Six players secured a two years tour card yesterday: four emerged from the 2023 (UK) Q-School Event , two qualified through the Asia-Oceania Q-School Event 1. Here are the reports by WST:
Burden, Young, Carrington And Heathcote Regain Cards
Alfie Burden, Dean Young, Stuart Carrington and Louis Heathcote all bounced back from relegation by regaining their World Snooker Tour cards on the final day of Q School event two.
Heathcote, Burden and Young all won nail-biting matches by a 4-3 scoreline in the final round in Leicester, to secure a place on the pro circuit for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons. Carrington eased through with a 4-0 success against Rory McLeod.
Londoner Burden, a veteran who first turned pro in 1994, was up against Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko in the last round. He made a break of 88 to lead 2-1, before falling 3-2 behind. Runs of 52 and 43 set up a nervy decider in which both players had chances, but Burden was always in front and eventually potted the final brown to clinch the result.
“There are so many emotions,” admitted Burden. “I actually tried to pull out of Q School after the World Seniors (where he lost to Jimmy White in the final) because I felt I had let my family down by not winning that event – I felt very down and didn’t want to pick my cue up. I had a few days practice, came here and rolled the dice.
“Q School is so tough. After I won I went to the toilet and there was a kid bent over the sink crying his eyes out because he had lost. It was Florian (Nuessle) and I feel for him. I almost wanted to swap places with him because I have had a long career, while he is a young kid just starting out and wanting it so badly, trying to win a place on the tour.
“Everything I do is for my children and I’m just delighted to win today.”
Scotland’s Young, who first turned pro two years ago, faced Austria’s promising Nuessle, who was looking to earn a tour place for the first time. A break of 90 helped give Nuessle a 3-1 advantage, and he had chances in each of the next three frames. The closest he came to victory was in frame six which came down to the last two balls, but Young potted the pink for 3-3, then made a break of 30 at the crucial moment of the decider to seal the tie.
“I could hardly stand up towards the end,” said Young. “I don’t have a clue how I won. He missed a pink at 3-2, he should have closed it out. I had no Plan B, so to get through Q School was all or nothing for me. The pressure here is immense, I have never felt anything like that in my life. My first two years on tour was an apprenticeship and I am hoping to do better next time.”
Leicester’s Heathcote turned pro in 2019 and was named Rookie of the Year after his debut season. He struggled for results in 2022/23 and slipped out of the world’s top 64, but handled the immense pressure of Q School to book two more years on the top tier.
He faced Ryan Davies and – just like Burden and Young – trailed for much of the afternoon before producing a strong finish. England’s 21-year-old Davies, looking to earn a tour card for the first time, led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. But Heathcote fired breaks of 111 and 74 to take the last two frames.
“I have never felt so focussed, and now I am so relieved it’s all over,” said 25-year-old Heathcote. “At 3-2 down, nothing was going my way. I went to the toilet and told myself to use my last four years of experience and somehow won two frames with two good breaks. I am really proud of myself and I can have a fresh start now. I hope I never have to go back to Q School because it is the most stressful ten days.”
Carrington, from Grimsby, had a ten-year spell as a pro from 2013 to 2023, and the two-time ranking event semi-finalist can enjoy an immediate return. He was made to wait several hours for his final match as his opponent Rory McLeod battled to a marathon four hour 13 minute 4-3 victory over Robin Hull in the penultimate round. But Carrington was unflustered as he eased to a 4-0 success with top runs of 66 and 53.
“I was expecting to be there all night!” he said. “I thought it would be a tough match. I was solid and my safety was good, though 4-0 was a bit flattering. The last 18 months has been really difficult for me, it has been mental torture. I have been struggling to pull the cue back. I wasn’t expecting a great deal this week but I have hung in there and fought my way through, without hitting the ball well. I have two years now to work on that and find the right person who can help me technically as well as mentally.”
Eventually the 2023 (UK) Q-Schools produced just one debutant: Liam Pullen. All the other players coming through it are either former professionals or players who regained their tour card immediately. Six out of 8 laureates were competing on the main tour in 2022/23. This shows again that this system strongly favours former pros and in particular those who have just been relegated. It’s certainly NOT the best system to get new young talents on tour. Alexander Ursenbacher is the only laureate from mainland Europe. Iulian Boiko actually tops the Q-School order of merit. Although he didn’t regain a tour card he has been the best/most consistent player in the field. I do hope that he gets opportunities to play in in several ranking events in the coming season.
Bai Yulu has in many ways been the story of the European Q-Schools. She has shown that women can compete with men. She has beaten several experienced, solid players. All her matches went the distance and I believe that, against Simon Bedford, she eventually ran out of steam. Out of 208 entrants, she finished 41st in the order of merit, which is better than 80% of those who entered. I hope that she gets the opportunity to compete on the Q-Tour. She needs a lot of matches against strong opposition to progress further and she won’t get that on the Women’s tour.
Asia-Oceania Q-School Event 1 Outcome
Thor And Phetmalaikul Earn Tour Cards
Malaysia’s Thor Chuan Leong beat Lei Peifan 4-1 in the final round of Asia-Oceania Q School Event One in Bangkok, regaining a place on the pro tour after a three-year absence.
In the other semi-final, Thailand’s Manasawin Phetmalaik beat China’s Ka Wai Cheung to earn a place on the tour for the first time.
Thor, age 35, earns a two-year card for the World Snooker Tour for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons. He previously competed on the circuit for six seasons between 2014 and 2020 and has reached the last 32 of four ranking events.
Having won four matches to reach today’s final round in Thailand, Thor made breaks of 106 and 58 to take a 2-0 lead. China’s Lei, who was relegated from the tour at the end of last season, pulled a frame back, but Thor then won the next two to seal the result.
“I’m very pleased with the win today,” he said. “I have prepared myself well, entering this year’s Thailand Ranking Circuit. The gold medal in snooker singles at the South East Asian Games in Cambodia earlier in May really boosted me up for the Q School.
“I just played my game today, trying to relax and continue with good breaks to keep the game under control. To be able to get back on the tour has been on my mind since I dropped off and always wanted to go back. It is very good that I can qualify here in Thailand rather than going to qualify in the UK as the cost is much less coming here. It is very good for all Asian players to have the opportunities to qualify here. The venue is great and the table condition is perfect. All the hard work I have put in over the past months has now paid off.”
Phetmalaik has been based in England for several years as his father Chusak owns the Q House snooker academy in Darlington, home to the likes of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Zhou Yuelong.
Breaks of 99, 82 and 65 today helped 24-year-old Phetmalaik to a comfortable victory. He said: “The standard of snooker is just as good here as it is in the UK Q School. I really had to be on top of my game to get through each round especially today as Cheung has compiled many big breaks this week.
“I have always been keen to become a professional player. I first picked up the cue when I was 14 and it took me ten years to finally make my dreams come true. I would like to thank my dad and my family for their tremendous support.”
The match was presided over by Assistant Prof. Dr. Veeris Ammarapala, the governor of Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, as guest of honour along with Mr. Suntorn Jarumon, President of Billiard Sports Association of Thailand and his board members.
Event two gets underway on Wednesday.
Click here for the Frame Scores
From what I watched, the level at the Asian Q-Schools is significantly better than it was last season.