After three days of intense competitions the IPA English Open Pool weekend (in association with Coral) is over, the hotel emptied, the players back home (or on the practice table), and the IPA Committee are already putting together plans for the Scottish Open weekend in Glasgow 10th-12th June – no rest for the wicked eh!
With over twenty tables in action it was down to Tournament Director Paul Bebb to keep things running smoothly as he remained his usual unflappable self, and the weekend went off pretty much without a hitch barring the odd technical issue (that we have come to expect when relying on wi-fi), but as always the players pulled together (it is THEIR tour, after all), and all came good for yet another spectacular IPA Tournament that was deemed a massive success by all in attendance.
With over 200 players the Friday was as chaotic/busy as you would expect as the numbers were cut down to a more realistic number, and we soon reached the semi finals of the Open event which was played to a conclusion late on Saturday evening/Sunday morning. Despite an opinion among some that there is little difference between the amateurs and the pros, funnily enough all four semi finalists came from the IPA Pro ranks (yet again), with Jordan Shepherd playing James Croxton and 2016 World Champion Gareth Hibbott up against Welsh Open winner Dan Davy, in one of the strongest line-ups imaginable. Jordan was in destroyer mode and won his semi 7-1 in double quick time while Gareth saw off Dan 7-3 to leave an intriguing final as always at this level.
Final time, and late as it was, there was a full house to watch plus thousands on the live stream from all around the World, and we were given an absolute master class from both players. Clearance after clearance soon saw Jordan build up a 4-2 lead but Gareth is anything but a quitter and after clawing it back to 5-5 he took the last two frames to add another title to his CV after a match that had everything from potting to tactics, snookers to clearances, and was a glorious advert for all that is good about both the IPA and blackball pool.
Sunday saw the amateur and professional events reach their conclusions as Craig Marsh took on 2015 World Champion Jack Whelan in the pros and Dan Harris played Greg Batten in the amateurs, with both matches live streamed to the delight of the on and off line spectators. The margins for error at this level are wafer thin and it was Craig who came out on top with an 8-5 victory having started the sharper of the two, but the real winner was blackball pool as once again we had a quite enthralling match of the very highest quality.
The amateurs went on last, and although there is a subtle difference, it is still top quality and ultra competitive, with neither player willing to give an inch. After sharing the first four frames it was Dan Harris who opened up a 4-2 lead and looked on target to pull away for the win, but it was Greg who turned it around to go on to win 7-6 in a last frame decider, a fitting ending to one of the best tournaments for many a year.
So, with the tables put in to storage, the arena emptied, and real life on the horizon, the IPA would like to thank Coral for all their support as always (the best betting partner we could ask for and genuinely interested in the sport we love), and all the players for making sure the weekend went so swimmingly – next stop Glasgow, and we can’t wait -see you there!