Remembering the Beckham of the Baize

Every now and again something happens that makes me realise just how quickly time goes and the fourth anniversary of the death of Paul Hunter is one of those things…

Those of you who have read this blog from the start may recall my story of what proved to be the one time that I met Paul, indeed the time that the above photo was taken. It was at the Crucible Theatre following his first round defeat to Michael Holt having just been diagnosed with the cancer that was ultimately to cause his death when he came out at Stage Door to sign autographs for the fans. Whilst not all of the players are so keen to do that, Paul made sure that he signed every last programme out there and posed for photos with everyone around, a really nice touch I felt bearing in mind the circumstances and something that sounds typical of the man judging by what others have had to say about him.

The second and final time that I saw him play however proved to be equally as memorable but unfortunately for the wrong reasons as during his exit at the hands of Neil Robertson at the Crucible in 2006 he looked terrible. Struggling badly at that time with both the illness and the treatment, he could barely reach down to pick up his cue extension and looked like a pale shadow of his former self. For those of us there that night it was hard to escape the feeling that this would be the last time that we would see him on the table. I remember speaking to Neil afterwards and it had obviously not been an easy match for him either.

Still though, enough of that as Paul will be remembered by snooker fans not for that, but for the good times and in particular those three epic Masters finals which he won 10-9 having trailed by a significant margin in each.

Next week also marks the start of the tournament named in his honour, the Paul Hunter English Open at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. Although the entry list is perhaps not as strong as it was last year due to the PTC events running at the same time, it should still be a good event and having visited last year I would certainly recommend it to anyone in the area who fancies a day watching some high quality snooker.

Click here to view the draw.