The fifth European Players Tour Championship event of the season got under way today in Ravenscaig as professional snooker makes a welcome return to Scotland.
It has been more than two years since the last tournament was staged in a land that has produced multiple world champions – most notably legends Stephen Hendry and John Higgins.
Snooker is the Highlands has always been prevalent but in recent years there has been a distinctly haphazard approach to the amateur set-up which has severely affected the newer generation emerging following the Golden Era.
Of course, there is a lot to live up to. Not only was there Hendry and Higgins, but Alan McManus, Graeme Dott and Stephen Maguire, not to mention the seasoned campaigners like Chris Small, Marcus Campbell and Jamie Burnett, among others.
Now, the hopes for the future lie with a trio consisting of Anthony McGill, Michael Leslie and Scott Donaldson – the latter in the wake of his 7-3 victory over Brendan O’Donoghue at the European Championship last June.
As always with the PTC series, amateur players have the opportunity to enter and mix it with the best in the business so it is a rare chance for the aspiring Celts to challenge the big names.
But even then, with a governing body that seems to lack any influential structure, it is difficult for the younger players to produce the consistency to match the higher level, and so proved to be the case overall today as the preliminary rounds took place.
Possibly one of the most promising up-and-coming stars from the nation is Eden Sharav and he duly dispatched of two of his countrymen to ensure a crack at Joe Swail in the last 128 while Fraser Patrick, Joseph McLaren, Mark Boyle and Ross Muir added to the Scottish representation in the tournament proper.
Elsewhere, the qualifiers were dominated by the top English amateurs as understandably none of the Chinese contingent decided to travel.
The likes of Adam Wicheard, Ben Harrison, Kyren Wilson and Michael Wild were all successful while Welshman Gareth Allen and teenager Kacper Filipiak of Poland also progressed.
Quite a number of the top 16 players decided to take this satellite event off, taking what extra time they can accumulate to spend with their families and chill out over the festive season.
Recent UK champion Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Matthew Stevens and Ali Carter are all absent from duty but there is still a strong field remaining.
The tie of the opening round is arguably Jimmy White’s clash with Liu Chuang with the Londoner needing a very strong performance if he is to have any chance of breaking into the top 25 Order of Merit that ensures qualification to the Grand Finals in March.
World Seniors champion Nigel Bond and fan favourite Tony Drago do battle – hopefully Tony’s poor face has recovered from his previous war with himself – while Ricky Walden faces a tricky obstacle in China’s Xiao Guodong.
The full draw and list of results can be viewed by clicking here.