Top amateur cueists from across the south-west region and beyond will line up for the start of the 16th West of England Billiards and Snooker Foundation Gold Series this Saturday.
The curtain-raiser to this prestigious five-event series will be hosted by Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon, which had tables re-clothed earlier this week in preparation for the tournament.
Every year since 2004, the Gold Series – originally born as the Gold Waistcoat Series -has been the Foundation’s premier accolade. Only ten players have claimed the coveted title, including current main tour professional and two-time Crucible Theatre qualifier Sam Baird.
This season’s likely contenders
Alan Tunney is the reigning Gold Series champion after he finished top of the 2018/19 rankings; securing the title for the first time. Torquay based Tunney – winner of an event and a finalist in another during his successful campaign, will be present in Swindon, as he aims to become just the second person to defend the trophy.
That particular honour was achieved by Andy Neck, who also holds the record for the most overall titles following successes in 2012, 2013 and 2018. Haydon Pinhey – conqueror in 2016 and a two-time Gold Masters victor – and 2008 king Greg Batten – making his long-awaited return to the WEBSF scene – are the other former champions in the field this weekend.
Former English Amateur Championship finalist Andy Symons has enjoyed a superb spell over the past 12 months, collecting the end of season Gold Masters invitational and two Gold Series events. Symons, who was pipped to the overall number one spot by Tunney, will be hoping for a repeat of last term where he took away the spoils from the opening event.
Among the other likely contenders to feature in the latter stages of competitions in 2019/20 include promising teenagers Connor Benzey and Aidan Murphy. Benzey set the record for being the youngest ever Gold Series event finalist last season, only for that to be trumped by Murphy, a back-to-back runner-up in events four and five.
Having only just returned home from Melbourne, Australia earlier this week where they all qualified for the knockout stages of the 2019 World Billiards Championship, Chris Coumbe, Steve Brookshaw and Ryan Mears will switch back to the snooker discipline. Both the latter two each won a snooker and billiards title on the circuit last season – Brookshaw tasted glory at Gold Series Event Two and the Billiards Open, while Mears uniquely completed the West of England Open double. Runner-up at last month’s West of England Snooker Open, James Lee will be looking to go one better at the same Jesters venue.