Following the conclusion of the 2012 World Championship, it took only a handful of days for the 2012/13 season to get under way.
Amazing really, and long gone are the days where players and fans had to wait four or five months until the first event of a new campaign.
Next week, quite unbelievably, is when the pro season commences with the Wuxi Classic qualifiers – upgraded to a fully fledged ranking event after four successful years as an invitational tournament.
And after two and a half weeks of gruelling wall-to-wall action in Sheffield, twelve hopefuls will be in the first qualifying round draw having come through the gruelling Q-School.
Here’s a speedy run down of the dozen who have all emerged successfully and now have earned that coveted two-year exemption onto a Main Tour worth over £7million per year.
Martin O’Donnell (England)
O’Donnell suffered heartache last season when he lost at the final hurdle in Q-School to Kurt Maflin but he made no such mistake this time around – safeguarding his progress in the very first event. The Snookerbacker Classic champion, O’Donnell didn’t even have to pay a dime to enter. Was very successful on the amateur season in the last 12 months.
Sam Baird (England)
In all honesty, Baird was quite unlucky to have dropped off the Tour last season in the first place. After a slow start, the Englishman qualified for back-to-back tournaments at the World and Welsh Opens – almost upsetting World No1 Mark Selby in the latter. This was compounded by a frames win-loss record of 20-0 in Q-School. Still only 23, he’s definitely a player to look out for.
Ian Burns (England)
One of the lesser-known players to come through, at 27 Burns has taken his chance superbly in giving the professional world a shot. Played in a lot of the PTC events last season and did quite well in them too – James Wattana and Rory McLeod were two of his more notable scalps.
Chen Zhe (China)
A sometime practice partner of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Chen is another player who produced good performances in the PTCs as an amateur in 2011, reaching the third round twice. At 19, Chen is continuing the growing trend of young Chinese players emerging onto the scene.
Daniel Wells (Wales)
Wells endured a disastrous twelve months on the Main tour after topping the Welsh amateur rankings and lifting the European Championship trophy in June of last year. At 23, Wells has already mustered a lot of experience but it’s time to put that, and his obvious talent, to some use.
Jamie O’Neill (England)
O’Neill is another player with some professional experience but never really settled in his previous attempt. Duane Jones, Gary Wilson and rising Scot Scott Donaldson were all good victories, though, in Q-School Event 2. Perhaps not one of the players fancied at the outset, O’Neill could be somebody coming in under the radar.
Sean O’Sullivan (England)
A Twitter favourite, Sean has no family connections with namesake Ronnie but he’s heading in the right direction if he has aspirations of equalling some of the world champion’s major accomplishments. The teenager served his apprenticeship during the PTC events and has quickly developed into a competent player, earning his maiden ticket onto the Main Tour.
Paul Davison (England)
Despite bettering his deepest run in a tournament at the 2012 German Masters by reaching the last 32, Davison could not do enough to break into the Top 64 in the world rankings. No problem, the 40 year-old proved that it isn’t only the young hot-shots who come through the winner-takes-all battle and schooled some of them with his experience to land another crack at the elite.
Rod Lawler (England)
Almost a case of read above again for Lawler. Another 40 year-old, Lawler’s best days are well and truly behind him but the Liverpudlian is not ready to pack away his cue just yet and whitewashed another veteran in Irishman Joe Delaney to seal his progress. Known for his dogged, slow play, Lawler’s inclusion ensures many a further late night in the qualifying rounds this season.
Michael Wasley (England)
Wasley had already lost to Daniel Wells in the final round of Q-School Event 2 so to bounce back and reach the rubber game again was a testament to his temperament. And having been beaten in a decider to Wells, Wasley turned around the tables and inflicted a 4-3 defeat on Scotland’s Fraser Patrick, who himself has now lost at the last hurdle in two consecutive years.
Joel Walker (England)
John Sutton won’t thank me for reminding him but, in the penultimate match, he was 3-0 up to Walker but somehow grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory. Walker made the most of it, winning his deciding match 4-0 and, a Sheffield lad, will now have his eyes on an eventual run to the Crucible. At 16, Walker won the 2010 Rileys Future Stars competition, leading Ronnie O’Sullivan to tip him as a future world champion.
Robbie Williams (England)
The headlines this season are going to be fantastic. A run down of the titles of some of Robbie Williams’ songs and you can see why. “Better Man”, “Come Undone”, “No Regrets”, “Sexed Up”….Okay maybe not the last one. No this is not the pop star but Robbie Williams will be hoping to Take That opportunity given to him having come through Q-School. Anywayyyyy, a very capable player, Williams starred as an amateur in the early PTC events last season.
So there you have it. Twelve players comprising ten from England, one Welsh and one Chinese.
It’s disappointing not to have an Irish player come through with Delaney coming the closest in the final event and Sutton ruing his missed opportunity in the same tournament, although there was some consolation with 16 year-old Josh Boileau’s strong efforts giving the youngster essential experience for the future.
The fact there are ten English players doesn’t exactly highlight the mission statement of becoming a global sport.
Perhaps next season the Q-School events should be spread out with one in Asia and one in mainland Europe so to attract a wider influx of entrants.
This is highly probably given the fact that the Tour increases to 128 players for the 2013/14 campaign.
Regardless, these twelve have done what they had to and have been rewarded with two years to launch themselves into the big-time, as the sport itself simultaneously attempts to do likewise.