DEBUTANT John Hunter emerged victorious from a record turnout of 13 to win the first leg of the Cuestars Masters (55+) Tour at Salisbury Snooker Club.
The rankings leader from Andover edged Andrew Darken (Feltham) 2-1 in a hard-fought final to claim the £70 first prize.
And the 55-year-old also chalked up the day’s highest break of 78. Beaten semi-finalist Steve Ashton (Salisbury) contributed a creditable run of 65.
Hunter admitted he was pushed all the way in the final.
He said: “My toughest match was by far the final against Andrew Darken. Andrew’s safety was granite and I just scraped over the line in the decider winning on the blue.”
Steve Allen (Southampton) is one point ahead of third-placed Darken in the Masters rankings, which include points earned by these players in the Cuestars Seniors (40+) Tour competitions.
Chandlers Ford Snooker Club hosts the second and final leg on Tuesday, October 5.
John Hunter: 78, 66, 55, 52.
Steve Ashton: 65.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, John Hunter (Salisbury SC); 2nd, Paul Burt (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Malcolm Slark (Salisbury); 4th, David Tuckett (Allstars Sports Bar, Bristol).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Steve Ashton (Salisbury SC); 2nd, Steve Allen (Totton Recreation Club); 3rd, Richard Arnold (Salisbury SC); 4th, Neil Carroll (Chandlers Ford SC); 5th, Phil Morgan (Chandlers Ford SC).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Andrew Darken (Chertsey SSNR Club); 2nd, Stephen Hills (Northfleet Traders Club, Gravesend); 3rd, Jeff Payne (West Byfleet Social Club); 4th, Ray Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 pts): Hunter 2-0 Arnold, Allen 2-0 Hills, Ashton 2-0 Payne, Darken 2-1 Burt.
SEMI-FINALS (£15, 15 pts): Hunter 2-0 Allen, Darken 2-0 Ashton.
FINAL (£70/£30, 25/18 pts): Hunter 2-1 Darken.
Picture: Andrew Darken (left) and John Hunter