Amateurs at The English Open

There will be five amateurs competing at the next WST ranking event

The World Snooker Tout (WST) English Open starts on Monday 12 October and features five amateurs.

Connor Benzy and Mark Lloyd feature as the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards (EPSB) nominations for their achievements on the junior stage. As the English NGB the EPSB get to nominate two players to join in with the professionals and top amateurs – as do the other UK NGBs for the other Home Nations Series events.

Michael White, Brian Ochoiski and Paul S Davison earned their call-up by virtue of their placings on the Q School Order of Merit – being 1,2 & 3 respectively.

I’m not sure about wildcards as it stops Leo Fernandez(4) and Jamie Curtis-Barrett (5) from getting an invite.

Who do the amateurs play?

Ochoiski plays World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and I can’t agree that this is good experience. He, along with the other amateurs, should be playing against a 65-128 ranked player to give them a better chance of progressing.

There are many, including Barry Hearn of course, who would argue that throwing the amateurs in at the deep end is good experience. I can’t see that working in any other sport at the very first stage of a competition.

Even the FA Cup doesn’t bring in “the big boys” until the third round. The advantage for the minnows in the FA Cup though is that it means a big pay-day if they draw a top team. In snooker the kids could well go home penny-less.

The tiered draw worked fine in the World Championships and would work just as well for all ranking events in snooker.

The ranking list is easily updated after every event and the draw can be done accordingly.

Are the top players “over protected”?

Some say the top 16, especially, are over-protected, but surely the likes of O’Sullivan playing amateur Ochoiski and Selby playing Fan Zhengyi (118) could be said to be a reasonable amount of protection?

The top 32 are usually seeded apart in ranking events, sometimes it’s 16, in the Shoot-Out it’s random and in the UK Championship it’s a strictly fully seeded draw.

Admittedly Judd Trump and Neil Robertson have slightly tougher draws playing Louis Heathcote [67] and Lü Haotian [41] respectively, but they could just as easily have drawn a much lower ranked, even amateur, player.

If Stephen Hendry had decided to re-launch his professional career at this event, a tiered draw would have been more realistic for him, rather than having to potentially play one of the top 16. As it is, this is highly likely when he plays in the UK Championship in November.

We need to see a better progression structure in place soon or professional snooker will be dead in the water.

If you want to follow the live snooker scores you could use or or of course the World Snooker Tour live scores

So how did the amateurs fare?

Almost setting the competition alight was Brian Ochoiski who took the first two frames off Ronnie O’Sullivan [2]. Ochoiski almost made it to the pro ranks via Q School so playing in these events will become a regular occurrence for him. Let’s hope he gets better draws!

Connor Benzy faced Fraser Patrick [88] in his first round match and came away with a creditable 4-3 win.
Round two was against John Higgins and a 4-0 score line actually, for me, flattered Higgins. Connor could easily have taken the fourth frame which could have given him the confidence to go on and win more. But I still can’t agree that this is good for amateurs.

Mark Lloyd didn’t play as well as he would have hoped and went down 4-0 to Ryan Day [37]. The question again is what good does this do?

Michael White could have been expected to beat Zhao Jianbo [122] but went down 4-3.

Paul Davison played David Grace [66] and lost 4-0. Again this type of match is a step too far for an amateur in my opinion.

Overall, again absolutely no justification for the partly-seeded draw system currently used by WST. And I don’t know how they can call it a ‘flat-draw’.

Again I say, lets get back to a proper, fairer, tied-draw system as soon as possible!