Alexander Ursenbacher, Andrew Higginson, Andrew Pagett and Liam Pullen came through Q School Event One in Leicester to earn two-year cards for the World Snooker Tour.
All four players now have the right to compete on the pro circuit for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons.
Switzerland’s Ursenbacher bounced back from dropping off the tour last month, by defeating Barry Pinches 4-3 in a thrilling clash. The result continues his impressive record in Q School, which he’s now successfully negotiated three times.
Ursenbacher showed promising signs early on last season, when he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-1 at the British Open. However, difficulties with the psychological side of the sport plagued his game and a poor run of form saw him lose his place on tour.
Despite this, Ursenbacher showed his steel this afternoon. The Basel cueman fired in a nerveless break of 69 in the final frame, having been pegged back from 3-1 up, to secure a vital victory.
Ursenbacher said: “I just didn’t want to play another week of Q School. What it does to you, it is not healthy. I know I am guaranteed two years now and I am going to make some changes, because I can’t do that again.
“I guess many players have a back up plan with studying, having a job anyway or sponsors. I have none of this. I know what I am capable of so that puts a lot of pressure on myself. I just didn’t want to disappoint myself, my family, my girlfriend and my friends. I am really pleased.”
Former Welsh Open finalist Andrew Higginson secured his return to snooker’s top table, after whitewashing Hayden Pinhey 4-0.
Higginson dropped off the tour at the end of the 21/22 campaign and spent the last year off the circuit. The Widnes cueman came agonisingly close to securing a tour card at World Championship qualifying last month. He battled through three matches to make Judgement Day and move one win from the Crucible and a professional return, but lost 10-5 to David Grace. However, that loss is a distant memory now and he is delighted to be back.
“I didn’t have a lot of high hopes coming into it, but if you have the right frame of mind and tunnel vision that stands you in good stead. Having the year off tour was probably something that I needed,” said 45-year-old Higginson.
“For years I have been putting too much pressure on myself. The game is hard enough. I think when you relax and you are happy you play your best snooker. I am enjoying the little bits of practising I am doing now. It will be nice to meet up with my mates on tour again.”
Welshman Andrew Paggett recovered from tour relegation to earn an immediate return with a 4-2 defeat of Ukrainian teenager Iulian Boiko.
Pagett won the European Amateur Championship in 2020 to gain professional status. However, he had his tour card deferred due to illness with Diverticulitis. Pagett eventually took up his place two years ago, but fell off the circuit at the end of last season.
“I’m just relieved really. It is hard work here. It is tough. There are lots and lots of good players and it is a short format. It is brutal basically,” said 41-year-old Pagett.
“I’ve never been right over the last two years, since the illness. Two or three months back I found the right cue. I have gone back to the basics and feel like I can play the game again. I am just so relieved to get through. I couldn’t think of anything worse than another six days of hell out there.”
English teenager Liam Pullen earned a dream maiden place on the World Snooker Tour, beating Alex Taubman 4-0 to qualify.
Pullen had already came close to securing his place on tour earlier this year, but he was beaten 5-1 by Stan Moody in the final of the WSF Junior Championship in Sydney.
The 17-year-old showcased his mental fortitude by beating Q School veteran Craig Steadman 4-3 last night to make the final day, having trailed 3-0. This afternoon’s win was a more comfortable one and he becomes the first rookie to qualify from 2023 Q School.
Pullen said: “I’m looking forward to the next two seasons. After losing to Stan, who was by far the better player in that final. I learned a lot from that and if I didn’t get to that final I wouldn’t have qualified this week. Grit, determination and staying calm was huge.
“I wanted it so bad. It was really hard for me after Australia. I practised really hard when I got home. I shouldn’t have done it and I should have had a week off and a mental break. It was an emotional time.”
Article by WST.