In an exciting climax to the 2019/2020 WEBSF Gold Series season, Ryan Mears completed an incredible trio of tour event triumphs at Top Q Snooker Club last weekend, in the process claiming the prestigious overall rankings title for the first time by just one point.
Going into the fifth and final event of the campaign in Gloucester, only events 3 and 4 champion Andy Symons and Mears were able to finish as number one in the standings. A semi-final defeat for Symons at the hands of Mears, coupled with the Aldershot cueist winning the competition meant that Mears’ name would be etched onto the roll of honour, in this the 16th year of the series.
The Groups Stage
In Group A, teenage debutant Oliver Sykes took the event by storm. A player on the invitational EPSB Under-21 Premier Development Tour, Sykes brushed aside all in front of him as he won all six matches to top the group and qualify for the knockouts with several half-century breaks to boot. Joining him in the last eight was late addition to the tournament Matthew Hulatt, who recovered after losing his opening two fixtures to finish in second. Tour regular James Height narrowly missed out on making it through by just one frame in third place.
The tour gave a warm welcome back to Lee Walters, and the Plymouthian proved his class by winning Group B. In a fascinating outcome to the group where several permutations were possible going into the final round of matches, it ultimately came down to a father and son clash between Wayne and Dale Branton for the remaining quarter-final spot. It went all the way to the final black in the deciding frame which Dale duly deposited.
Symons went into the event as the rankings leader, although his day did not start according to plan, as the car he was travelling up in broke down. He managed to get to the venue in time for his first match, though, and regrouped from the morning drama to win all his matches and finish first in Group C. Former Gold Waistcoat/Series champion Greg Batten continues to be consistent upon his return to the WEBSF as he also advanced to the single elimination phase.
Group D was arguably the toughest to call at the start of proceedings, perhaps exemplified with former gold event winners Haydon Pinhey, Andy Rogers and Steve Brookshaw all failing to progress. With five wins Mears headed the group, whilst Worcester’s Andy Smith ended second with four wins. Brookshaw looked well placed for qualification having won his first four fixtures, but two late defeats opened the door for Smith to get in front.
A plethora of breaks was produced during the groups phase with Brookshaw compiling the highest with a 98. Symons was not far off with a 94.
The Knockout Rounds
With the two contenders for the coveted number one spot still involved, an intriguing evening’s action played out at Top Q.
First to book his place in the semi-finals was Tavistock’s Symons, who spent little time denying Hulatt 2-0. The remaining three matches went the distance, with most eyes on the Mears v Branton tie. Despite losing the first frame, Mears recovered to record a 2-1 victory and keep his hopes of the overall prize alive. Smith (76 break, first frame) overcame Walters and youngster Sykes continued to impress with performances beyond his years as he dispatched the experienced Batten.
The meeting everyone wanted to see materialised in the last four as Symons faced Mears – this was a repeat of this term’s event one final from Jesters in Swindon. In a thrilling opening frame, Mears established a handy lead before Symons constructed a run of 51. However, Mears got the opportunity to re-counter, clearing from yellow to black to go 1-0 up. To Symons’ credit, he kept his cool and focus to level up, but he was unable to seize the advantage in the decider as Mears ousted him 2-1 to move into another final. Elsewhere, Smith was quietly going about his business as he ended the ambition of Sykes, 2-1; chalking up efforts of 52 in the first frame and 70 in the third.
Following a long day’s play in Gloucester, in what was a relatively scrappy final with few chances to score big, Mears converted to score a 2-0 success and shelf his third title of the 2019/20 season after his back-to-back glories at Swindon and Torquay. With Symons reaching the semi-finals undefeated earlier in the piece, Mears destiny was in his own hands, although he needed to win the competition in order to secure the overall Gold Series Championship. In one of the tightest finishes to a WEBSF campaign we’ve ever seen – he did.
A huge thank you must go to all the volunteers – including series referee Nick Harry – venues, players, parents, guardians and supporters who have joined us for the journey this season. The series would not be possible without you all.
The next stop for the West of England Billiards and Snooker Foundation is the invitational Gold Masters which takes place on Saturday 4th April 2020 at Frames Snooker and Pool in Weston-super-Mare. This unique straight elimination event brings together the top 16 ranked players from this season’s Gold Series. Featuring some of the best amateur snooker players from the south-west and beyond, the WEBSF is searching for an event sponsor to help support the 2020 Gold Masters. If you are able to assist us with this, please visit our ‘Contact’ page here for ways to get in touch.