Mears Marks Opening Gold Event Success

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. 

The Groups

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. 

The Knockouts

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.

Lloyd lifts West of England Snooker Open trophy

Teenager Mark Lloyd added his name alongside the established list of former champions after claiming the 2019 edition of the West of England Snooker Open. 

Soon to be celebrating their 15th year anniversary, the West of England Billiards and Snooker Foundation (WEBSF) cut the ribbon for the new 2019/20 tournament season at familiar tour venue Jesters Snooker Hall. A total of 32 players from across the south-west of England and beyond made the trip to Swindon, all vying for the prestigious title and a slice of an £800 prize fund that consisted of 100% of entry fees. 

The Groups

Lloyd, from Gosport, qualified top of Group D with six wins from seven, constructing breaks of 71, 58, 63, 60 and 98 in the process. Joining him in the knockout rounds from the same group was second-placed Martin Pitcher who ousted last year’s runner-up James Height into third courtesy of a better frame difference by just one. 

Since the tournament’s rebirth in 2013 under the WEBSF banner, no player has won the title twice, yet alone defend it. 2018 champion Ryan Mears put up a spirited performance attempting to alter both those facts throughout the day. The Aldershot cueist finished first in a tight Group B with James Lee acquiring the other qualifying place, both just one win ahead of hot-prospect Liam Davies from Wales and Andy Symons. 

Ben Hancorn made no mistake in Group A as he progressed with a 100% record – registering an effort of 105 along the way – whilst Lee McArthur advanced in second with just one loss to his name. Cornwall’s Darran Lock was the table-topper in Group C, and after Steve Brookshaw lost his final fixture 2-0, youngster Connor Benzey was elevated into the second qualifying position courtesy of frame difference. 

Former winners Tom Kevern (left, 2013) and Dale Branton (right, 2017) stood either side of this year’s defending champion Ryan Mears and the new West of England Snooker Open perpetual trophy.

The Knockout Rounds

With the grueling group stage action over, the main event had been whittled down to just eight remaining hopefuls. 

Undefeated Hancorn recovered from losing the opening frame to overcome Pitcher 2-1, and after setting what would be the highest break of the competition with a 118 in the first frame, Lee also needed a deciding frame to eliminate Lock. There was no such requirement for all three frames in the bottom half of the draw, though, as defending champion Mears (49 break) saw off Benzey 2-0 and Lloyd (54 break) ended the hopes of McArthur. The fast route to victory was also taken in the semi-finals as Lee and Lloyd denied both Hancorn and Mears, respectively, 2-0. 

In a predictably close final affair, current English Under-21 champion Lloyd secured the opener before Lee forced a decider. The 19-year-old responded by starting the third frame positively with a break of 52, and although Lee created himself a counter-attacking opportunity, a subsequent miss was the beginning of the end as Lloyd completed his triumph, some 14 hours after the first cue ball was struck. 

In the West of England Snooker Open Plate event for those who finished third or fourth in their groups, Anthony Rice collected the prize money when he denied the talented Davies in the final on the colours. 

WEBSF Tournament Director Steve Canniford said “It has been a long day but worth the effort to facilitate a tournament where amateur snooker players from around the region compete in a competitive but friendly atmosphere. A great way to start the season and celebrate 15 years of volunteering with the WEBSF”

For an overview of the tournament’s results, please visit our page on cuescore.com here.

Article written and published by Michael Day