John Astley, Michael Georgiou, David John and Alex Borg will all make their return to the World Snooker pro tour in 2016 after securing 2-year tour cards through Q School.
With all four winners on the final day of Event 2 having made previous appearances on the main tour, they will join qualifiers from Event 1 and four more players from the Q School Order of Merit on tour for the 16/17 and 17/18 seasons.
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John Astley recently starred in play ‘The Nap’
Former English Under-19 champion and World Snooker Rookie of the Year John Astley was the man to claim the first tour card of the day, thrashing Peter Lines 4-0 in Burton secure his place on the main tour for a second time.
Very much a one-sided affair, the match saw Astley take the opening frame without reply from Lines, himself having dropped off tour a few weeks ago. Astley then rattled off the next three frames with top breaks of 53 and 56 to seal the victory, with Lines left able to score only 16 points the entire match.
Gateshead’s Astley – who recently played a starring role in Sheffield Theatre’s play ‘The Nap’ – will be playing again for real as he makes his return to the tour for the first time since dropping off at the end of 14/15. Astley previously earned a 2-year card through the European Tour Order of Merit for the 13/14 and 14/15 seasons, having finished 4th on the list.
Georgiou makes an instant return to the pro tour
Michael Georgiou beat Craig Steadman 4-1 to secure his tour card and an make an instant return to the pro tour, having just weeks ago lost his tour card after failing to qualify for the 2016 Betfred World Championship.
Breaks of 38 and 48 from Georgiou clinched the opening frame of the match, before Steadman – who was already guaranteed a card through the Order of Merit – levelled with 40 to go 1-1. Georgiou then won the next three – including a tight fourth frame – with runs of 37 and 44 to cement his place on the main tour.
Georgiou – who is a practice partner of Tony Drago – initially qualified for the main tour back in 2007 after winning the IBSF World Under-21 Championship, but was soon to drop off after a disappointing season. His next break came in 2014, where he came through Q School Event 2 to qualify for the 14/15 and 15/16 seasons. His best form came at the Welsh Open, where he reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time, only to be beaten by eventual champion John Higgins.
After a 13-year absence, David John makes his return to the pro circuit after beating Zak Surety 4-1 on the final day of Event 2, having dropped just 7 frames in 6 matches played.
It was first blood to John, who clinched a scrappy opening frame, but Surety responded with breaks of 32 and 19 to level at 1-1. John – a former multiple European and Welsh Amateur Champion – then pulled away to win the next three needed for a 2-year card.
Returning to the tour for the first time since the ’02/’03 season, John said that in recent years he had struggled to maintain a balance between work and practice. He said in a recent interview: “I should’ve knuckled down for three or four years. I thought I could do both, get up at 5, get back at 2, but you can’t do both. That’s when my snooker started going downhill. I know the ability is still there, it’s just the practice.”
Malta’s Alex Borg was to claim the fourth and final tour card of Event 2, the 46 year-old beating Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher 4-2.
Despite a break of 64 from Borg in the opener, it was 20-year old Ursenbacher who sunk breaks of 14 and 52 to take the early lead. An experienced Borg then won the next 3 frames with runs of 33 and 46 to lead 3-1, before Ursenbacher bit back with 52 to go a frame behind at 3-2 down. But it was Borg who clinched the sixth frame to secure the victory and head into his sixth appearance on the pro tour.
Borg will continue to fly the flag for Malta, after fellow countryman and tour veteran Tony Drago was unable to qualify through this year’s Q School.
The remaining four tour cards have been allocated through the Q School Order of Merit – details can be found here.
Craig Steadman, who finished top of the Order of Merit is another player to make an immediate return to the tour after dropping off at the end of the 15/16 season. Steadman had previously earned a 2-year tour card through Q School Event 1 back in 2014. Career highlights include having qualified for the televised stages of the 2015 Betfred World Championship, where he was beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round.
It’s a particularly special moment for Jamie Barrett, who has qualified for the main tour after sadly losing his wife to cancer just a few weeks prior to Q School. Barrett, who is raising his children alone, was persuaded to enter the event by friend and fellow player Allan Taylor. He finishes second on the Order of Merit list and earns a 2-year pro tour card.
Wales’ Ian Preece also qualifies through the Order of Merit, finishing 3rd. The 33 year-old returns to the tour for a third spell, having dropped off at the end of the 2009/2010 season. In 1999 and aged 17 years and 147 days, Preece was – at the time – the youngest ever winner of the World Amateur Championship.
Adam Duffy also makes his return to the pro tour, finishing 4th on the Order of Merit. Duffy, who first qualified for the tour in 11/12 through Q School, dropped off after the 13/14 season, and narrowly missed out in regaining his tour card in last year’s Q School.