PORTSMOUTH singles champion Mike Talmondt has completed a hat-trick of titles on a regional over-40’s snooker circuit by the narrowest of narrow margins.
Organisers were forced to delve deep into the rules book and trawl through the whole season’s records as the extraordinary events unfolded at Salisbury Snooker Club.
Talmondt even apologised to unlucky runner-up Matt Ford after every exquisite twist and turn went his way during the seventh and final leg of the Cuestars South of England Seniors Tour.
The 44-year-old said: “I feel really bad for Matt, to be honest.
“Matt’s been the better player all year, been more consistent. I’ve been hot and cold, played all right in one tournament and a bit iffy in the next. I’ve sneaked it, really.”
The first ripple of excitement went around the bar when hot favourite Ford (Bracknell) lost to his Sunninghill Comrades clubmate Chris Stocker.
That started a frenzy of ‘what ifs’.
If Stocker didn’t drop another frame, Ford would be runner-up in Group A and would face the Group D winner, which was likely to be Talmondt, in the quarter-finals.
If Talmondt were to knock out Ford, who was defending a 13-point rankings lead, and go on to win the final, the pair would finish the season on exactly the same points.
The count-back system would then come into play: most tournaments won, most runners-up, most semi-finals or most quarter-finals. Remarkably, they would have identical records and so performance in the final leg would be the separating factor.
And so it came to pass.
Stocker won both his matches 2-0 and Ford had to beat Talmondt to claim his first Seniors title.
Leading 1-0, Ford jawed a title-winning doubled black in the second frame. Talmondt snapped up the subsequent medium length pot to square the match.
In amongst the balls on a run of 15 in the decider, Talmondt fluked the blue which hit both jaws of one middle pocket and disappeared into the opposite middle bag – and went on to make a match-winning 55.
“I’ve got to apologise to Matt for that,” said the ex-professional.
After overcoming Nick Birney (High Wycombe) 2-0 in the last four, Talmondt faced John Monckton (Woking). Was there to be another twist?
Tennis coach Monckton, appearing in only his second final, looked to have the advantage when he missed frame ball on a run of 55 in the opening frame. But Talmondt cleared up with a 63, his highest break of the day, to take the lead on the black.
“He wanted one more red,” said Talmondt. “I thought it was frame over.
“It was the only clearance I’d done all day and it changed the match.”
There was to be no more drama as Talmondt left his opponent needing snookers with three reds left in the next.
Despite only dropping one frame all day, the taxi driver insisted he’d been struggling with a new tip he’d been forced to fit three days previously.
“I didn’t fancy beating Matt at all, not with a dodgy tip,” he said.
“As the day’s panned out, results have gone my way and the draw’s gone my way and I’ve nicked it
“But the tip’s coming straight off.”
Déjà vu in the Masters
Meanwhile, the race for the Masters title, the highest placed player aged 55 or over, took an astonishingly similar path. And the top two were drawn together in the same group as Stocker and Ford just to spice things up a little more.
David Stewart (Odiham) led Stephen Hills (Northfleet) by two points going into the event sponsored by Dransfields and looked to be strong favourite after beating Stocker in his first match.
But he lost to Hills, finished bottom of the five-man round-robin group and left the club presumably resigned to the runners-up spot.
However, Hills failed to win another match and gained only two more points than Stewart by finishing fourth.
As the pair were now tied, it also went to count-back. And Stewart had more third-place finishes over the season.
How prophetic was Ford’s comment after the penultimate leg at Chandler’s Ford last month when he said: “Salisbury should be interesting.”
The top-20 ranked players will play off for £500 prize money and the Seniors championship title at The Crucible Sports & Social Club, Newbury, on Sunday, April 23.
Leeds-based Dransfields is the UK’s largest independent supplier of gaming and amusement machines to pubs and clubs. For more information, visit www.dransfields.com.
Matt Ford: 81, 44.
John Hunter: 73, 62, 40, 40.
Nick Birney: 65, 53.
Mike Talmondt: 63, 55, 53, 52, 46, 45.
John Monckton: 55, 40, 40.
Paul Shears: 54.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Chris Stocker (Sunninghill Comrades Club, Ascot); 2nd, Matt Ford (Sunninghill Comrades Club, Ascot); 3rd, Nick Miles (Ashlett Club, Fawley); 4th, Stephen Hills (Traders, Northfleet); 5th, David Stewart (Chandler’s Ford SC).
GROUP B: 1st, John Hunter (Salisbury SC); 2nd, Neil Carroll (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Martin Wallace (Crowthorne RBL); 4th, Paul Shears (Devizes Literary & Scientific Inst); 5th, Gary Hart (Salisbury SC).
GROUP C: 1st, Nick Birney (Liberal Club, High Wycombe); 2nd, Neil Herd (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Dan Hammond (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Mark Tillison (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 5th, Alan Thomas (Jesters, Swindon).
GROUP D: 1st, Mike Talmondt (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 2nd, John Monckton (Woking SC); 3rd, Herman Desmier (Bournemouth & District Constitutional Club); 4th, Paul Lawrence (Park Gate RBL); 5th, Jon Walker (Potting Shed, Aldbourne).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Monckton 2 Stocker 0, Hunter 2 Herd 0, Birney 2 Carroll 1, Talmondt 2 Ford 1.
SEMI-FINALS (£25, 15 points): Monckton 2 Hunter 1, Talmondt 2 Birney 0.
FINAL (£100/£50, 25/18 points): Talmondt 2 Monckton 0.
Pictures by Tim Dunkley
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)