Sixteen players are in the revamped Paul Hunter Classic draw, with the 2019 edition of the fan’s favourite event set for Saturday and Sunday in Fürth.
The Paul Hunter Classic has for the last three seasons been staged as a ranking event but it has been downsized to a low-profile invitational for the 2019/20 campaign.
A tournament that launched in 2004 with the late Paul Hunter emerging as the inaugural winner, the soon-to-be Paul Hunter Classic was once arguably the flagship pro-am event of the now defunct European Tour – or Players Tour Championship.
After the demise of the latter, the event was upgraded to ranking event status in 2016 and an appreciative Stadthalle venue was regularly at capacity.
However, the hastening increase of prize funds in other competitions, especially in China but also in the sport’s traditional home of the UK, meant that the Paul Hunter Classic struggled to keep up.
A champion’s cheque worth £20,000 was like gold dust a decade ago, but these days it’s mere pocket change for the top players and that was reflected in the poor entries in recent seasons.
The roll of honour is impressive with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, and Mark Allen all having their names etched onto the trophy.
But 2019’s Paul Hunter Classic draw boasted none of those names and without further sponsorship the writing was on the wall.
Still, it’s a relief that the event has survived in some form, particularly in respect to who it honours, but also because German snooker followers are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the sport that they deserve as much live snooker to enjoy as possible.
In an era when the game is being played in front of one man and his smartphone in China, it’s always refreshing to see the latter stages of a German event and enjoy the lavish applause that the crowd generously extends to the competitors on show.
While most of the marquee names aren’t on display again this year, the Paul Hunter Classic draw is still represented by a few top 16 members.
Reigning champion Kyren Wilson is back to defend his crown and will face one of the four amateurs who will complete the last 16 line-up.
Barry Hawkins will bid to kick start his campaign but faces a tricky opener against recent World Championship semi-finalist Gary Wilson.
Like Wilson, David Gilbert reached the last four at the Crucible and the “Angry Farmer” is in the field with a first outing against 2006 winner Michael Holt.
One of the picks of the first round draw sees Belgium’s Luca Brecel take on 1997 world champion Ken Doherty.
Mark King, who won the event in its infancy way back in 2005, plays teenager Ryan Davies while Ricky Walden, Joe Perry, and Matthew Selt are among the others set to participate.
The action gets under way on Saturday, with the format following the usual best of seven frames guise.
Last 16 Draw
Kyren Wilson vs Florian Nüßle (a)
Matthew Selt vs Dominic Dale
Luca Brecel vs Ken Doherty
Ricky Walden vs Qualifier
David Gilbert vs Michael Holt
Joe Perry vs Ben Mertens (a)
Mark King vs Ryan Davies (a)
Barry Hawkins vs Gary Wilson