Impressed in Preston 2004



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I spent a great day at the Grand Prix Snooker on Saturday 2nd October 2004 as a guest of my friend Dominic Dale.

Dominic was playing his first round match against a young Scots player called Scott McKenzie. Dominic won the match 5 frames to 1 but it could have been a very different story had he not made sizeable breaks in two frames nicking both on the black.

For good measure Dominic underlined his current decent form with a century break and never looked like losing after establishing a 3 frames to1 lead at the interval. This break was aided by a fluked pink however, in Dominic’s defence, he was distracted by some weird noises from work being done in the roof of the building and unintentionally over hit the pink which careered across the table and into the opposite corner pocket to the one that he had originally played it into. A gesture of apology quickly followed as did enough points to make the century and secure the frame of course.

The venue was set up in two halves with two main match tables set up in one area with two tables in cubicles in the other. The main two match tables had tiered seating to three sides while the ones in cubicles only had seats towards the baulk end which were also tiered.

On table number one Ronnie O’Sullivan appeared, the roar from the crowd when he entered was hugely impressive. In our half of the building the hush was quite noticeable as there were less than twenty of us watching the games going on there.

The performance of the day came from a liquid smooth Andy Hicks who looked like a man who had recently graced a world semi-final, he was drawn against the current UK champion Matthew Stevens.

Mathew did little wrong but still departed Preston a five nil loser. Andy Hicks played at a nice pace and potted all the key balls with ease or so it seemed and never looked like losing, if he can keep this form going, he can threaten anyone in the game.

Once Dominic had finished his match he went to carry out a little work for the media and then returned to the venue to watch a frame or two of the Andy Hicks game, we then went to take a look at a few of the cues that I had taken along for us to discuss. The ones that seemed to impress him the most were the maple Burwat Champion and my Orme Match cue. In fact Dominic said that he wouldn’t mind one just like it, should one pop up.

After going out for a lovely Italian meal we returned to the venue and watched a little of the John Parrott and James Wattana match from the back of the arena, James also played very well and looked completely at home at the table.

One of the nice things about the day was bumping into both Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths on the staircase and passing the time of day with them, both were very professional and courteous in their manner as I was a guest of Dominic and of course because these two gentlemen are both great ambassadors for Snooker.

In his next match Dominic will play Graeme Dott this year’s world championship runner up who beat another Welshman Matthew Stevens in the semi-final of that event, his opponent today was Ryan Day. The match eventually went to Dott 5 frames to 4.

I heartily recommend that you should make a visit to one of the major venues to watch these early qualifying sessions as with the role on, role off set up you get to see a variety of players and are sure to return home with a positive memory of something that you have seen.

David Smith

The Guild Hall, Preston