Lewis worst fears were vindicated yesterday as all four Event 2 laureates are veterans and former pros.
Here are the reports by WST:
Q School Event Two – The Final Eight
These are the eight players through to the quarter-finals of Q School event two in Sheffield. The four winners will earn a World Snooker Tour card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.
Barry Pinches. Age 50 from Norwich. Played on the pro tour from 1989-97, 1998-2016 and 2019 onwards. Relegated from the tour at the end of last season. Former world number 18. Won a PTC event in 2010, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. Reached the quarter-finals of the 2003 UK Championship and the last 16 at the World Championship in 2004.
Sanderson Lam. Age 27 from Leeds. Played on the pro tour from 2015 to 2019. Reached the last 16 of the Gibraltar Open in 2017.
Hammad Miah. Age 27 from Hertford. Played on the pro tour from 2013 to 15 and 2016 to 20. Reached the last 16 of the 2018 Paul Hunter Classic.
Craig Steadman. Age 38 from Farnworth. Played on the pro tour from 2009-10 and 2012-20. Reached the semi-finals of the Shoot Out last season while competing as an amateur. Played Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2015.
Michael Judge. Age 45 from Dublin. Played on the tour from 1992 to 2011. Reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix in 2004, and the last 16 at the Crucible in 2001. Former world number 24. Runner-up in the 2011 Nations Cup for Ireland, alongside Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien. Won the UK Seniors Championship in 2019.
Kuldesh Johal. Age 40 from Huddersfield. Played on the pro tour in 2008-09 and 2010-11. Won three events on the old Pontins International Open Series.
Alfie Burden. Age 44 from London. Played on the pro tour from 1994 to 2008 and 2010 to 2020. World Amateur Champion in 2009. Made a 147 at the 2016 English Open. Quarter-finalist at four ranking events. Played at the Crucible in 1998.
Michael Collumb. Age 32 from Motherwell. The only potential rookie left in the field. Played as a wild card in the Scottish Open last season, losing 4-3 to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Won the Scottish National Championship for the first time in 2019.
Judge / Burden / Steadman / Pinches Regain Tour Spots
Michael Judge regained a place on the World Snooker Tour after a ten year absence by beating Kuldesh Johal 4-0 in the final round of Q School event two.
Judge, Alfie Burden, Barry Pinches and Craig Steadman all secured tour cards for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.
Irishman Judge was a familiar face on the circuit for almost two decades from 1992 to 2011, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Grand Prix in 2004 and the last 16 at the Crucible in 2001, and spending several seasons ranked among the top 32. He enjoyed one subsequent moment in the limelight in 2019 when he won the UK Seniors Championship, beating Jimmy White in the final.
He was not at his best against Johal but breaks of 45 and 43 helped him to a comfortable win. “It feels great,” said the 45-year-old Dubliner. “After I fell off the tour ten years ago, I put the cue away and sorted out my life. I was doing a bit of work at the Q Club in Wicklow. I played on the amateur scene just for the enjoyment, and after five or six years I decided to give it another go. Then my wife had a baby boy so I put snooker on hold for a couple of years.
“During lockdown I was thinking I wouldn’t mind giving it a go, and a friend said he would back me. I started practising hard and things have fallen into place. Here I am, back on tour for more torture! I always felt I was good enough to get back on if I gave it a proper go. Whether I can hold my own, we’ll soon find out. I’m just looking forward to seeing what it brings me.
“Winning the UK seniors final against one of the all-time greats in Jimmy White in a packed arena really inspired me. That has given me the confidence that I can do it on any stage. I know I can beat anyone on my day once I get sharp. The tour will suit me because there are so many tournaments you don’t need to practise that much.”
Alfie Burden also regained his tour card, after a much shorter hiatus of 11 months. The 44-year-old Londoner recovered from the loss of the first frame to beat Michael Collumb 4-1 with a top break of 70.
Former World Amateur Champion Burden has 24 seasons as a pro behind him and has reached the quarter-finals of four ranking events. After relegation in 2020, he missed out on a return via Q School, then took time away from snooker. He admitted in this recent interview that he had missed the thrill of competition and camaraderie on the circuit so decided to give the qualifying minefield another try, this time successfully.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Burden. “I only had three weeks preparation for this so I didn’t have much expectation. I didn’t know how I would deal with the pressure. In this school my experience goes a long way. I have enjoyed being back out there. I didn’t play great, but dug in.
“During the pandemic I got very bored and missed the game, so I decided there was no harm in giving Q School another try and rolling the dice. I’m looking forward to two more years on the tour. They thought the hell-raiser was gone, but he’s back! I don’t fear anyone, I’ll just enjoy it.
“I have always been fiercely competitive, I never give up. I have always believed in my ability. I have probably under-achieved but that’s my own fault because I didn’t live in the right manner. Hopefully my son can look at me and think ‘the old man doesn’t give in, he comes back for more.’ If he carries that into his career (footballer son Lene has just signed for Bristol Rovers) when times are hard then that will be a good example for him. I’ll be doing a lot of miles to Bristol to watch him play.
“I’d like to thank my coach Alan Bell, Whetstone Snooker Club and everyone there for their support, and finally my daughter Bow who is like an angel on my shoulder, I am so lucky to be her dad.”
Craig Steadman survived some nervous moments to beat Hammad Miah 4-3. From 3-0 up, Farnworth’s Steadman lost the next three frames then trailed 34-0 in the decider. But breaks of 48 and 28 gave him victory and a place on the circuit which he had previously held from 2012 to 2020.
“I should have won 4-1, then it all went wrong,” admitted 38-year-old Steadman, who reached the semi-finals of the Shoot Out last season while competing as an amateur. “I felt very nervous at 3-1 but then in the last frame I felt quite calm. I had an unbelievable fluke in the decider so I feel for Hammad because he stuck in well from 3-0. The relief is massive, I’m stunned. There’s a lot on the line, no one wants to come back tomorrow and start it all again.
“It was nice to have a run at the Shoot Out, and that gave me the motivation to start playing again. I practised really hard for this, but as soon as I got here I felt as if I had not played a proper match for ten years. It felt really tough.
“My personal life has been fantastic over the past year as my wife had a baby and I spent four or five months helping renovate the house. So that took my mind off not playing snooker. But then I started missing it, so I’m happy now that I’ll be back playing.”
Barry Pinches got the better of a dramatic deciding frame to beat Sanderson Lam 4-3. From 2-0 down, Pinches took three frames in a row with a top break of 100, before Lam won the sixth for 3-3. Both players had chances in the decider and it came down to the colours. Lam potted the last red, brown and yellow but then missed the green and Pinches took green, brown, blue and pink to win it 63-54.
The 50-year-old from Norwich first turned pro back in 1989 and was once ranked 18th in the world. He becomes the second player aged 50 or over to come through Q School this month, joining Peter Lines who qualified through the first event.
“I have played in big matches at the Crucible and all the main venues, and the pressure just doesn’t get any bigger than that,” said Pinches. “When the next two years depend on one shot, it’s so hard. He missed an awkward green. My adrenaline was pumping but I managed to take the last few balls. I tried to fist-pump where Sanderson couldn’t see me because I was psyched. It’s pure relief.
“I have always taken the view that if you enjoy playing and you can manage financially, you should keep going. All of the guys who got through today are all older players. Snooker is not an easy game to get good at! There are so many good, hardened pros age 35, 40 or even 50. It’s so difficult for the younger players to get through Q School.
“I’d like to get back to the standard I was at in the early 2000s when I was pushing for a place in the top 16. I’m not saying I can get that high, I’d just like to get back close to that level because I haven’t done myself justice for the past two years.”
Later on Facebook, Barry Pinches came up with this:
I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing these
‘ why aren’t the young players winning through q school statuses ! ‘
I’ll tell you why .
It’s because this isn’t the 1980s or early 1990s when there were virtually no good players around aged over 30.
There is alot of very good young talent at q school it’s just that they are up against alot more tougher opposition than there was years ago .
The amateur game needs a very significant boost or the Professional tour needs to be made a tad bigger soon if not we may be in danger of losing a generation of young players .
Snooker is an extremely tough game to get very good at and it’s not easy for the young generation coming through and throwing tour wild cards at them or seeding them for upcoming amateur tours is neither fair nor the answer either in my humble opinion.
To which I answered this:
Barry above is right: one of the main issues is the severe decline of the amateur game. The young ones are not ready and the level between amateurs and pros has widened. It’s even worse this year with the coronavirus putting the amateur game to a complete stop. I know that Barry will disagree but for me part of the answer is to go back to a tiered system. Give the lower ranked players/debutants a more winnable first match, a progressive route allowing for development. There would be no protection if, no matter the round, a player losing their opening match gets 0 ranking points. On the other hand, financial pressure should be eased by paying everyone who actually plays, including the first round losers. By playing they bring value to the tournament, the sponsors, the venue management and the viewers. Paying them for a work done is only right, it’s not “rewarding mediocrity”. Playing should not cost them. And it can be easily done at no additional cost for the governing body: just make the prize money structure a bit less top heavy. It would be fairer as well. Returning to a tiered system doesn’t not need to be returning to cubicles with nobody watching in Pontins or whatever. It should be all played at the final venue, in one go, as one tournament, with a crowd, with streaming or television. There is no reason nowadays for not doing that. It’s actually already done: even at qualifiers 8 tables are currently streamed in China.
I can understand Barry’s frustration but at the same time it’s a big worry for the future that next to no young player is able to qualify/survive on the main tour. The current structure of the calendar leaves very little space for Pro-ams. Contractual restrictions on streaming limits the “exposure” of the few surviving. Do we really need that many pro tournaments? I’m not sure. I would gladly have fewer, maybe 12-15, with longer formats, tiered structure, proper exposure, more fairly distributed prize money, and quality venues/hospitality for the players. I would gladly have gaps in the calendar for pro-ams, seniors and juniors events with proper exposure and fairly geographically spread. Let’s revive the true Paul Hunter Classic en August, lets get it back to what it was: a true Pro-Am, without ranking points attached, convivial, a huge snooker feast. Let’s revive the Pontins festivals, and the Pink Ribbon – even without Paul Mount – and have it moving around Europe. If possible, let’s get the General Cup back in Hong-Kong ahead of the “Asian leg” of the snooker season. Bring back some team events, with mixed gender/mixed age groups teams. Bring back some non-ranking pure fun into our sport. Enjoyment is what keeps us all going, no matter what we do for a living.
Oh … and then maybe, think about an inclusive rating system instead of a rigid, money linked, ranking system. It works for other sports.
End of rant. For now … 😉🙄
Congratulations Barry Pinches, Alfie Burden , Craig Steadman and Mick Judge!
PS: one additional concern for me is that the game is now owned by Matchroom. The new boss, Eddie Hearn, is not particularly interested in snooker, unlike his father: his big passion is boxing and if he has to set priorities, snooker will not come first.