Professional Snooker - 2016 Paul Hunter Classic
24th-28th August 2016 / Stadthalle, Furth, Germany
2016 PAUL HUNTER CLASSIC PREVIEW
From Latvia to India to China to Germany, the stagnated start to the new 2015/2016 Professional Snooker campaign gives way to a constant sequence of events - beginning with the Paul Hunter Classic on Wednesday...
It is fantastic that this tournament kept its place on the calendar despite the resignation of the European Tour circuit at the end of last season. Firstly because it is in honour of the great man himself, and alongside only the Gibraltar Open, it invites all comer amateurs the opportunity to compete with top tier stars in a professional competitive environment.
As well as former ET stops such as Latvia and Gib, this competition has been upgraded to full 'Major Ranking Event' status. However, despite the PHC going up a level in terms of prestige, unfortunately the total prize money hasn't. A winners kitty of £18,750 perhaps being a reason why 9 of the World's current Top 16 have elected to miss out. Bit of a shame. By all accounts the format remains the same too with best of 7's all the way through - although this is understandable considering the logistics.
But whilst some of those usual suspects may be absent, we can still feast on players such as World Champion and World Number 1 Mark Selby, former winner Mark Allen and reigning champ (fresh from his World Open success in China as well) Ali Carter. Stuart Bingham, Joe Perry, Ricky Walden and Kyren Wilson are the other T16 players set to make the journey. A whole host of other major winners will also be present at the Stadthalle.
It is also particularly warming to see a vast array of amateur players embracing it again; remember, the roots of this event revolved around the amateurs. By my count, this makes up 144 of the entries - giving it a festival type atmosphere at the popular venue.
Looking at the amateur rounds scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, there is a very varied field including ex-pros, youngsters and females. Along with the Gib Open in March, points will be accumulated towards the amateur Order of Merit which offers tour place play-offs at the end of the season. Bearing this in mind, it is disappointing that this overlaps with the IBSF World Under 21's currently going on in Belgium. A clash that could affect a few people.
Despite the open draw of the professional rounds, the T16 are relatively spread out, although only Carter occupies the second quarter and Bingham the fourth. Because of the non-entry of many big names, it leaves an opportunity for the lower ranked players to have a really good run.
My picks for the opening pro round include Jimmy Robertson v Kyren Wilson, Dechawat Poomjaeng v Martin Gould and Oliver Lines v Kurt Maflin.
An addition to the Paul Hunter Classic this year is the welcome idea of a separate Ladies event - part of the WLBS' changed schedule for the year.
Uniquely, it will bring together most of the top female hitters such Reanne Evans, Wendy Jans and Ng On Yee - a fairly rare opportunity to see them all in the same tournament at once.
It is the first time this decade a WLBS ranked event will be played outside of the UK. The 31 ladies have been split into 8 Round Robins with the top 2 of each advancing through to the Knock-Outs. The early stages of this will be played near at a different venue, although the Semi's and Final will be on show at the Stadthalle.
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Written and published by Michael Day on the 22nd August 2016