Wow is a much-used word, but what a weekend we all had in the Palace Hotel on the Isle Of Man where we turned up in our hundreds to play pool on the fourth leg of the IPA Tour.
Of course pool is the focal point of this article but I have to start with a thank you to the people of the Isle Of Man , who made us all feel very welcome from start to finish. The hotel has a view to die for, the food and drink are excellent, and the “locals” very friendly, which made for an enjoyable as well as competitive weekend.
On to the pool and we had a large contingent of Manx (people from the Isle of Man – I looked it up) who entered looking for a shot at fame and fortune, but by the time Saturday evening’s first final came along, we had two very familiar faces from the Professional ranks – Liam Dunster and Marc Farnsworth, perhaps the two most in-form pool players out there at present.
Calling it was never going to be easy, but Liam’s meticulous unflustered style came through (on this occasion) with an 8-2 scoreline, instantly promoting him to hot favourite for the weekend double, with the International Open still to play.
After a night off (people forget the mental strength needed at this level, I can’t focus on a best of three, let alone a race to seven or eight), those left in returned to the tables on Sunday morning for the conclusions of the three remaining tournaments.
With the BBC enthusiastically showcasing as much IPA pool as we could give them, we managed to show every second of every final live to a watching audience, giving that bit more exposure to some, and proving that there are some serious amateurs coming through the ranks, ready to turn professional over the years ahead.
In the Ladies, Deb Burchell would be the first to tell you that she has struggled since winning the World title in 2016, but class is permanent and poor Vicki Lomax, one of the best lady players herself, came out the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline in an enthralling if nervous final. As I say every time, the Ladies game gets stronger and stronger, tournament on tournament, and with Deb back in the groove, it just got that bit more competitive.
In the Amateur final you could easily be forgiven for questioning the name – the standard is almost as high as that of the professionals, and hats off to both Michael Tomlinson and Scott Anderson for giving us all a final of the highest calibre. With the early frames falling Scott’s way before Michael gathered momentum to take it to a last frame decider, we had everything you could ask for in a pool match and it was a shame that either player had to lose, though Michael came though 7-6 in the end after a pressurised last frame clearance.
One to go and the Open sees everyone involved at the beginning, both amateurs and professionals, but by Sunday evening we were left with our four semi-finalists – where Craig Marsh beat World Champion Jon McAllister 7-3, and Marc Farnsworth get his revenge on Liam Dunster 7-5 in an all-professional line-up. Sadly Craig never really got in to top gear in the final, and you cannot do that against a player of Marc’s ability as he added yet another trophy to the cabinet after a 7-3 success, that continued his outstanding season.
And so, at the end of Sunday evening, the tables were taken down and the players went their separate ways – but lo and behold, we will be back in the Isle Of Man in January for the Grand Finals (www.ipapool.com) – see you there!