DEFENDING champion John Hunter overcame the Houdini of the green baize to clinch the first leg of the Cuestars Masters Tour.
The 57-year-old from Andover kicked off his campaign to retain his title with a hard-fought victory at Woking Snooker Centre.
But beaten finalist Phil Butler can reflect on his eventful day with a sense of pride.
The Bournemouth cueist qualified for the knockout via a third-place play-off with Mark Thomas (Chorleywood).
He then overturned Colin Norton (Gosport) – a four-time event winner last season – 2-0 in the quarter-finals, beat the in-form England international Dennis Tristram (Croxley Green, near Watford) 2-1 in the last-four and knocked in a break of 63 to force a third-frame decider against Hunter.
The tournament was sponsored by Tristram, who was selected for the England over-55’s B team for the Home Internationals in Leeds last month.
Home player Kevin Morris chalked up a 43, which was another a personal best Cuestars break. Title-contender Steve Allen (Southampton) lost 2-0 to Hunter in the semis.
The high scoring in the opening leg of the 2023/24 Snooker Hub-sponsored series of midweek tournaments for players aged 55 or over was a result of the excellent playing conditions at Woking SC.
Chandlers Ford Snooker Club hosts the second leg of nine on Wednesday, October 11.
To find out more the amateur game, visit snookerhub.co.uk.
John Hunter: 83, 73, 71, 55, 52.
Phil Butler: 63.
Steve Allen: 48.
Kevin Morris: 43.
Dennis Tristram: 41.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, John Hunter (Salisbury SC); 2nd, Andrew Darken (Feltham Constitutional Club); 3rd, Phil Butler (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 4th, Ray Grall (Hayes WMC).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Colin Norton (Stoke SC, Gosport); 2nd, Mark Burrell (Jesters, Swindon); 3rd, Mark Thomas (Shots, Watford); 4th, Stephen Hills (Northfleet Traders Club, Gravesend).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Dennis Tristram (Shots, Watford); 2nd, Steve Allen (Totton Rec); 3rd, Neil Carroll (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Kevin Morris (Woking SC); 5th, Ray Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 pts): Hunter 2-0 Carroll, Allen 2-0 Burrell, Butler 2-0 Norton, Tristram 2-1 Darken.
SEMI-FINALS (£10, 15 pts): Hunter 2-0 Allen, Butler 2-1 Tristram.
FINAL (£70/£30), 25/18 pts): Hunter 2-1 Butler.
Picture: Phil Butler (left) and John Hunter