IT WAS a day a 13-year-old snooker player from Chandler’s Ford and his family will remember for the rest of their lives.
Self-belief helped Ryan Hughes (pictured) win his first regional tournament on the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Bronze Tour.
Hughes admitted he was “disappointed” not to qualify for the knockout in the first leg in Salisbury last month but he responded in the best possible way in the second event at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon.
He fought back from 1-0 down to beat his Chandler’s Ford SC clubmate Bowen Zhu 2-1 in his last group match to qualify for the quarter-finals in second place and then accounted for three Portsmouth players in the knockout.
At 1-0 down again, he came back to see off Rio Smith 2-1 in the last-eight, dispatched leg-one winner Ben Tillison 2-0 and in the final defeated Callum White, whom he had lost to in the group stages, 2-0.
In the last frame, he clawed back a 23-point deficit with a 20 break and slotted in a long black to claim the winner’s trophy.
“I was really, really happy,” he said. “It was good.
“After I beat Ben, I thought I could win it because I didn’t play well against Callum (in the group stages) which was one of the reasons why I lost it.”
The winner of five school holiday competitions at his home club, Hughes had only progressed to the knockout once before in his previous six Cuestars outings. And that was a quarter-final defeat at Chandler’s Ford SC in March.
World Snooker coach Tim Dunkley, who has been working with the youngster for 18 months, was “delighted” for Hughes and his dad Grahame, a delivery driver, and mum Sarah, who works at the University of Southampton.
“Ryan used to be a very tentative player but now he attacks the ball well,” he said.
“As long as he works hard in practice, he is quite capable of winning the rankings title.”
A keen footballer, Hughes, whose high break is 35, revealed he has permission to miss two matches for Tyro League side Hiltingbury Hawks this season so he can compete in all eight Cuestars legs.
White is second in the rankings, seven points behind Copnor clubmate Tillison. Hughes is one point further back in third.
National under-16 champion and England international Mark Lloyd, who won the Gold Tour final, took time out to congratulate first-time finalist White.
He said: “Well done to Callum White. Let’s hope that gives him the confidence to get to the latter stages of these tournaments more consistently.”
The third leg of eight is at Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon, on Sunday, December 13.
Chloe White: 23, 22.
Ryan Hughes: 23, 20.
Shane Kearns: 22.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Riley Ellis (Jesters, Swindon); 2nd, Chloe White (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 3rd, Rio Smith (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 4th, Jack Ratcliffe (Jesters, Swindon); 5th, Ryan Compton (Copnor SC, Portsmouth).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Bowen Zhu (Chandler’s Ford SC); 2nd, Ryan Hughes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Callum White (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 4th, Viktor Balgariev (Jesters, Swindon).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Ben Tillison (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 2nd, Shane Kearns (Jesters, Swindon); 3rd, Arnie Petty (Salisbury SC); 4th, Connor Shaw (Greenbaize, Bournemouth).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Callum White 2 Ellis 1, Kearns 2 Zhu 0, Tillison 2 Chloe White 0, Hughes 2 Smith 1.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Hughes 2 Tillison 0, Callum White 2 Kearns 0.
FINAL (25/18 points): Hughes 2 Callum White 0.
Report and picture by Tim Dunkley.