Talented teenagers Ross Bulman and Robbie McGuigan have been awarded places in next month’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
They will be in the same field as the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Selby and Mark Allen at the world ranking event which runs from November 11 to 17 at the Waterfront Hall Belfast.
McGuigan, age 15, and Bulman, 18, join Patrick Wallace and Declan Lavery as the wild cards to be handed places in the tournament. There will be 129 players in the field in total, with two of the four wild cards – to be drawn at random – to play one preliminary match. The winner of that match will go into the flat draw of 128 players in the first round. The draw will be announced next week.
A spokesman for World Snooker said: “We are delighted to give places to two very gifted young players, Ross Bulman and Robbie McGuigan. It is so important to give these up-and-coming talents the opportunity to compete on the big stage, gaining experience and mixing with the top players.”
Bulman, from County Cork, came close to qualifying for the pro tour earlier this year via Q School, but finished as the highest ranked player on the Q School Order of Merit not to gain a tour card. He has won national titles at every junior level up to under-21 in Ireland.
McGuigan, from Antrim, made his first 147 maximum break while practising at his home club last year at the age of just 13. He is now competing on the Challenge Tour, where he lies fifth on the rankings having reached the final of one event.
“I was buzzing when I found out I had got a place because I wasn’t expecting it,” said McGuigan, whose stepfather is world number seven Mark Allen. “It will be the best moment I have had in snooker so far by a mile – I can’t wait. I’m not too worried about the result, I’m just going to enjoy it because it will be my first taste of a big event.
“My main goal this season is to finish in the top eight of the Challenge Tour rankings which would get me into the play-off for a tour card. I’m doing ok in those events so far.
“Mark (Allen) has given me so much help, taking me to events and practising with me. I just try to watch him to see how I can improve, and to see the standard I have to get to.”
Allen – mentor
The tournament features 128 players battling for the Alex Higgins Trophy and a top prize of £70,000. Trump beat O’Sullivan 9-7 in last year’s classic final. Other top stars in the field this time include Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy.
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