The fourth Players Tour Championship event of the season commences this week as the circuit heads outside England for the first time in the minor-ranking event series.
The tournament, perhaps better known as the Paul Hunter Classic, takes place in Furth, Germany over the weekend as the momentum for the 2011/12 campaign reaches full stride.
Ben Woollaston’s victory in PTC 3 last weekend will surely inspire the professionals further down the rankings as the Englishman’s shock triumph in Sheffield came despite his status outside the world’s top 50.
Of course, the great aspect of the PTC series is that it gives opportunities to amateurs as well and the 24 year-old’s win will serve as a reminder to those players that anything is possible in the shorter formats.
The top eight players who have not already qualified for the 2012/13 Main Tour following the conclusion of the twelve PTC events will be guaranteed their spot as a professional so, naturally enough, competition will continue to be fierce.
This criteria includes amateurs in an update to last season, which only granted the eight highest placed professionals who finished outside the Top 64 in the world rankings their return to the tour.
Of those amateurs, Gary Wilson currently finds himself in a positive position to utilise from this new addition to the tour structure after picking up ranking points in all three events so far – which is an impressive achievement given the fact that the amateurs have to win at least two or three rounds to guarantee any points or money.
Indeed, as things stand Wilson is nicely poised just under the top 24 cut-off point for those that will qualify for the PTC Grand Finals next March after the dozen events are completed.
Having joined the inaugural PTC season last year, the Paul Hunter Classic has in fact been an important summer event since 2004.
It was renamed after the late Paul Hunter in 2007 after the three-time Masters champion tragically died from cancer at the age of 27 in 2006.
Hunter’s memory continues to live strongly on around the snooker community and it is appropriate that his name is affiliated with a tournament on the calendar – a trophy in which the Leeds potter lifted in its first year staged.
There hasn’t yet been a double champion this season but Judd Trump, who claimed PTC 2, is the defending champion.
That said, the favourite will arguably be Shaun Murphy who preceded a run to the semi-finals last year with victories in 2008 and 2009.
Germany proved without doubt that it is a snooker hotbed when it staged the full ranking event German Masters in February.
The crowds that week were phenomenal and, with this year’s edition of the Paul Hunter Classic being shown live via Eurosport, it is evident that there is a rich future for the sport in the country.