BRACKNELL’S Matt Ford has taken an early lead on an over-40s tour that he so narrowly lost last season.
The 42-year-old clinched the first leg of the Cuestars South of England Seniors circuit in Bournemouth despite struggling with a new tip.
Ford pocketed £90 prize money after stuttering to a 2-1 victory over first-time finalist Dan Hammond at Greenbaize Snooker Club.
In what proved to be the turning point of the first frame, Hammond, who had recorded a shock 2-1 victory over Ford in the group stages, fluked a red but missed a straightforward colour.
Ford then broke the back of the opener with a 39 break.
A handy run of 31 gave Hammond an early advantage in the next and he squared the match on the green.
Both players had excellent chances in the decider but it was Ford, trailing by 23 points with five reds left, who picked out a delicate plant into a middle pocket and went on to make 43 to leave his opponent needing snookers.
“I was under pressure there,” admitted Ford. “He had his chances and probably deserved to win.
“I played my best shot of the day on the black. I wasn’t happy with my tip and I had to play a reverse side screw shot to get on the yellow. I hit that really sweet.”
And he added with a laugh: “It was the only decent shot I played all day. I struggled all day but got there in the end.”
Ford overcame defending champion Mike Talmondt 2-1 in the last-eight and former champion John Hunter 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Last season he finished the seven-leg series with an identical record to Talmondt.
In the final event in Salisbury, Talmondt needed to beat his title rival in the last-eight and win the tournament to draw level.
The count-back system then come into play: most tournaments won, most runners-up, most semi-finals or most quarter-finals. Remarkably, they were the same and so performance in the final leg was the separating factor.
Ford, who played in the European Championships in Albania during the summer, also competes on the national VIA Creative Masters Tour and the World Seniors Tour run by Snooker Legends.
Earlier, Hammond was mistaken for a drug dealer while sitting in his car during a long wait between his 2-1 quarter-final victory over Mark Tillison (Portsmouth) and his last-four clash with Neil Herd (Frome).
But staff at the Kings Arms pub, which shares a car park with the snooker club, became suspicious of the man on his phone.
Two of then tapped on his window and asked if he was all right. Once Hammond explained he was actually in a snooker tournament, they revealed their concerns that he was a drug dealer!
Suitably amused – the 40-year-old from Winchester, whose highest break is 83 – returned to the club and defeated Herd 2-1 to reach his first final in his seventh outing on the tour.
The 17-strong field for the Parris Cues-sponsored event returned 18 breaks of 40 or more.
Talmondt, chasing a record fourth rankings title, chalked up an early contender for the highest break of the day
The ex-professional from Portsmouth gave 73-year-old Cuestars debutant Richard Fullard (Poole) a baptism of fire with runs of 71 and 52 in a 2-0 win.
He followed that with a 77 against travelling companion Mark Tillison.
But that was eclipsed by Hunter’s 105 clearance to take a 1-0 lead over Ray Mears (Aldershot).
Herd reckons his 2-0 success over Hunter (Andover) in their opening round-robin match was the first time he had beaten his Cuestars South Wilts League rival “for seven or eight years”.
The second leg of eight is at Fareham Snooker Club on Sunday, October 22.
For more information about John Parris cues, visit www.parriscues.com.
John Hunter: 105, 72, 47, 43, 40.
Mike Talmondt: 77, 71, 52, 45.
Matt Ford: 61, 48, 48, 47, 43.
Martin Wallace: 50.
Neil Herd: 44.
John Monckton: 42.
Dan Hammond: 42.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Martin Wallace (Crowthorne RBL); 2nd, Steve Ashton (Salisbury SC); 3rd, John Monckton (Woking SC); 4th, Phil Morgan (Chandlers Ford SC); 5th, David Stewart (Chandlers Ford SC).
GROUP B: 1st, Mike Talmondt (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 2nd, Mark Tillison (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 3rd, Richard Fullard (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 4th, Jon Walker (Potting Shed, Aldbourne).
GROUP C: 1st, Dan Hammond (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Matt Ford (Sunninghill Comrades Club, Ascot); 3rd, Dave Pullman (Sunninghill Comrades Club, Ascot); 4th, Stephen Hills (Traders, Northfleet); 5th.
GROUP D: 1st, Neil Herd (Salisbury SC); 2nd, John Hunter (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Andy Darken (Chertsey SSNR Club); 5th, Ray Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough).
KNOCKOUT RESULTS (PRIZE MONEY)
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Hunter 2-1 Wallace, Ford 2-1 Talmondt, Hammond 2-1 Tillison, Herd 2-1 Ashton.
SEMI-FINALS (£20, 15 points): Ford 2-0 Hunter, Hammond 2-1 Herd.
FINAL (£90/£40, 25/18 points): Ford 2-1 Hammond.
Picture by Tim Dunkley
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)