After several weeks of high-intensity action, the snooker Q School has concluded.
Just one of the dozen graduates to the professional Main Tour will be a rookie during the upcoming 2022/23 season.
All the remaining competitors used their experience to emerge from what is a daunting amateur competition at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.
Several notable names – including Michael Holt, Kurt Maflin, and recent world seniors champion Lee Walker – failed to guarantee themselves a return to the elite.
But there are plenty of other familiar faces who will be back competing for the lucrative prizes in ranking events next term.
After a year away from the professional scene, 50 year-old Rod Lawler will make his comeback for the 2022/23 campaign.
Lawler won three out of his five encounters in deciders, including in the final round where he denied fellow English player Brandon Sargeant.
Another veteran of the game, Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien will prolong his professional status streak that began all the way back in 1991.
After edging teenager Liam Davies in his opening fixture, O’Brien accounted for the experienced Martin O’Donnell, Ross Muir, and Rory McLeod.
Andy Lee was a surprise qualifier from Q School Event 1, with the Hong Kong cueist securing a third career stint on the snooker Main Tour.
Lee beat Luke Simmonds in the final round, but the 41 year-old immediately cast doubt on his ability to compete on the circuit given Hong Kong’s recent decision to cut funding for cue sports.
Bai Langning was one of the many Chinese players who were badly affected by the pandemic, and it cost him his place on the Main Tour a year ago.
The 20 year-old wasted little time in this Q School, beating Soheil Vahedi and Leo Fernandez before edging Sunny Akani 4-3 in the last round.
It has been four years since Adam Duffy last competed on the Main Tour as a professional, but that will soon change.
The Sheffield native recorded two strong victories at the end of Q School Event 2, beating Michael Georgiou and Daniel Wells to guarantee his long-awaited return.
Zak Surety dropped off the Main Tour at the end of last season after failing to break into the top 64 in the world rankings.
The 30 year-old Englishman will have another two-year crack at achieving that after fighting back from behind to beat both Rodney Goggins and Ben Mertens in his last two games.
Another player who immediately bounces back is Ireland’s Aaron Hill, with the 20 year-old delighting his large Cork following with a 4-1 final-round triumph over Zhao Jianbo.
Hill, a former European under-21 champion, failed to live up to his potential during his debut stint but is a talented player, and Irish snooker is crying out for a young star to break through.
Back on the tour as a professional for the first time since 2019 is Sanderson Lam, the likeable character from Leeds.
Kurt Maflin and Steven Hallworth were a couple of his conquests en route to safeguarding his potentially lucrative return to the big-time.
The only snooker player from mainland Europe to survive Q School in 2022 was Lukas Kleckers, the second time the German has graduated via this avenue.
Kleckers ended Maflin’s hopes in the penultimate round before a dramatic 4-3 clincher against Muir on Thursday.
Jason Kendrick became the only first-time graduate to the Main Tour with a 4-1 defeat of Haydon Pinhey in Sheffield.
Not much is known about the 21 year-old from Stoke, but he has the opportunity to change that over the next couple of seasons.
Much of the attention throughout the three events of Q School centred on Michael Holt, who was a surprise addition to the lineup after being relegated from the Main Tour.
The Hitman finally looked like he might save his professional career, but John Astley had other ideas and their final-round battle ended 4-2 in the latter’s favour.
James Cahill memorably stunned Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible Theatre as an amateur qualifier in 2019, but aside from that his career has been disappointing.
Cahill gets another bite at the cherry to answer his doubters after his last-round success over Zhao Jianbo.
While Sheffield’s Q School is over for another year, the inaugural Asia & Oceania Q School is currently ongoing in Thailand.
There are four more spots up for grabs across two events, with the likes of Dechawat Poomjaeng, Thor Chuan Leong, and Muhammad Asif participating.
Featured photo credit: WST