On June 20, 1992, a 16 year-old by the name of Ronnie O’Sullivan began his professional career at a sweltering hot Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool.
O’Sullivan beat Jason Scott 5-3 in the second qualifying round of the UK Championship, having had a walkover in the first. It was the first of 38 successive victories, which remains a record.
He spent the summer dismissing opponent after opponent, ended it by qualifying for the Crucible and has, of course, gone on to enjoy a brilliant career.
Back in 1992, snooker was open to whoever wanted to play. All you had to do was pay your money and show up.
It ushered in a new era, with players such as John Higgins, Mark Williams, Stephen Lee, Matthew Stevens and Paul Hunter emerging as major forces among some 700 professionals.
Today, it’s much more of a closed shop with only 96 places available on the main tour.
It’s also much more stop-start: rather than a summer of qualifying, it’s a few days here, a few days there.
Would O’Sullivan have come through the current system? Absolutely, he’s too good not to have done.
Even so, the open system had much going for it, not least the revenue raised which, in these post-tobacco days, would surely come in handy again.