Just weeks after his relegation from the main tour was confirmed, Sam Baird has tonight regained his professional status by becoming the first man through the first event of the 2012 Q School. Joining him are Martin O’Donnell, Chen Zhe and Ian Burns, the latter in dramatic circumstances…
With just twelve main tour places up for grabs at the Q School, the pressure upon the many entrants during their five matches is intense, but with five 4-0 whitewashes throughout the week, Sam Baird has defied all of that to secure an immediate return to the big time in 2012/13.
Having defeated Kacper Filipiak, George Marter and Allan Taylor without the loss of a frame prior to today, Sam today began with another 4-0 victory against 16-year-old talent James Cahill in the fourth round, before later rounding off his week with a final whitewash against Nick Jennings in the quarter-finals.
Following his successful qualification for the Haikou World Open and Welsh Open last season, at first glance it was to many a surprise that Sam was relegated from the main tour in the first place and I am pleased that he has been able to demonstrate his talent once again this week to secure a two-year tour card. Of the younger players on the tour, for some reason Sam is one that I have seen a great deal of over the past couple of years and I have seen enough to be sure that he is deserving of a place on the professional circuit, as he has proven here.
Joining him on the pro tour will be 2011 European Championship semi-finalist Martin O’Donnell, who today had a far closer match with Paul Davison in the fourth round, eventually coming through in a decider before defeating Australian Adrian Ridley to seal qualification.
A regular practice partner of Martin Gould and a finalist in the third event of the Q School last season before losing out to an inspired Kurt Maflin, O’Donnell will surely be delighted to have the chance to rise up the rankings and gain further experience on the main tour. A note also for Snookerbacker who is understandably delighted to see the inaugural winner of his SB Classic tournament make it all the way. The goal of that particular tournament was to help an amateur player such as Martin up onto the main tour and at the first time of asking, that is exactly what has transpired.
Also though is China’s Chen Zhe, a highly rated young player (see my interview with Dominic Dale for example), who today added the scalps of former pros Jordan Brown and Chris Norbury, to those of Kyren Wilson, Sydney Wilson and Joe Delaney to earn a two-year ticket.
Having consistently impressed this season with wins during the PTC events, I expect Chen to settle quickly into life on the main tour, perhaps following in the footsteps of 2011 qualifier Li Yan who shone so brightly last season.
Finally, Ian Burns has become the latest man to qualify for the main tour next season with a dramatic 4-3 win against tour veteran Rod Lawler this evening. Having recovered from 3-1 down to force a decider, as Rod’s break hit 43 it looked as though he was well on the way to securing a main tour place for the next two years. There was however to be a final twist as following the end of his break, Ian subsequently cleared to (at least), the blue with 67, to book a place on the tour.
Having won eight matches at the Q School last year without being able to make it all the way, I am pleased that Ian has been able to make it through this time around and look forward to seeing him on the tour.
For Rod however, a short break before it starts all over again this coming Saturday. It’s a tough school!