The 2022 UK based Q-School is over …
Congratulations to James Cahill, John Astley, Jenson Kendrick and Lukas Kleckers, the laureates of the 2022 Q-School Event 3, the last of the “traditional” Q-School events for this season
Cahill, Astley, Kendrick and Kleckers Earn Tour Cards
James Cahill, John Astley, Jenson Kendrick and Lukas Kleckers came through Q School Event Three in Sheffield to earn two-year cards for the World Snooker Tour.
All four players now have the right to compete on the pro circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons and they complete the lineup of 12 qualifiers, with all three events now concluded.
Cahill booked his return to the circuit with a 4-1 defeat of China’s in form Zhao Jianbo, who also lost in the final round of event two.
Cahill is renowned as a big game player, having beaten both Mark Selby and Ding Junhui at the UK Championship. He also famously defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of the 2019 World Championship.
The 26-year-old has struggled against lesser opponents on occasions and most recently dropped off the circuit at the end of the 20/21 campaign.
Cahill confidently got himself over the line against Zhao, composing breaks of 69, 68 and 79 on his way to the win.
“Brutal is the word for this event. It is hard because there is a lot of pressure. When you commit your life to it and it is your only chance to get on it is hard,” said Blackpool’s Cahill.
“I didn’t really want to go and play the Q Tours. There is a lot of pressure out there to win. I am just glad I managed to hold myself together.
“I’m delighted to get through. I just want to thank Peter Lines who came down for this event and the last one to support me. He didn’t need to do that. He has experience of getting through this as well, so I just want to say thank you to him.”
Astley battled past former Shoot Out winner Michael Holt 4-2 to seal his place on the World Snooker Tour. The 33-year-old had suffered two unsuccessful trips to Q School after dropping off the circuit following the 19/20 season, but it was a case of third time lucky today.
Holt came to Q School as one of the biggest names in the field, following his surprise relegation at the end of the recent World Championship. However, the 43-year-old must now face up to spending at least this season without professional status.
Astley said: “It is just happiness and relief. It is amazing to get through. It is such a tough tournament and the last match is not very nice at all, you can’t really enjoy it. I just tried to stay focussed and as calm as I could the whole match.
“I’ve been on and off the tour a little bit and I was a top up last season, but that’s not really on the tour. It has been a tough couple of years since Covid and to get back on the tour, where I think I belong is a massive relief.”
Stoke’s 21-year-old Kendrick earned a place on the World Snooker Tour for the first time with a 4-1 win over Haydon Pinhey. Kendrick has never been beyond pre-qualifying for a professional event before, but he will get his opportunity on the sport’s biggest stage next season.
Kendrick said: “I gave it absolutely everything practising for coming here. I was playing really well, but on the other hand you are playing great players. There are 40 or 50 players here that can get on the tour. I am one of the 12 and I can’t believe it.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to the game and finally it is paying off. I can’t thank my mum and dad enough. Since I left school they have done absolutely everything for me so that I could do the best that I can.”
Germany’s Kleckers immediately returned to the tour with a nerve-shredding 4-3 defeat of Scotland’s Ross Muir. Kleckers made the last 16 of last season’s British Open, but still fell off at the end of the campaign. He crafted breaks of 78 and 75 on his way to victory today.
“I am so delighted. It was a very hard 17 or 18 days of playing. To do it in the last event is even better, because the pressure is so big. I am delighted,” said 26-year-old Kleckers
“I am very proud to represent Germany. We all know about the German Masters and the European Masters is there now as well. Many people watch it and it makes me very proud to play for them.”
2022 Q School Qualifiers
Eventually, the three Q-School Events yielded only ONE new player on the tour… all others have been pros before. That’s not great, that’s not healthy for our sport.
Jenson Kendrick is 21, young but not a kid. It will be interesting to see how he fares during his first two seasons as a pro. He will be more mature than the “standard” 16-18 years old rookie and might manage his expectations better than they do. What I mean is that a 16 years old might start full of enthusiasm, not appreciating how brutal the pro tour actually is, only to be hit very hard, mentally and emotionally, when they suffer defeat after defeat. A 21 years old will, hopefully, have a more realistic perception of what awaits him and cope better.
This time there are no tour cards for those at the top of the order of merit.
The first four players in this list are:
- Zhao Jianbo
- Ross Muir
- Steven Hallworth
- Sunny Akani
Those four have a reasonable chance to get the opportunity to play in about every tournament. For those further down, the opportunities will be limited.
Michael Holt is 10th on that list, Kurt Maflin 11th and Andrew Higginson 13th. They might be invited a couple of times … at best.
Incredibly, Ashley Carty, who qualified for the Crucible as recently as 2020 finds himself well down the list, as do Martin O’Donnell and Soheil Vahedi who has sacrificed so much to become a professional snooker player.
Michael Georgiou has made it clear that this is the end of his professional ambitions.
Iulian Boiko and Gao Yang are also relegated. Will they be able to stay in the UK, play in the Q-Tour and pursue their development if they so wish? Incredibly they are only 16 and 17 years old respectively. They were far too young to be on the professional tour, especially as they had to live as expats in the UK, away from their family, dealing with a different language, different food, a different culture.
What now for those guys? What now for those whose already long career comes to a brutal end? What now for the far too young whose development might be irretrievably compromised?
I know that professional sport is brutal, but still … the outcome of this Q-School leaves me sad, more so than in previous years. I must be getting old.