This weekend heralds a new era for competitive amateur snooker in England as the 2019/2020 English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards tournament season breaks off with a trio of tournaments.
The ten-month campaign begins on Saturday with the opening two-day English Amateur Tour event being held at the Winchester Snooker Club in Leicester. An exciting palette of nearly 60 players will be on display, all vying to start the five-event series positively.
Among those in the line-up is the experienced Rory McLeod, a European Tour professional title winner in 2015 and formerly of the top 32 in the world rankings. Despite the disappointment of being relegated from the top tier only a few months ago, the 48-year-old is upbeat about competing on the amateur circuit for the first time in nearly two decades:
“This season I’m looking forward to learning how to enjoy my snooker. I’ve never played on the English Amateur Tour, so it will be a new experience. My biggest challenge will be adapting to the conditions, but I’m aiming to have a good time contesting and simply play well.”
McLeod is in good company as he is joined by Ashley Hugill, Sanderson Lam and Sean O’Sullivan, who were also on the professional scene last term.
Besides this quartet, though, there are several other talented cueists with recent elite level participation set to feature, in what is a high-quality entry that includes George Pragnell and Steven Hallworth – the third and fifth ranked players on the 2018/19 EAT tour. Oliver Brown, finalist at Challenge Tour event one a couple of weeks ago, and recent World Seniors Championship quarter-finalist at the Crucible, Stuart Watson, will be looking to make an impact as well.
Towards the younger end of the age scale, Jenson Kendrick, winner of both the 2019 English Under-18 and 6-Red Championships, and current English Under-16 champion Paul Deaville are also scheduled to be present. Last season’s Under-21 Premier Tour winner Ryan Davies – recipient of a wildcard into the professional English Open in Crawley next month – will be there too.
Under-20 Regional Development Tour
On Sunday at both the Tradewell Snooker Club in Hull and Breakers Snooker Club in Leicester, youth snooker action will be the order of the day with the first events of the North and Midlands Under-20 Regional Development Tour.
Played across one day, this series is the secondary tier for junior players in the EPSB structure. Each region (the south will have its opener in October) will stage five competitions, every one containing rankings points as these youngsters try to earn promotion to the invitational Under-21 Premier Development Tour next year.
Taking to the baize in the north will be Stanley Moody – the reigning English Under-14 Championship title holder and in the midlands Hamim Hussain – recent finalist in the English Under-18 and 6-Red Championships.
Unlike the straight knockout format for the English Amateur Tour, this season’s Under-20 Regional Development Tour events consist of round robin groups followed by qualification into a knockout phase where ranking points are then collected.
‘An Important New Chapter’
A player who knows what the amateur circuit is all about is triple crown winner Shaun Murphy, having been victorious and seen his game develop whilst competing on it as a youngster. Murphy will be watching this new era for the national game keenly.
“Back in my day the amateur game was an absolute bedrock of talent. It really isn’t any surprise to me that most of the players who were serial winners back then have progressed to be top flight professionals; many going on to be major champions.
I played in a number of finals throughout my amateur career. Some went to plan, and some not so much, but it was these matches that taught us all so much about competition, where the winners take the spoils and the losers go home with nothing except things to work on.”
Simon Berrisford, a director for the EPSB, can’t wait for the new season to begin. “This is an important new chapter for our great sports of snooker and billiards. Over the last couple of months there has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but this is just the start of our journey – we have several new ideas that we’d like to implement in the future. The team is focused on a common goal to make this as successful as we can.
The EPSB Board of Directors would like to wish all its players and officials good luck for the campaign.”
To view all the entries for this weekend’s events, please visit the EPSB section on the WPBSA Tournament Manager HERE. We shall also be using this system to record results.