It’s been a while since I have had the luxury of writing a pool review, we all know why but I have to admit I was a little wary about what to expect – would the players cry off, did they still want to play pool, would there be a good or a bad atmosphere in the frankly strange times?
I suppose I should have known better – pool players are a hardy bunch and in some cases their love of the sport borders on obsession, but I can honestly say I have never seen so many of them smiling like the Cheshire cat. They weren’t just pleased to be back, they were absolutely delighted, making the atmosphere as electric as it has ever been.
Taking photographs was the only downside – the place was like a sardine can on occasions and battling my way through wasn’t easy, but seeing the crowds back made it a price worth paying as I settle down nervously awaiting my match.
For my sins I was drawn against Chris Bowron, certainly one of the best amateurs on the tour and one of the stars of the SportyStuffTV Champions Cup as well – not my lucky day then.
I did win the lag (thumbs up for me) and played really well by my lowly standards, though how he managed to snooker me while getting out of a snooker he had put himself in will haunt me for many years to come. Bottom line I was a sacrificial lamb, totally outclassed but reminded just how good these players are, though the embarrassment of a 7-1 score line will take some time to live down – thank goodness Chris is one of the nicest players on the tour and we could have a laugh about it afterwards (well, he did).
On to the latter stages of all the tournaments on offer (there were too many matches to mention every player, I’m afraid, though you all played your part in a fabulous weekend), and as the (chalk) dust began to settle, we had the final of the European Open between former number one and ex World Champion Marc Farnsworth and his long-time rival Arfan Dad, both players with enormous experience. Once again, this could have gone either way, but after sharing the first frames it was Marc who stamped his authority on the contest to come home the 7-4 victor and suggest he may well be getting back to his very best, a pretty ominous thought for the rest of the players on the tour.
Moving on to Sunday, and we still had three more titles up for grabs, with the Professional, Ladies, and Amateurs all being fought out to an evening conclusion. As players were knocked out, they sadly drifted away from the venue, but the live streaming numbers just kept on climbing hour on hour as more and more new fans joined us, just imagine how many more we will have when the BBC coverage returns at the next event after the Olympics are over?
Anyway, players first, waffle second, and it was the turn of the professionals to take centre stage, and with such a high-quality field we saw numerous World Champions, both current and from yesteryear, knocked out far earlier than any of them would have liked.
With an enthralled crowd the final was played out between Ross Fernie (who had seen off Gavin Robinson, JJ Faul, Jordan Shepherd, and Jack Whelan), and Arfan Dad, making it to his second final of the weekend after beating Cory Rees, Mark Boyle, Gareth Hibbott, Craig Marsh, and Rob Donkin.
Both played outstanding pool (as expected at this standard), but it was Ross who came through 8-5 to leave Arfan both delighted at reaching both finals – and distraught at losing them both.
Meanwhile, on the other table we had the Amateur Final as Marc Fleming took on Michael Tomlinson, and despite the first few frames being shared fairly evenly, Marc came through 8-5 to take his first IPA event, landing a Scottish double, much to the delight of their small but loud supporters in the arena.
To round things off, the Ladies tour is expanding fast, and the quality of the pool is light years away from the dim and distant past. Some of the clearances had to be seen to be believed, with a fiercely competitive field of 32 finally pared down to just Kerry Griffiths and Lauren Whittemore in the final. IPA tour regular Kerry used all her added experience to good advantage in the final to come home the 5-2 victor after a final of the highest standard, and she looks likely to be a force to reckon with on the tour once again in 2021.