of playing at the top level.
The season ends when the last ball is potted at The Crucible, a final this year won by Mark Selby, but it doesn’t really end anymore, snooker is now relentless, for those players that didn’t make the top 64 in the end of season rankings it is back to Q School to join a host of amateur and former professional hopefuls to gain a two year tour card.
Those events are currently being played out and today we know the first four names that will be competing on the main tour next season.
Craig Steadman, Zhang Anda and Tian Pengfei all have something in common in that they fell off the tour at the end of the last season. All three however, have managed to win 5 matches against tough opposition in Gloucester.
The other man to join them is 35-year-old Chris Melling, those of you that follow cue sports closely will know Chris as a former World Eightball Pool Federation Champion and also a former World Number 3 on the WPA (Mainly 9-ball and 10-ball) World Rankings.
I have known Chris personally for about 6 years, ever since I started following the UK pool scene very closely with the now defunct Cuesport TV, he is a really top bloke and has one of the nicest cue actions I have ever seen.
Chris has twice been involved in professional snooker before, back in the early 2000’s, but struggled to compete in what was a very brutal format back at the time.
He spoke to Worldsnooker.com and commmented that, “When I played pro snooker before there were only seven tournaments, played in Prestatyn and it was hard to get through the qualifiers, these days there are a lot more tournaments plus the flat draws give everyone a much better chance to get to the venues, and I love playing in front of a big crowd. In the past the top 16 were too protected.”
“When I was a snooker player before I was mixing it with pool, which is difficult. I will still play a few pool events next season but mainly I will be focussed on snooker and I am really enjoying playing at the moment.”
The main reason for his move back towards snooker is that the professional pool circuit has completely dwindled over the past 12-18 months with no sponsors and very few top level events available for pro players to get stuck into.
Chris said, “It was only because the pool calendar went downhill that I started playing snooker a couple of months ago, for the first time in five years. I bought a cue, and on the third day of practice I made a 147. So I decided to give Q School a try, and now I’m on the tour for two years.”
It was interesting to also see an American in Corey Deuel also putting his name down for some of the Q School events along with Pinoy-Canadian Alex Pagulayan – who incidentally was only one match from qualifying, both of these players are highly renowned 9-ball players and Deuel, like Melling is a former Mosconi Cup player.
The events continue over the next few days.