Over the coming season Snooker Island will be following the trials and tribulations of one young amateur with potential as he attempts to gain that all important slot on the Main Tour for the 2012/13 season.
The project aims to be a historical document of what it takes to make it as a professional snooker player in the 2011/12 season. Along the way we will encounter many other players in the same situation, some of whom will go on to become household names, others who will fall by the wayside despite being very good snooker players themselves.
It is very easy for armchair critics to criticise professional snooker players who reach the televised stage of a tournament at the round of the last 32 in what may be a worthwhile career highlight, only to never be seen again after losing out to a top 16 player. The fact is there are literally hundreds of very good amateurs and professionals who for one reason or another never make it to the television screens. Some choose not to pursue the career, some don’t have the right guidance at the right time and go off the rails or develop a bad habit in their technique, some crumble under the intense heat of battle, some can’t fund the dream and have to find work elsewhere and some simply aren’t good enough to make the grade.
The 12 PTC events taking place between now and January offer one route onto the tour however the competition is going to be fierce for the 8 spots up for grabs. The number of entrants for the first few events has already dramatically increased from a year ago. Not only are most of the professionals entering, but amateur numbers have pushed the field up to over 200 for the first few events meaning some have to play up to 3 qualifying rounds before reaching the round of the last 128 where the professionals join the action. Prize money and therefore PTC points don’t kick in until the last 64.
For the majority who fail to get one of the 8 cards via the PTC route – 8 places open to all amateurs and those professionals who finish the season outside the top 64 in the rankings – there are other avenues such as the Q School which takes place soon after the World Championships in May, as well as several regional and national tours – generally though, only for the tour winners who obviously have to commit to that particular tour in order to give themselves the best opportunity. An example of this is recent interviewee Ross Muir who has chosen to focus on the Scottish Tour rather than commit to the PTC.
The final criteria for main tour places in 2012/13 has yet to be finalised so there is hope that with an expansion of tour numbers there could yet be more than 8 places from the PTC list, so this is extra incentive to give it all until PTC 12 no matter where you lie on the list. Currently you would have to aim to finish inside the top 64 on the list and you would be very unlucky if this wasn’t good enough. Last season this wasn’t the case as several top players didn’t enter a lot of PTC events due to general scepticism over the new format and the fact they could remain in the top 16 or 32 without having to do so, and many top 64 players finished outside the top 64 in the PTC list (note Stephen Hendry in 107th place as the most obvious example). This time around they all seem to be more committed so logic says finishing in the top 64 is more likely than last season to reap rewards. Several players will be in the unenviable position of having to wait from the end of PTC 12 until the week of the World Championship Qualifiers to realise their fate. Did anyone tell you it’s a tough school trying to get on the tour?
So without further ado, here is the first instalment of Ben Harrison’s journey in the 2011/12 season. You can find the introductory interview with Ben here. I hope you all get behind him in his quest for stardom as he is a very likeable character with all the looks and charm to bring in the female audience as well as an exciting and attacking style of snooker coupled with a great cue action to entice the purists amongst you!
Ben will give the low down on each PTC match he plays in from his perspective, which should offer a good insight into the mind of a snooker player and what goes through their minds during a match, after which he talks about the event itself and anything else he feels like bringing up.
PTC1: Sheffield Academy
4-3 Brian Cox
4-2 Joel Walker
0-4 Mark Joyce
Table position: N/A
4-3 v Brian Cox
That was a long match! I knew what sort of player he was and I felt good so I was trying to get the reds open and put him on the top rail and take my chances when they came. I was doing ok and won the first 2 frames but in the third something bizarre happened. He only needed the blue and I got him in a good snooker behind the black and it took him a few goes to get out of it so when I came back to the table I only needed the blue myself. But when I was replacing the balls after the miss I wasn’t really concentrating and didn’t put the black back right because the pink wouldn’t go at first, and in the end he potted a long blue and landed on the pink, I thought “what’s going on here?” and he potted it and won the frame!
From there he went 3-2 ahead and I hardly potted a ball. I was starting to wonder what was happening! Then in the 6th frame I had a chance and went into the pack from the black and sent the reds everywhere and one doubled off a cushion and into the middle pocket and he made a 40+ break from it. At that point I knew I had to do something so I sped up and made a 50 in about a minute! Then in the decider I was 46 down, made a 40 break and then a 30 odd clearance so I was very relieved to get through in the end. It was a horrible match but I knew what I was in for.
4-2 v Joel Walker
I had a lot to prove in this match because Joel beat me in the Q School. No offence to him because he is a good player but when I saw the draw I fancied it because in the Q School I know I didn’t show him enough respect and looked past him so I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.
I was quite nervous in the first frame because I knew I had a lot to prove, and Joel won it. Then I felt the second frame changed the match because I was 35 behind with one red left and the green was on a cushion. I potted red, black then moved the green with a rest shot on the yellow and cleared with 35 and won the re-spot. He won the next on the black, but I told myself to relax and I made a good 90 break in the 4th to level at 2-2 and after that I played 2 very good frames and I think he only scored 8 points.
0-4 v Mark Joyce
Well I stayed in the ETAP hotel in Sheffield because it’s cheap, but I won’t be doing that again! I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses but I didn’t get to sleep for ages because the sheets stank and the bed felt like it was made out of concrete. I woke up with a stiff neck and then for breakfast I had an apple from the fridge which was so hard it felt like it had been there for a year, and it tasted of cardboard, so I wasn’t best prepared for my 9am match!
The match itself was frustrating. I lost the first frame after a fluke from Mark when I felt I was in control – I had him snookered and he fluked a red and made a big break from it. In the second frame I was about 30 ahead and was picking them off and playing safe when I ran out of position but then I miscued on a red after I’d snookered him behind the brown, and he made a 50+ clearance.
It felt like things weren’t going for me, I was chinese snookered a couple of times and having a stiff neck didn’t help, and in the last frame I was winning the safety battle again, I felt I had the better safety game overall, and he tried to play thin off a red off 2 cushions, missed the intended red and flicked another over the middle pocket and snookered me behind the brown! I was completely buggered and didn’t really have a shot, and he made 67 and won the frame.
(Mark Joyce lost to Joe Perry 4-2 in the next round)
Overall Performance at PTC1:
4/10. I know I can play a lot better.
How was the experience?
It was good. I could’ve done without playing someone like Joyce in round 1 because he was one of the hardest players I could’ve drawn in that tournament. He’s probably one of the most improved players and he’s very confident having just won the Pink Ribbon and beating John Higgins along the way so I don’t think I could’ve had a much harder draw. But I’ve got loads of tournaments left so I think I’ll do alright.
What did you learn from it?
Watching Mark Joyce’s cue action, he looked really controlled.
Plans between now and next PTC?
I’m going to get my cue extended a couple of inches. I think that will help me a lot because when I’m hitting the ball hard I feel like I’m running out of cue and also sometimes I feel like I’m changing the position of my bridge hand to suit my cue rather than having it where it feels more comfortable.
Are you concerned the cue may play differently with the extra length?
No because I’ve talked to John Parris about this and he’s reassured me the extra length won’t be heavy at all and I shouldn’t feel any difference in how it plays. If it’s only a bit on the end I know he’s very good at that and if it doesn’t feel good then I’ll just have to get another cue!
I don’t know what I’ll do in the time it takes to extend it. I don’t want to not play for a couple of weeks so I might just borrow another cue to keep my cue arm going and maybe focus on practicing left-handed.
How do you explain the fact the Pink Ribbon had best of 7 matches scheduled every 2 hours with the last matches starting at 9pm and yet there wasn’t a day that went past about 10:30pm, whereas in the PTC with the same schedule they are playing on into the early hours?
I think there’s a lot more pressure in the PTCs and the players are a lot better. You’ve got the real hard match players and when you’ve got players (with the greatest respect) like Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott who are very good safety players, then that could go on for 4 hours if it goes 4-3.
Also you have some matches scheduled for 5pm and the next for 6:30pm and even if it’s a 4-0, that’s rarely going to last less than an hour and half. My game with Mark Joyce was 1 hour 45 minutes for 4 frames so I think the better standard of player is why it’s happening.