Preston to Host World Seniors Championship This Weekend

The 2016 888sport World Seniors Championship takes place this weekend at the Guild Hall in Preston.

Ken Doherty
Doherty plays the ancient Mark Davis in the last 16 – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The World Seniors is an event that was held once in 1991 before being revived six years ago primarily through the efforts of 1986 world champion Joe Johnson.

The first few years were fun occasions which mostly showcased stars of yesteryear, competing on the baize once again to the delight of seasoned fans.

Jimmy White was a popular champion in 2010 while Darren Morgan, Nigel Bond and Steve Davis followed suit in the next three editions.

Even though a shot-clock was introduced and matches were too short at best of threes, at that time it was an enjoyable event in which players and fans alike could reminisce about the olden days, particularly the golden generation of the 1980s.

It marked an opportunity to support an old favourite player who perhaps had not been competing on the Main Tour in recent times, or at least not prominently.

That romantic idea was quashed last year, though, when the perplexing decision was made to reduce the age limit to just 40.

This resulted in a top 16 player in the form of Mark Williams, in fact only 39 at the time, being ridiculously crowned as World Seniors champion.

The Welshman openly jokes about it but still entered, quite rightly, in order to collect the rather neat £18,000 winner’s cheque – as he was eligible.

This year the 16 names that make up the draw are predominantly still on the Main Tour, with just four exceptions.

Indeed, a significant percentage of the field could win a regular event, let alone be forced to pit their wits against alleged pensioners.

Because of this, there is a general lack of excitement surrounding the competition these days, which is a shame because it could be a joyous and entertaining festival if treated properly.

As it is, you cant blame those who enter as the ultimate prize for simply winning a meagre two frames per match is tempting.

Williams is back to defend his title but expects a tougher challenge this time around because of the consolidation of the changes.

“It’s more difficult now with a lot of top pros in there who are still on the circuit,” he said.

“Last year everyone expected me to win it because I was one of the main pros in it. It’s very open this time.”

Ireland’s Ken Doherty is among the 12 names hoping to etch his name on the trophy for the first time, but equally realises how difficult it’ll be with the reduction in age requirement.

“It has got so much more competitive over the last couple of years because of the change in age limit,” said the 46 year-old, who won the World Championship in 1997.

“There are a lot of very good players in it this time. Mark Davis is an extremely tough first round draw, he’s ranked 23rd in the world and we’ve had a lot of battles over the years.

“It’s good prize money and for the winner it’s great to be a world champion at any level. Everyone there is in it to win, and not just to have fun. It’s a great event and I love playing in it every year.”

Returning to the Guild Hall will bring back plenty of memories for Doherty as he played several times at the Preston venue earlier in his career.

“The Guild Hall is where it all started for me,” he said. “That’s where I went to try and qualify as a professional in 1988, back in the pro-ticket days. I failed to qualify but I won the world amateur title the next year to get my pro card.

“My best memory of playing in Preston was the 1994 UK Championship. I played out of my skin that week and beat the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and James Wattana to reach the final.

“Then I was involved in a brilliant match against Stephen Hendry, he made seven centuries and beat me 10-5. I couldn’t hold on to him, he was just too good. It’s a great venue, particularly when there’s a big crowd in.”

The event is expected to be well supported and there should be good crowds in to watch the action unfold on Saturday on Sunday.

But it’s a shame that the World Seniors has lost all of its charm.

Click here to view the draw

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