Alfie Burden, Dean Young, Stuart Carrington and Louis Heathcote all bounced back from relegation by regaining their World Snooker Tour cards on the final day of Q School event two.
Heathcote, Burden and Young all won nail-biting matches by a 4-3 scoreline in the final round in Leicester, to secure a place on the pro circuit for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons. Carrington eased through with a 4-0 success against Rory McLeod.
Londoner Burden, a veteran who first turned pro in 1994, was up against Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko in the last round. He made a break of 88 to lead 2-1, before falling 3-2 behind. Runs of 52 and 43 set up a nervy decider in which both players had chances, but Burden was always in front and eventually potted the final brown to clinch the result.
“There are so many emotions,” admitted Burden. “I actually tried to pull out of Q School after the World Seniors (where he lost to Jimmy White in the final) because I felt I had let my family down by not winning that event – I felt very down and didn’t want to pick my cue up. I had a few days practice, came here and rolled the dice.
“Q School is so tough. After I won I went to the toilet and there was a kid bent over the sink crying his eyes out because he had lost. It was Florian (Nuessle) and I feel for him. I almost wanted to swap places with him because I have had a long career, while he is a young kid just starting out and wanting it so badly, trying to win a place on the tour.
“Everything I do is for my children and I’m just delighted to win today.”
Scotland’s Young, who first turned pro two years ago, faced Austria’s promising Nuessle, who was looking to earn a tour place for the first time. A break of 90 helped give Nuessle a 3-1 advantage, and he had chances in each of the next three frames. The closest he came to victory was in frame six which came down to the last two balls, but Young potted the pink for 3-3, then made a break of 30 at the crucial moment of the decider to seal the tie.
“I could hardly stand up towards the end,” said Young. “I don’t have a clue how I won. He missed a pink at 3-2, he should have closed it out. I had no Plan B, so to get through Q School was all or nothing for me. The pressure here is immense, I have never felt anything like that in my life. My first two years on tour was an apprenticeship and I am hoping to do better next time.”
Leicester’s Heathcote turned pro in 2019 and was named Rookie of the Year after his debut season. He struggled for results in 2022/23 and slipped out of the world’s top 64, but handled the immense pressure of Q School to book two more years on the top tier.
He faced Ryan Davies and – just like Burden and Young – trailed for much of the afternoon before producing a strong finish. England’s 21-year-old Davies, looking to earn a tour card for the first time, led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. But Heathcote fired breaks of 111 and 74 to take the last two frames.
“I have never felt so focussed, and now I am so relieved it’s all over,” said 25-year-old Heathcote. “At 3-2 down, nothing was going my way. I went to the toilet and told myself to use my last four years of experience and somehow won two frames with two good breaks. I am really proud of myself and I can have a fresh start now. I hope I never have to go back to Q School because it is the most stressful ten days.”
Carrington, from Grimsby, had a ten-year spell as a pro from 2013 to 2023, and the two-time ranking event semi-finalist can enjoy an immediate return. He was made to wait several hours for his final match as his opponent Rory McLeod battled to a marathon four hour 13 minute 4-3 victory over Robin Hull in the penultimate round. But Carrington was unflustered as he eased to a 4-0 success with top runs of 66 and 53.
“I was expecting to be there all night!” he said. “I thought it would be a tough match. I was solid and my safety was good, though 4-0 was a bit flattering. The last 18 months has been really difficult for me, it has been mental torture. I have been struggling to pull the cue back. I wasn’t expecting a great deal this week but I have hung in there and fought my way through, without hitting the ball well. I have two years now to work on that and find the right person who can help me technically as well as mentally.”
Article by WST.