The inaugural Asia and Oceania Q School concluded on Saturday at the Royal Bangkok Sports Hall in Thailand.
A total of four players across two qualifying tournaments were staged, the first time a Q School has been held outside of England.
It’s a positive step in helping to develop the international reach of the game, particularly in a vast area that already demonstrates a significant interest at grassroots level.
Just like the twelve graduates from Sheffield’s Q School that ended recently, the four cuiests from the Asia & Oceania Q School will receive two-year cards to compete on the professional Main Tour.
Muhammad Asif secured a professional ticket for the first time in his career after a 4-2 defeat of fellow Pakistan potter Asjad Iqbal in the final round of the first event.
A former IBSF world amateur champion, Asif has a big reputation in Pakistan as being among their best ever players.
At the age of 40, Asif will finally get the opportunity to challenge himself against the very elite in the sport.
While the first ‘final’ of event one was an all-Pakistan affair, the second tour card decider took place between a couple of familiar Thais.
On this occasion, it was Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon who emerged with a 4-2 triumph over Dechawat Poomjaeng.
The 28 year-old previously competed on the pro circuit between 2010 and 2016, during which he memorably became the youngest player ever to compile an official 147 break at just 16.
The popular and enigmatic Poomjaeng didn’t let the disappointment of his failure impact his subsequent display in the second event.
The 43 year-old won five matches, including a 4-1 defeat of countryman Narongdat Takantong in the last round, to safeguard his own return to the Main Tour.
Poomjaeng previously dropped off the circuit in 2017 after six entertaining years as a pro in which he famously reached the second round of the World Championship in 2013.
Himanshu Jain was the fourth and final qualifier following a dramatic and nail-biting thriller with Kritsanut Lertsattaythorn that ended 4-3 on the final pink.
Jain will become the first Indian since Aditya Mehta to participate on the Main Tour, a good thing considering the level of interest there is in India.
The 30 year-old’s triumph means that there will be at least 17 different nationalities competiting during the 2022/23 campaign.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA