Ryan Mears got his 2019/20 West of England Billiards and Snooker Foundation Gold Series campaign off to a perfect start when he claimed the event one title at Jesters Snooker Hall last Saturday.
Top amateur players from across the south-west region and further afield made their way to Swindon to break off the 16th consecutive edition of the prestigious series. With the overall end-of-season champion decided by a ranking list, hopefuls were keen to build an early platform from the first of five events.
Having only recently returned from Melbourne, Australia where he reached the knockout phase of the 2019 World Billiards Championship, Mears qualified top from Group A with four wins out of five. Joining him in the last eight was record three-time Gold Series champion Andy Neck who came second, just behind on frame difference. Elsewhere in the group, debutant Huw Carpenter adapted to the new environment well as he finished third, and there was a warm reception for 2008 champion Greg Batten, making his long-awaited return to the WEBSF scene.
Former winner Haydon Pinhey was one of two players to end the groups stage with a 100% record; highlighting breaks of 85, 93 and 104 in leading Group B. Reigning Gold Series Champion Alan Tunney advanced through in second place with his only loss coming at the hands of Pinhey. Steve Brookshaw and Chris Coumbe – like Mears, had both just come back from ‘Down Under’ after making the KOs of Billiards’ biggest event – came fourth and fifth respectively.
Current Gold Masters Champion Andy Symons was in scintillating form in Group C, chalking up six wins out of six and producing a fantastic total clearance of 138 during his opening match against Connor Benzey. The break represents one of the highest ever made in the history of the competition. Symons, a two-time event winner last season too, also crafted a 115. Gold newcomer Alex Mucklow chalked up a trio of half-centuries as he qualified in second during a fine introductory showing.
There was a thrilling finish in Group D, with qualification going down to the final frame. Last month’s West of England Snooker Open finalist James Lee won the pool with five wins, whilst youngster Aidan Murphy’s 2-1 victory over Steven Hughes in the last remaining match of the groups saw him squeeze into second courtesy of head-to-head with Hughes. Like Murphy and Hughes, Peter Bicknell also registered four wins in a tight outcome.
All four group winners triumphed in the quarter-finals with Mears, Pinhey, Symons and Lee eliminating Mucklow, Murphy, Neck and Tunney respectively – Mears and Symons coming through in deciding frames.
Aldershot’s Mears was the first to book his berth in the final after a 2-0 semi-final success over Pinhey, whilst an exciting third and final frame was needed to separate Symons and Lee, with the former controlling the latter stages and ousting it.
In a breathtaking final, an inspired Mears quickly took a 1-0 lead and was heading towards the finish line when he was in the balls first during the next frame. Symons managed to counter, though, and looking flawless on a break of 63 it seemed as if a decider was on the way. However, an unexpected miss on what would have effectively been frame ball red allowed Mears a chance for glory. It was an opportunity he expertly and coolly seized in one visit, clearing up the last two reds and colours, including a tricky black to the left-middle after not getting perfect position on it from the pink. A great advert for the WEBSF circuit with a nice sized crowd watching on.
A double champion at last season’s West of England Snooker and Billiards Opens, this was multi-talented Mears’ maiden gold event title in his first final.
Event Two takes place at the Galaxy Centre, Torquay on the 23rd November. Entries into this event are now open via a link HERE, although spaces are limited.