CUESTARS players will have a direct route to the professional circuit for the first time next season.
It was announced this week that the winner of the 2016/17 Cuestars South of England Championship Tour will be awarded a free entry into Q School.
Competition is expected to be fierce over the extended tour of eight legs.
World Snooker’s Q School is run every year soon after the World Championship. It consists of two best-of-seven-frame tournaments. All eight semi-finalists receive two-year Main Tour cards, meaning they will travel the world competing alongside players like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Neil Robertson for £8m prize money.
Cuestars members Brad Chappell, Jack Smithers, Mike Finn, Nick Jennings and Sonnie O’Sullivan are among the 182 players who have forked out £600 each to enter this season’s Q School that starts on May 11 in Burton upon Trent.
There is no age restriction for Q School. However, World Snooker reserves the right to refuse entry to any player aged under 16. All English entrants must be members of the English Association of Snooker & Billiards, our national governing body.
Players not reaching the semi-finals in either tournament will be ranked according to the number of frames won. The highest ranked players will then be invited to make the numbers up in Main Tour events if some of the places are not taken up by the 128 current professionals – which happens a lot.
And that is how 15-year-old former Cuestars member Shane Castle found himself leading Mark Selby 3-1 in the first round of the 2013 UK Championship live on BBC TV on a Saturday evening. Selby eventually won 6-4.
There will be no cash alternative for the prize worth £600.
Picture by Tim Dunkley. Mike Finn commemorating his five centuries in five group stage matches at the Championship Tour event in Newbury in January