The latest way of joining the professional circuit is Q School, World Snooker’s new qualifying competition that will take place just after the World Championship.
It features three tournaments and the semi-finalists in each will qualify for the 2011/12 pro tour.
Entries are trickling in already and are so far proving popular with players based outside the UK.
The first entry came from Jamie Clarke of Llanelli followed by Belgians Hans Blanckaert and Luca Brecel and Lasse Munstermann of Germany.
World Snooker has also received an entry from Dr. Mohammed Raoof of Hyderabad, India.
The governing body expects a flood of entries as the closing date, March 1, approaches. I know a couple of well known faces considering giving it a go.
There have, of course, been various ways of turning professional over the years. In the 1970s, in almost the definition of a ‘closed shop’, you had to be invited.
Later there was a Pro Ticket Series before the game was thrown open in 1991, where if you paid your money you could play in the qualifiers.
Eventually this became so unwieldy and time consuming that the circuit was cut down once more, but with a Challenge Tour, which evolved into the Pontin’s International Open Series.
Now it’s a case of pay your £1,000, take your chance and if you aren’t good enough, do something else, although with the PTCs there is still plenty of snooker for amateurs to play in.
The drawback with Q School is that it is so self-contained that, for instance, illness could wreck a player’s chances.
Harsh as it sounds, this is just tough. There are plusses and minuses in any system. At least Q School is a level playing field and everyone will know where they stand by early June.
The EASB, Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds and South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester have all set up Q School preparation events in readiness for May.
Mark Williams is among those who believes the new system is fair. Williams, like Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, was among those who spent weeks at a time in Blackpool in the early 1990s attempting to swim through the glue of endless qualifying rounds.
“You had to win ten or 12 matches just to qualify for a tournament,” Williams said.
“It seemed like you were in Blackpool forever. The way of doing it now with the Q School is much better and easier. The players will only have to be in Sheffield for three weeks and if they are good enough they will get on to the circuit.”