Heading to the final Tour stop for 2014, Welsh star Curtis Lee headed the Amateur rankings, but hot on his trail were the formidable duo of Alex O’Donoghue, the winner of the first Amateur event on the 2014 tour, and the ever consistent Liam Dunster from Scotland, with all three in with a chance of securing the coveted Number 1 spot for the Amateurs.
Unsurprisingly, the three contenders all came through the group stages successfully, but it was Lee who came unstuck at the last 32 stage, which meant he needed results to go his way in order to keep his top spot. Unfortunately his two rivals made it safely through to the semi finals, which meant the ‘top dog’ would come from either Liam Dunster or Alex O’Donoghue and the race was on.
O’Donoghue succumbed to Adam Brown in the last four, giving him a total of 42 points for the season, leaving Dunster needing to win the event to get to the summit, which he moved toward with victory in his semi final against Jason Hill. However Brown proved just too strong in the final to take the winners cheque, and Dunster, despite matching the 42 points with his runners up place, took second place overall due to O’Donoghue’s victory in Liverpool – well done to Alex, who also secures a seeded spot in the IPA World Championships in February for his efforts and commiserations to Liam who can only get even better at his tender age.
On to the Tour rankings and Gareth Hibbott had a virtually unassailable lead coming into the final event, and after victory in the Professional ‘last man standing’ he was feeling as confident as ever of taking the title, and the coveted Number 1 spot. His nearest challenger was Wales’ Craig Marsh, but such is the strength in depth of the Tour, neither man made it past the last sixteen, and it was left to IPA Pro Neil Raybone to take the winners trophy. So Gareth Hibbott confirmed his place at the top of the Tour rankings – but could he do the double and take the Professional Number 1 spot as well?
The cream of the professional crop commenced battle and revenge must have been pretty sweet for Marc Pickworth, who had been beaten by Hibbott in the final of the last man standing event, with a deciding frame victory over the Number 1 in the last 16, though the six ranking points accrued by Hibbott guaranteed him the end of season position at the top of the Pro rankings and the ‘double’ – a fantastic achievement from a fantastic player. Marsh meanwhile was trying to end the season with a bang, but in a classic final, lost out in a decider to the current IPA Player of the year – France’s finest export, Christophe Lambert.
So, after a superb season, its O’Donoghue and Hibbott that sit at the top of the tree, and well done to both on a great season. Who will knock them off their perch in 2015 – there is only one way to find out (or enter and take them on yourself) – see you there!