Amateur Opportunities

Much has been made this season of the opportunity presented to the players further down the rankings by the introduction of the new Players Tour Championship and that is absolutely correct. It should not be forgotten however that the series also affords an amazing opportunity to snooker’s amateur players. For more on why I think that this is the case and why I think that the PTC has so far been a positive innovation for the sport, please click below…

Until this season, amateur players, in particular younger players such as Daniel Wells (pictured above), were in many ways in a catch 22 position. To qualify for the professional circuit they would generally have to enter the PIOS series which consisted of eight events involving fellow amateur players at Pontin’s Prestatyn with the top eight in the rankings at the end of the season earning a place on the main tour.

There however they were facing an uphill struggle before they had even potted a ball, being allocated a low amount of starter points and forced to start from the bottom of the draw throughout their maiden season. The problem was that whilst they might look impressive during their opening round matches against fellow tour newcomers, in the second round they would be up against veteran campaigners such as Rod Lawler and Andy Hicks who more than knew their way around a snooker table and it would be tough for the young players to progress to the latter rounds of the qualifiers, let alone venues.

Consequently it was tough for them to gain the experience against the top players in front of the TV lights in order to improve their game and even tougher to amass enough points to stay on tour. This meant that having fallen off the tour, they were then left facing another year in the PIOS against amateur players, with no guarantee of bouncing back with immediate effect.

Photo courtesy of Janie Watkins

Now however everything has changed as not only can players who lose their tour places at the end of the season enter the Q School and earn back their place immediately, but it is also easier to stay on the tour in the first place with the mid-season ranking changes.

Furthermore, the experience that the amateur players are now able to gain is invaluable and arguably, even greater than that available to lower ranked professionals during recent seasons.

For example, looking at Daniel Wells again, last season during his spell on the professional circuit, the players that he was able to play were:

  • Ian Preece, Joe Delaney, Sam Baird, Barry Pinches, Michael White, James Wattana, Joe Jogia and David Gray

Good players admittedly, but this season as an amateur he has been able to play the the likes of:

  • Stephen Maguire x2, Fergal O’Brien, Michael Holt, Ryan Day, Neil Robertson, Andrew Higginson, Patrick Wallace, Stuart Bingham, Jimmy Michie, Barry Pinches, Anthony Hamilton, Jimmy White, Alfie Burden, Mike Dunn, Jamie Cope, Michael Judge and Steve Davis

While he might not currently be on the main tour, the experience of playing and beating some of the above named players will surely help to improve Daniel’s game more than was possible under the old system, either on the main tour or on the PIOS.

Not only will he be better placed to re-qualify for the main tour at this season’s Q School than he would otherwise have been but Dan’s efforts have earned him £6,300 so far this season, way in excess of last season when having failed to progress beyond the second qualifying round of any event I’m not actually sure he earned anything as a pro!

Although a look at the Order of Merit tells you that Wells has so far been the most successful amateur player in the PTC to date, certainly the most consistent, there have been others who have been able to make a mark. Take Liverpool’s Allan Taylor who progressed as far as the last 16 of PTC5 with wins against Liam Highfield and Simon Bedford before losing a deciding frame against Ricky Walden. Earlier in the season he was also able to see off former world champion Graeme Dott in the first event of the series.

Or how about young Michael Wasley, a winner against Bjorn Haneveer, James McBain and Dave Harold already.

All in all while the PTC is not perfect yet with live streaming not available and some interesting scheduling, particularly earlier on in the season meaning that there were some very late nights for some players, the increased opportunities for both professionals and amateurs alike is evidence enough that the formation of the Players Tour Championship is a positive move for the sport.