PTC4: IN MEMORY OF PAUL
The fourth PTC of the season this week is a special event, not just because it is staged in Germany and broadcast live on television but because it carries the name of Paul Hunter.
He died tragically young in 2006 but is still much missed on the circuit and by snooker fans.
He will forever be remembered for his three dramatic victories in the final of the Masters and rightly so. It wasn’t just heart and poise under pressure that was so impressive but the quality of snooker he produced in adversity – four centuries in six frames against Fergal O’Brien in the first of his comebacks.
But it should also be noted how much of a prodigy Paul was. It’s often said that it’s hard for young players to make a breakthrough these days.
Well it always has been. When Hunter turned pro in 1995 there were something like 600 players on the circuit.
To qualify for the final stages of a ranking event in that first season he had to win seven matches and then an eighth to reach the last 32.
Hunter did so at the Welsh Open and went all the way to the semi-finals at the age of just 17.
He remains the youngest player ever to reach the last four of a ranking tournament, younger even than Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan or Ding Junhui.
In that debut season he also qualified for the UK Championship and Thailand Masters. Paul won 62 matches in ranking tournaments.
It was obvious he would very soon be a handful for the top players and someone who could raise the profile of the game. The public have a special affection and regard for sports men and women who achieve while young.
The following season Hunter featured in the UK Championship quarter-finals and, in 1998 at the age of 19, he won the Welsh Open.
It wasn’t one of those events where the draw opened up. Hunter beat five top 16 players to capture the title: Steve Davis, Nigel Bond, Alan McManus, Peter Ebdon and, in the final, John Higgins.
He went on to win two more ranking titles, plus of course his three Masters crowns, and become a great favourite with many. Like all players he lost some matches it can be argued he should have won, notably his epic Crucible semi-final with Ken Doherty in 2003, but he also won matches he probably should have lost.
Paul was one of those players who has been remembered not just for his achievements but for his character.
It is entirely appropriate that the players are competing in a tournament that bears his name.
Let’s hope they do him proud.