Duane Jones – one of two Welsh players to earn a tour card for the first time today
Duane Jones, Gareth Allen, Jason Weston and Paul Davison were the quartet to earn two-year cards to the World Snooker Tour at Q School Event two.
The tournament in Burton finished on Monday as those four joined event one winners Eden Sharav, Daniel Wells, Rhys Clark and Sydney Wilson as the eight players who will compete on the main tour in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Welsh duo Jones and Allen will play on the pro tour for the first time while Weston and Davison are veterans who both turned pro in the early 1990s.
In the final round, Jones, age 22 from Mountain Ash, beat China’s highly-rated Zhao Xintong 4-3 in a dramatic finish.
Jones came from 3-1 down to 3-3, then Zhao had first chance in the deciding frame and made 29 before accidentally feathering the white. Jones battled back to take it to the colours and doubled the pink to leave the scores tied at 60-60. Both players missed chances at the black before Jones cut it into a middle pocket.
He said: “I’ve lost 4-3 in the final round in each of the last two years so when it went 3-3 today I thought ‘here we go again.’ Luckily this time I fell over the line. I’m not as talented a Zhao but he wasn’t at his best today.
I’m buzzing to be on the tour for the first time. I’ve been playing for ten years and always wanted to be a pro – I can’t believe I’ve done it.
Jones, whose main practice partner is Ryan Day, beat Joe Perry last year to qualify for the China Open, but is realistic about his chances on the tour over the next two years. “I’m under no illusions, I know how tough it will be,” he added. “If I can keep my place on the tour after two seasons I’ll be over the moon.”
Allen, from Flintshire in North Wales, beat Alex Taubman 4-2 with a top break of 81.
“It was a horrible match because Alex is my best friend and we grew up together,” said 26-year-old Allen. “So it’s mixed emotions for me. But to be a pro is all I have ever wanted to do.
“I had a good job working for Flintshire County Council, on the IT side, maintaining databases. But two years ago I decided to give that up to give snooker a go full time. It has paid off, but I know the really hard work starts now and I just have to try to stay on the tour and work my way up.”
Allen, who practises with the likes of Ricky Walden, Andrew Higginson and Rod Lawler, qualified for the Welsh Open in 2013 by beating Rory McLeod and played John Higgins live on television.
“I was a bit nervy and lost 4-1,” he recalls. “But afterwards I felt ‘I can get used to this.’ It gave me a taste of playing at the top level and hopefully now I can prove I belong here.”
Weston, age 44 from Portsmouth, played on the tour between 1991 and 2003. He was a semi-finalist at the 1991 B&H Championship and went on to reach the last 32 of two ranking events. He was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) towards the end of his first spell as a pro but hopes he can now make up for lost time.
“The ME stopped me from practising which was one of the reasons I had to quit playing,” he said. “It still affects me now, but not as much. I can practice two or three hours a day now and it’s more about quality rather than quantity.
“I have two boys aged 19 and 15 and they said they would love to see me play, which is why I decided to give it another go. I enjoyed playing again and found that the passion is still burning. Going into Q School I believed I could do well, though you still have to go out there and win matches. I didn’t play that well but used my experience to grind it out.
“I work in property so I am playing snooker now for pride rather than to make money. I hope I can compete on the tour and do some damage. I know how high the standard is now and that there are at least 60 or 70 guys who can really play the game. My highest ever ranking was 73 so I want to see if I can get past that. If I can get a few wins and some momentum going, then who knows?
“I don’t have many people to play with down in Portsmouth but a friend owns a club in Fareham with a Star table which is essential. They are such nice tables but if you don’t practise on one then when you go to a tournament you’ll look like a novice.”
The final player to come through was Davison who won an epic four-hour battle against Luke Simmonds by a 4-3 scoreline. Pickering’s 43-year-old Davison was hauled back from 3-0 to 3-3 before winning a tense decider.
“It was a massive relief to win in the end,” said Davison, who first turned pro in 1992 and has appeared in the last 32 of several ranking events. “I missed a few chances from 3-0 up then suddenly it was 3-3. I was also 26 behind in the decider but made a good break of 41. He missed the second-last red and I got enough points to leave him needing snookers.
“It’s nice to be back as a pro because it was tough last year playing as an amateur. I believe I am as good a player as I’ve ever been and that age is no barrier – Stuart Bingham showed that by winning the World title for the first time at the age of 38. I’m sure most players think about giving up snooker at some point. But I keep myself in good shape and still believe I can play for another five or ten years.”
See these players and many more including Jimmy White, Ali Carter and Ken Doherty at the Australian Goldfields Open qualifiers in Crawley next week, with FREE ENTRY for fans. For all details click here.