The final of the Paul Hunter Classic, the third ranking tournament of the 2018/19 snooker season, was played in Fürth, Germany, on Sunday, by Kyren Wilson and Peter Ebdon. Wilson won it, and the next day tweeted: “I entered the #PaulHunterClassic to remember a great player who inspired me to play snooker, it’s not always about the money, it’s a shame some of the lads who were about when Paul was couldn’t be bothered to enter, bonus is I’m now a champion of champions as a result of it.”
First, some background. Paul Hunter was a strikingly handsome Yorkshireman, given to wearing his blond hair long albeit kempt by a zigzag hairband, and he quickly acquired the nickname ‘Beckham of the baize’. He was a fine player, the winner of three ranking titles (the Welsh Open in 1998 and 2002 and the British Open in 2002) and dominated the non-ranking, but hugely prestigious, Masters tournament during that time, winning it in 2001, 2002 and 2004. When he died of cancer in 2006, aged just 27, a number of players requested that the Masters be renamed in his memory. Their request was declined. Instead the lowly Grand Prix Fürth was so renamed, since Hunter had won it when it had been first staged in 2004.
Unsurprisingly, Wilson’s tweet was greeted with irritation by some of the players he had collectively disparaged. Reigning world champion Mark Williams replied: “Couldn’t be bothered is the wrong choice of words, #silly.” Wilson came right back at him: “What word would you use then? Would of been great to of had the reigning world champion there, the event needs big names to keep Paul’s memory alive.” Williams countered with: “I used to play in that comp when you was still in nappies.” Then Barry Hawkins entered the fray: “Wouldn’t say couldn’t be bothered mate. Played in it for many years. Like you a lot of us have young families and being it’s the six weeks holidays at school now is the time for me to spend some time with them. Corfu or snooker comp? Only one winner I’m afraid. Congrats on your win.”
Out of this spat then arose a mob-handed Twitter row about whether or not the Fürth event should be a ranking tournament (it became one in 2016, having begun as a pro-am event). You know what I think? I reckon the Masters should be renamed the Paul Hunter Masters, contested as it always is only by the top 16 players: a fitting tribute to a gifted cueist who was taken from us tragically early. Oh and while I am about it, I reckon the finals of all ranking tournaments should be played over a minimum of the best of 17. Wilson beat Ebdon 4-2 in Sunday’s final, and Neil Robertson beat Jack Lisowski 5-2 in the Riga Masters final a month ago. That is simply not enough frames.
The Grand Prix Fürth? Perhaps it should be renamed the Kyren Wilson Classic?