The Paul Hunter Disability Classic successfully returned to the Cueball Derby last weekend as World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) staged its latest event for players with learning and sensory disabilities.
The final event of the 2017/18 season, the weekend saw a significant increase in entries from the inaugural competition at the same venue a year previously as two past champions claimed their latest WDBS titles.
The Group 7 tournament for players with visual disabilities saw Birmingham’s Nick Neale claim his second WDBS gold medal following a dominant display in Derby.
Following victories against Phillip Murphy and David Baker in the knockout rounds, the title match saw Neale face defending champion Mike Gillespie in a repeat of last November’s Hull Open final.
The pair split the opening two frames, but it was the rapidly-improving Neale who added the next two to secure victory.
Neale also secured the highest break of the weekend with a brilliant run of 92, further breaks of 82, 67, 57 and 54 meaning that he finished with four of the five highest breaks of the category.
The Group 8 deaf event meanwhile saw Shabir Ahmed complete the successful defence of his first WDBS title earned year ago following a repeat victory against Lewis Knowles in a dramatic title decider.
A year ago it was Ahmed who ran out a comfortable 3-0 winner but as Knowles moved 2-1 ahead it appeared as though the three-time finalist was closing in on gold for the first time at a WDBS competition.
Ahmed, however, was not to be denied and stormed back to take the final two frames, the last on the final black with a magnificent clearance of 33 from the last red.
The win is Ahmed’s third WDBS title overall and sees him become the first-ever player in Group 8 to claim back-to-back titles following his victory in Northampton back in February, also against Knowles for whom the wait for a maiden title goes on.
Once again the event was sponsored by the Paul Hunter Foundation, with WPBSA World Snooker coach Steve Rutter present on behalf of the Foundation to present medals and certificates to participants and winners.
The event was visited by professional snooker player Eden Sharav and the Mayor of Derby Councillor John Whitby, who watched our Group 6 players in action during the Friday competition won by WDBS debutant Andrew Galley.
WDBS also welcomed Craig Crowley MBE, a well-known figure in the deaf community and former Deaflympics President who visited to discuss future developments with players.
The next stop on the WDBS circuit will be another return trip from 2017, this time to Redz Snooker Club in Cwmbran for the 2018 Welsh Open.
Taking place across the weekend of 29 June – 1 July 2018, the unique event will be open to players from all eight disability classification groups and will be played under the 6-Red format of the game.