Before PTC11 you came up to York to watch some of the UK Championship snooker at the Barbican.
Yes there were two great matches on with Ding/Robertson and Judd/Maguire and it was brilliant to watch class players like that before your next event.
What did you think of the venue?
It was amazing! The crowds were brilliant and the atmosphere was great and I hope it stays there because I can’t think of a better place for it to be.
And you must have been happy for Judd to win?
Yeah I was chuffed to bits for him. I was going a bit relentless on Twitter, I was really nervous and it was horrible watching your good mate so close to winning and then to have Mark Allen roaring back at him like he did, so I was chewing my nails off! He did so well to finish it after he hadn’t been at the table for 5 frames. I went shopping with him a couple of days after he won, and a year ago I went shopping with him and a couple of people sort of looked and recognised him, but this time it was like every other person was looking at him and asking to have a picture. What a difference a year makes, it’s crazy!
While you were in York you played an exhibition at the Conservative club I play at.
I had a great time and was made to feel really welcome. I played from 6pm till 1am or something and it was a good laugh, good banter and I can’t thank everyone enough.
Have you got any more exhibitions lined up?
Yes I’ve got one on 29th February at Corsham Club which is about half an hour from where I live, and apparently there’s at least 10 people lined up who want to play me so I’m really looking forward to it.
Who should people contact if they want you to come and play at their club?
They can get hold of me directly on Twitter.
PTC11: Sheffield Academy
Date: 10/12/11 (pre-qualifiers)
3-4 James Cahill
PTC12: Sheffield Academy (stage 1)
0-4 Stephen Hendry
Table position: 102 (14th best amateur)
3-4 James Cahill
Not good! To be fair he played well and it’s the best I’ve ever seen him play, but I didn’t turn up really. I went 2-0 down, and in the next I needed 2 snookers, got them and won that frame then got back 2-2 and I was about 50 ahead in the next and I was on the black and miscued it. The balls were lovely and he got right back into it and in the end I lost on the black. Then in the decider he had a bit of luck when going into the reds, but he played better than me at the end of the day so he deserved to win.
0-4 Stephen Hendry
To be fair I was really nervous and it was hard because I never had a chance to get into it. He didn’t miss a lot and no matter what anyone says about his long game, on that day his long game was unbelievable!
I finally got a chance in the last frame and I constructed a 40 odd with baulk colours. The pink only went to one pocket and I potted a red and nearly got out perfect but I just stuck on a red, and then he won that frame on the black. He played well and it was a great experience playing him but I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t play better.
It sounds like classic Hendry. You’re a bit young to remember him in his prime but what do you remember of him when you were younger?
I’ve got loads of old dvds and I used to love watching them and like you say he didn’t miss anything. Nothing!
What did you learn from playing him?
His concentration is unbelievable. There was no expression on his face, he was just machine like!
You said you were nervous, how much of a factor was that?
It did play quite a big part in the first couple of frames, my control of the white and safety wasn’t very good but you’ve got to go through matches like that and learn from the experience. Next time I won’t be as nervous and hopefully I’ll do better.
PTC11 and 12 were strangely scheduled weren’t they? Did that affect your preparation in any way?
It was a bit strange but I can’t use that as an excuse because it was the same for everybody.
You finished 102nd on the PTC list and were 14th best amateur. Now you’ve had time to reflect, what are your feelings on how the PTC campaign went because all the points came from PTC7 didn’t they?
I think that in every PTC apart from Gloucester and one match against Steve Lee (PTC 3) where I did play well and was unlucky not to win, I didn’t play good snooker at all. So it’s been a strange year but it’s been a good learning curve. I played in all the EPTCs apart from Poland where I was injured, so it’s been good experience but I’ve just got to keep practicing and get better. I’m not happy at all (with the PTC results), but I’ve got Q School coming up and I’m looking forward to that and next year really.
You played 3 players twice and the results flipped on each occasion – you beat James Cahill and Ryan Causton then lost to them later on, and you lost to Stephen Craigie and then beat him the next time you played. Is it fair to suggest you tried particularly hard against Craigie but maybe took the other two for granted?
You could say that. When I played James I didn’t expect him to play as well as he did. He did play well and seemed really up for it and because I beat him 4-0 (PTC 2) I maybe did take him a little bit for granted which I shouldn’t have done. Against Craigie I had something to prove because he beat me in Q School when he didn’t miss a ball, and he played really well in the PTC event where again he didn’t miss a ball (PTC 5) so I felt like I really had to improve and I played really well that day (PTC 7). But a different tournament means a different match so you can’t relate it to the same player.
As you say I’ve drawn 3 players more than once, and in nearly every event I’ve been close to the same player in the draw that I played in the previous event. I think the draw is meant to be random but I noticed I was in the same section as some of the pros as well. I was close to Steve Lee in the early PTCs then Martin Gould for a bit then Hendry at the end and it’s something other players have noticed as well, so it doesn’t feel random and it makes you wonder a bit. There are quite a few people who have looked at that and don’t think it’s right and I’m sure they’ll look at it (World Snooker) and sort it out for next time.
Which was your favourite match?
I think my favourite one was when I was 2-0 down against Luca (Brecel) which was the worst I’ve ever played and then I went to toilet and gave myself a slap and came back and made a couple of 60s, an 80 and finished with a century. So that was my favourite match, especially as I hadn’t won a first round up to that point. And then in the same tournament when I played (Matthew) Stevens, I was 2-0 down and 50 down and came back to 2-1, then I was 50 down again and came back to 2-2 and then he won the next on the black and made a 70 to win. I really enjoyed that match; he hardly missed a thing and was playing so well and went on to reach the final.
Which match were you most disappointed to lose?
It has to be the qualifier against Cahill where the winner went on to play Ding on Eurosport. That really affected me for about a week or so after. Also the match against (Dave) Harold because I played terrible, but you’ve just got to take the disappointments, it’s all part of it. But the Cahill match was the one. It’s over now, I can’t go back to it so I’ve just got to forget about it, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to play on Eurosport or the BBC in the future. That’s the way I’m looking at it.
You’ve got a lot of support from people who have still not seen you play, you’ve got a lot of followers on Twitter so what does the support mean and how much do you want to pay them back by getting on television and showing them what you can do?
Yes I do have a lot of support and it’s really nice because I know quite a few players who have people who try and put them down, but I’m lucky because I’ve got a lot of support. So yes I do want to pay them back and get on tv in the next year or two or three and kick on from there.
What did you pick up from speaking to the professionals and fellow amateurs about the overall impression of the PTCs and how they work?
I think most of them do enjoy them and think they’re fun, obviously Ronnie (O’Sullivan) and the like don’t enjoy them but the lower ranked pros and the amateurs do, but there are too many they are too expensive. I’m ok, I don’t mind them because I love playing and to pay £100 and get to play Stephen Hendry and have the chance to get on Eurosport is pretty incredible really but I think 4 of each (PTC and EPTC) would be perfect and that’s the feedback I’m getting from most people.
One thing that’s got me, and I don’t know about the rest of the amateurs, but it’s having to go up to Sheffield and play two amateur rounds on two separate days. I think it would be quite easy to fit it all in one day because one more day is an extra £50 for the hotel and you could easily get another best of 7 in on the same day. Also maybe the prize money in the EPTCs could be a bit more because you spend £500 before you’ve even started and you’ve got to win 2 matches after the qualifiers to get 500 Euros back. So those are the only niggles I’ve got but overall I really enjoy them and I think a lot of other people enjoy them as well. It’s a bit like the FA Cup of the snooker world!
What are your plans between now and the Q School?
I’m going to try and play in as many tournaments as possible, even local tiny tournaments, just for match practice. Hopefully the QSP Series will run again because I did really well in that last year along with Kyren (Wilson); he won 2 events and I won 1 and reached another final and semi-final so that was really good fun. There’s the Snookerbacker Classic as well which I’m looking forward to.
You’ll get a nice goodie bag with some plastercine and lollipops!
(laughs) That should be a good event and if I don’t qualify in the Gloucester event I’ll be in the one in Romford as well so I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure how many other amateur events there are but I’m going to have a good look around and see what’s possible. Also I’m going to go and play Judd and Martin Gould and people like that to try and sharpen up and help me improve.
Ben’s PTC results in full:
4-3 v Brian Cox
4-2 v Joel Walker
0-4 v Mark Joyce
4-0 v James Cahill
4-0 v Marc J Davis
0-4 v Dave Harold
4-2 v Ryan Causton
4-0 v Tony Knowles
3-4 v Stephen Lee
4-0 v Laurin Winters
4-0 v Felix Pleschek
4-2 v Allan Taylor
1-4 v Martin Gould
4-0 v Stephen John Barton
0-4 v Stephen Craigie
4-3 v Stephen Craigie
4-3 v Darren Bond
4-2 v Luca Brecel
4-2 v Yu Delu
2-4 v Matthew Stevens
4-0 v Kevin O’Leary
3-4 v Craig Steadman
4-0 v Brian Beekers
3-4 v Ryan Causton
4-3 v Liam Monk
1-4 v Nigel Bond
3-4 v James Cahill
0-4 v Stephen Hendry
So despite having very real ambitions to qualify for the main tour via the PTC events, Ben Harrison along with every other top amateur bar Craig Steadman (a former main tour professional himself) found the task beyond his capabilities. This comes as no surprise to the many analysts who from the start saw the 8 qualification spots for those outside the top 64 in the end of season professional rankings as out of reach for the amateurs given the remaining professionals from 65-100 were also in the mix. It was obvious from the reduced pool of amateur entrants in the latter PTC events that this did not go unnoticed by the players themselves. That said, thanks to Barry Hearn the opportunity was there for every man and his dog to give it a go, and credit is due for that because there was no such opportunity under previous administrations.
As top amateur in the PTC list Craig Steadman finished the campaign provisionally taking the 7th main tour qualification spot and he will have to wait until the conclusion of the World Championship qualifying event in April to realise his fate, although it will take an exceptional set of circumstances to deny him a return to the elite. The next best placed amateur, Kyren Wilson in 72nd spot, will not gain his tour card this time around through the PTCs as there are too many players above him currently in the 65+ ranking bracket. He along with all the others without a tour place for next season will have to wait until the Q School at the end of this season for the final chance to qualify for the 2012/13 season.
To see how the final PTC standings look complete with highlighting to show the provisional main tour places, you can visit this webpage thanks to Hermund at wwwsnooker.
The PTCs have not been to everyone’s liking. There have been well publicised criticisms from the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen as well as players’ management groups such as Grove Snooker, and figures close to the amateur game like Alan Craig, Managing Director of Scottish Snooker.
The criticism is generally based around players’ expenses from the lower ranked professional and amateur standpoint, and for “blackmailing” with the ranking points schedule from the top players point of view. The criticism is not without merit of course. With prize money only kicking in after the first round proper this meant many amateur prequalifiers went unrewarded for winning as many as three straight matches before going out to a more experienced name in the round of the last 128. Ben himself netted just £600, half the entry fees paid out, of which he received around £500 after tax and management fees, which is barely enough to fund a trip to a non-UK based PTC event. The top three in the PTC list – Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson however netted around £30,000 each for their efforts, and now have the chance to play for the £70,000 first prize in the grand finals to take place in March. When you consider the amount of matches they had to win and the incredible standard they had to play at in order to win those matches, one can understand the gripes even from the top stars.
However when looking at the bigger picture there is no question the PTCs have been a success in spreading the word of snooker and showcasing the depth of talent present to a worldwide audience through Eurosport and World Snooker’s live streaming service www.liveworldsnooker.tv which has global subscribers previously unable to watch live snooker.
The PTCs also play a major part in safeguarding the future of the game by giving future prospects the chance to experience the televised environment playing top players in front of large crowds, something previously unheard of even for a lot of experienced middle ranked professionals. Taking PTC 4 from Furth, Germany as the example, from the amateur game we had Gary Wilson playing Steve Davis, Chris Norbury playing Neil Robertson, Sean O’Sullivan playing Ding Junhui and Sanderson Lam playing Mark Williams in matches beamed live across Europe on a Saturday morning and afternoon via Eurosport. Under what other circumstances could this have happened?
The “bribing” of top players with ranking points has been a necessary evil. Without fear of dropping down the rankings and having to play more qualifying rounds for the bigger events, the PTCs would have contained significantly weaker draws with many of the big names staying at home with the knock on effect being less interest from the viewing and paying public. Being a top professional brings responsibilities and one of these is to play a part in safeguarding the future of the game, if nothing else to ensure their own legacies. If the game of snooker ceased to be popular to the point there was no television coverage and no professional tour, the greats of the game as we know them would be forever forgotten by future generations.
Of course the harsh reality of what it takes to have a successful career as a snooker professional will have hit home to many participants, and there will be many names that we will never come across again. From this angle, the PTCs have been a blessing in disguise for those not good enough to make the grade as they will now have to get on with their lives and find another career away from snooker. The PTCs will have given them a chance to realise this earlier than perhaps they would have done otherwise, and ironically saved them future expenses despite having to take the significant hit of a financial loss in the process of finding this out.
From following Ben’s progression throughout the PTC series we have been given a unique glimpse inside the life of a budding young snooker player as he sets sail on the journey to fulfil the dream so many of us at one point had.
We have seen how the heavy schedule of the PTCs has at times left no time to gather thoughts and practice and prepare for the next event.
We have seen how travelling hundreds or at times thousands of miles have impacted on the ability of players to find their form when it matters. There has been a balancing act for many in trying to best prepare by arriving at the venue with enough time to acclimatise, or taking the option to try and save money and face a very long drive and have to whip the cue out and play literally as soon as they arrive. Add to that the lack of practice facilities at most venues so you can’t even get your arm going before taking on a seriously good opponent.
We have also seen how life as a snooker player depends upon results. It sounds obvious but those of us with regular jobs will never experience the feeling of losing in the opening round of an event we have spent weeks anticipating and preparing for, and then having to wait around and spend money we don’t have dwelling on what might have been whilst watching our peers still playing, and wishing to be tucked up in front of the television back at home.
For each loss, the urgency of the next event increases and with it the pressure to succeed, and with that the added pressure of dealing with the thought process of knowing you cannot miss a ball or else you will give your opponent the chance to steal the much needed money and ranking points from under your nose. This profession is not for the faint hearted!
So next time you see a player suffering from the pressure of a televised match and missing balls they shouldn’t miss, think twice before questioning their bottle because you don’t get to be in those situations if you don’t have it in the first place; most viewers have no idea what that pressure actually feels like. And when a player wins such a match, an exaggerated fist clench or a shout of “Come on!” should never be frowned upon. Of course from the spectators’ point of view, all of the above is what makes the game so entertaining and why watching professional snooker and following closely a player’s career can be so intensely addictive.
The PTCs front loaded the first half of the snooker calendar for the 2011/12 season and the general consensus among the players, as Ben talked about earlier, is that there were too many in too short a space of time. The concept is still undergoing a trial and error period and things will doubtless change next season; the current rumours are that they will be reduced from 12 to 8 events with 4 being staged in each of the UK and Europe. This sounds like a much better plan, although with Barry Hearn’s vision of holding an event every week of the year things will not stand still, and the huge success of some of the European PTCs will no doubt lead to conversion to fully fledged ranking events in the near future. Add to that news that the professional field will be increased to 128 players by the start of the 2013/14 season and maybe the PTCs as we know them now will cease to be relevant, and certainly will cease to contain the big names they have this season as the top players pick and choose which events to enter.
As for Ben, he kindly agreed to allow Snooker Island to follow his progress and we are very thankful to him for that. I personally have no worries about Ben in that he has proved himself to be one of the best amateurs, only 3 times losing out in the amateur pre-qualifiers; 4-3 to Craig Steadman, 4-0 to the excellent prospect Stephen Craigie who he later beat 4-3, and 4-3 to James Cahill as described earlier in this blog.
Ben is smart enough to know he needs to knuckle down and test himself against a wider variety of professional player in practice, and the experience gained from these PTCs will hold him in good stead for the future. Ben is the classic modern day player; very attacking, very good in the balls, a very good long potter and during his run in PTC 7 where I was present to witness he showed excellent bottle under pressure and very good tactical nous, in particular against an impressive Stephen Craigie. Both Stephen and his brother Sam who is currently on the main tour are ones to watch for the future by the way.
Of course there are many other players in the same bracket as Ben and it’s been a fascinating experience to witness the talent bubbling under the main tour and all the rivalries between them that the general snooker public are unaware of. It is a joy to watch the raw talent of the younger generation before they become battle hardened after being bashed up by the professionals, and I hope following Ben through the PTCs along with some of the Snooker Island interviews over the last few months has brought some of the names to the fore, after all that was the aim of this series of blogs.
I kicked off the blog with mention of his visit to York. Ben travelled up with his best friend Nick, and the pair of them spent an evening playing and chatting to the members of the Heworth Conservative snooker club where I am a member. While Ben was busy taking on all comers, Nick was enthusiastically attempting to string more than two balls together on an adjacent table with what can only be described as a dodgy looking piece of wood which happened to be cue shaped! The pair of them went down very well with the regulars, and Ben impressed everyone present with his natural flair on the table and personality off it as he played solidly from 6pm until 1am.
I high recommend anyone reading this to book him to come to your club and spend an evening in his company where he will play anyone who wants to have a frame or two or five with him, and let him show you what he can do on the snooker table. He is a natural entertainer, a showman, and his enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Naturally I wish him all the best in the upcoming events in 2012 and hope he can fulfil his talent by qualifying for the main tour where of course the hard work truly begins.
To follow this series of blogs from the start, click here.