Syd takes his place in the Grand Finals.
Sunday saw our latest ever finish to an SB Classic day as Sydney Wilson defeated Mike Rogers 3-2 to claim his place in the Grand Finals just before midnight.
There was a real buzz around the South West Snooker Academy as the early session players started arriving, these included the eventual winner who arrived around 9.15am, so his day was only marginally shorter than mine and Mrs SB’s as we’d arrived only an hour earlier at the venue to find Andrew Norman already busy making sure everything was right for us.
The added twist on this final qualifying day was the culmination of the Order of Merit and at the start of the day there were five players realistically in contention for this in the shape of Syd, Callum Lloyd, Andy Marriott, Joe Steele and Adam Bobat and with each of them drawn to play in the opening round the scope was there for things to change markedly throughout the day.
As it turned out, a first round exit from Steele and a second round exit from Bobat made this a three horse race between Wilson, Lloyd and Marriott, indeed at one point early in the day the three of them were level on 41 points, all looking anxiously at the board to see any changes, knowing that only the first two on the list who were not qualifying by winning an event progressed to the Grand Finals.
Marriott it was that was the first to fall to Brett Miller and in doing so guaranteed Syd and Callum their final places. But Syd defiantly maintained that he wanted to be in the Grand Finals as a winner, indeed the hopes and fate of the defeated Morrissey fan Marriott now rested in Syd and Callum’s hands.
While all this was going on the entertainment was being provided by a number of larger than life characters, Simon Dent reminisced about the glory days of snooker while flicking through old copies of Snooker Scene in the SWSA shop, Billy Brown and Ricky Norris played darts while Billy’s partner in crime Sarah tried in vain to hit the board instead of the wall. Matthew Day and Charlie Walters were being geezers in the corner while Kobi Mates and Peter Devlin were just being well, Kobi Mates and Peter Devlin really.
Syd in the meantime had brought his mum Linda along to watch, she claimed to not have watched him play live for around 6 years as she was worried it made him nervous, she didn’t watch him on Sunday either and instead decided to chat away to us when Syd was at work. They both decided that the trophy for this year’s winner goes so well in their house that Syd will have to get his hands on it, so he clearly has an incentive to win the tournament outright.
A real blast from the past was making his presence felt in the shape of Joe Lazarus, an old school cockney hard man who I first came across, though was far too scared to speak to in 1991 at an Isle of Wight tournament. He’s not changed a bit though seems to have mellowed with age (he only eats three packets of nails for breakfast now rather than six) and was genuinely amazed at the number of people who recognised him. The name itself I’m sure is familiar to players from the UK snooker scene from the past 3 decades and he caught up with Syd, who he used to coach for the first time in years. Geezer with a capital G.
Callum Lloyd stormed to the top of the Order of Merit
As the day wore on Callum Lloyd was beaten but left knowing he was back on Saturday, though he did let slip that between visits he’d have to get himself a waistcoat. Phil O’Kane, who had lost earlier in the day stuck around and supplied us with seemingly endless and very amusing tales of his frequent mishaps. It seems bad luck and misfortune seem to follow poor old Phil around but at least he can laugh about it.
On the table, Syd had qualified for the Final just after 5pm but for one reason or another the other half of the draw was progressing at a snail’s pace. The match between David Maslov and Wayne Townsend in the Last 16 finished after Syd was already in the final and semi-finalist Mike Rogers faced a very long wait too for his next match. It was now crystal clear that it was going to be a very long day.
Mike used the time away from the table during the day to do some University work, he’s studying a Maths degree in Bath and he and his girlfriend happily sat in the corner discussing things that would not usually be discussed at a snooker tournament. Mike later said it helped him a lot away from the table though the course has hindered his practice time quite significantly this past year, more than he thought it would.
Syd in the meantime held court with his mum while myself, Mrs SB, Phil, Hassan Vaizie, Aaron and Rob Cook listened intently to his musings, at one point we played a game called ‘who had the biggest deviant friend in school’ which threw up some interesting results, other topics of conversation included adult nappies, after dark hotel room antics at EPTC’s and Phil’s seemingly endless catastrophic catalogue of carelessness, it’s no wonder Mike Rogers sat in the other corner really…
When they eventually caught up Mike was to come through a 5 frame battle with former Crucible Last 32 player Bradley Jones to set up a final with Syd.
In effect, although Syd was determined to win, this was a match that was far more important to Mike and to the absent Andy Marriott, who was depending on Syd to promote him into second on the Order of Merit and guarantee him at least £100 prize money. This he duly did in a tense affair which he won 3-2, the Order of Merit which started in September affectively being decided on the final frame of the final qualifying event.
Both finalists and tournament director and wife were ready for bed, though Mike faced a drive back at an hour I’m sure he’d rather was a lot earlier. He’s a cracking player considering all his other commitments and had he entered maybe another heat he may well have been in the Grand Finals as he ended up 3rd on the Order of Merit just 7 frames behind Andy Marriott, having made the final of the first qualifying event as well and been beaten by Kishan Hirani.
But the day belonged to Syd, who bounced back after his disappointing defeat to Mark Allen in the Welsh Open just days before to claim victory, as ever he was full of nothing but praise for both his opponent and the event itself, this being one of the reasons he remains a favourite of the tournament director’s wife.
The Last Chance Saloon turned out last season’s eventual champion David Gray and Syd will be hoping to follow in his footsteps as he moves forward to Saturday’s Grand Finals. The day itself is a real test of stamina and the winner definitely knows they have been hard at it.
Before signing off I must make special mention to referees Nick Harry and Mark Seaman, who worked like Trojans all day, barely coming up for air. Nick stayed until the very end and still looked fit as a flea at midnight when all around were flagging, earning him the nickname ‘Superref’ from Mrs SB. He’ll be back for the Finals on Saturday, my guess is, bright and early.
You can view all the scores from Sunday here and the final standing of the Order of Merit here.
You can view the draw for Grand Finals Day here