English duo Brandon Sargeant and David Grace are set to secure Main Tour places after sealing the top two spots on snooker’s Challenge Tour.
Sargeant, who won the first event of the series all the way back in June of last year, led the standings heading into the final tournament in Gloucester.
Grace and Mann were both able to usurp the 2016 European Under-21 Championship finalist.
But after the random draw resulted in the possibility of them crossing paths in the third round, Sargeant was confirmed a debut stint on the professional circuit from next season.
As it happened, a first round defeat to Zak Surety – Sargeant’s only blank across the ten events – didn’t really matter too much and Mann ended up losing in the last 32 to boot.
Former UK Championship semi-finallist Grace could still be caught by David Lilley, who stood in fourth on the Order of Merit.
However, the exit of the recent European Championship runner-up in last 16 at the South West Snooker Academy ensured Grace’s immediate return to the Main Tour.
Grace could yet conclude snooker’s Challenge Tour on a complete high and add to his two previous titles in the series.
The 33 year-old from Leeds is into the quarter-finals and will face Surety, with the likes of Barry Pinches and European under-21 amateur champion Jackson Page also in the hunt.
The Challenge Tour was launched in 2018 in order to help amateurs find more competitive playing opportunities and provide a new avenue onto the Main Tour.
An entry fee of just £50 per event was required and a top prize of £2,000 on offer for each winner.
But entries were disappointingly low and the original maximum quota of 72 players per comp was never filled.
The tournaments that were staged outside of the UK were especially sparse in numbers.
There were several possible reasons for this but perhaps the most obvious was the lack of incentive for players who were further down the Order of Merit standings to keep entering.
The dangling carrot of two Main Tour cards was a good one, but it alienated a lot of cueists who probably felt like that was out of reach after a couple of early exits.
Should snooker’s Challenge Tour continue, perhaps a discussion into revamping the format would be welcome.
One suggestion would be to offer a third Main Tour card, with the players ranked from 3rd to 10th on the Order of Merit battling it out in a winner-takes-all play-off at the climax of the series.
Only four players were chasing the two spots this season heading into Challenge Tour Event 10.
Still, if necessary tweaks are enacted it still boasts the potential to be a strong addition to the amateur scene in years to come.
Grace and Sargeant are certainly happy it exists as they deservedly get their opportunities to compete as professionals for the next couple of years.
Click here for the Challenge Tour Order of Merit.
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