Phil Haigh ✍️
The final event of Q School 2022 is at an end, with James Cahill, Jenson Kendrick, Lukas Kleckers and John Astley the last four men to earn their two-year tour cards.
A number of the biggest names to enter Q School have not made it back onto the professional tour, with the likes of Michael Holt, Kurt Maflin and Andrew Higginson all set for a spell as amateurs.
Neither Maflin nor Higginson made it to the final day of Event Three, but Holt fell at the last hurdle, beaten 4-2 by Astley on Thursday in Sheffield.
Cahill beat young Chinese star Zhao Jianbo 4-1, Kleckers edged Ross Muir 4-3 and the only first-time pro coming through Q School this year, Kendrick, beat Haydon Pinhey 4-1.
The 21-year-old from Stoke has committed his life to snooker so far and his place on tour is richly deserved.
‘Words can’t describe, over the moon, I’ve shocked myself to be honest,’ Kendrick told WST.
‘I gave it absolutely everything in practice coming here, I was playing really, really well, but on the other hand there are many great players. There’s 40-50 players that could get on tour. I’m one of the 12 and I can’t believe it.
‘I left school after GCSEs, but even at school I was doing half weeks to do snooker. I’ve never had a job, nothing, I’ve dedicated my whole life to the game and finally it’s paying off.
‘I can’t thank my mum and dad enough, since I’ve left school they’ve done everything for me to be the absolute best I can.
‘Even at school people were saying, why not go down this route, college, but there was nothing on my mind other than the table and to get to the top of the game.’
On the prospect of facing the top players on the biggest stages, he added: ‘I’d love every second, every single second from the walk out. If I miss a black off the spot, I miss a black off the spot, I can sit there and enjoy it.
‘I know that I’ve worked as hard as I possibly could to get there and truly I believe I can beat most of the players on tour.’
Astley is far from a rookie, with the 33-year-old first turning pro in 2013 and even beating Neil Robertson at the UK Championship as an amateur last year.
‘Every emotion you can think of but mainly happy and relief,’ Astley said after beating Holt in Sheffield. ‘Just amazing to get through, it’s such a tough tournament and the last match is not very nice at all, you can’t enjoy it.
‘When I got my chances I tried to keep my pace up a bit because in the past when the pressure’s on I slowed up a little bit and it doesn’t work out very well. Just over the moon.
‘It’s been a tough couple of years with Covid, so to get back on the tour where I think I belong, it’s a massive relief and that’s why it came out at the end.’
He added: ‘Playing Michael, he’s a great player, but I’ve played him quite a lot this season and got a lot of experience on the tour playing the top lads so it doesn’t really bother us. I know if I play well I’ve got a chance of beating anybody.’
Cahill is well known for his giant-killing exploits on the main tour, most memorably beating Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2019 and now he is looking for more consistency after showing how good he is, but only in flashes.
‘There’s a lot of pressure out there to win and I’m just glad I’ve held myself together,’ he said.
‘I found Q Tour strange, picking the balls out with your waistcoat on, it was odd not having a ref, but that’s what you’ve got to do, I didn’t handle it very well. I’m glad to be back on tour where there’s a referee.
‘People will watch my game and wonder how I’m playing so bad, it’s simply because I’ve not put the hours in. When I’m putting the hours in, going to see Chris [Henry], my head’s in the right space then I can get good results. I’m going to really commit this next two years and hopefully not come here for this again.’
Cahill played as a top up player over the last season, but could not get any kind of consistency when he didn’t know when or where he would be competing.
‘I didn’t really play. I was getting called up to play tournaments and I just hadn’t played,’ he said.
‘I played Ronnie in the Welsh Open. Someone called me at the airport because I was going on holiday, told me I was in the draw tomorrow, so I left the airport, went down and played it but that was the story of the year, I wasn’t really prepared.
‘Until the World Championships, I put in a few months for that, knowing Q School was round the corner.’
German star Kleckers has bounced straight back onto the tour after slipping off at the end of last season and the 26-year-old, like Cahill, is looking to find a more consistent standard.
‘So delighted, it’s a very hard 16-18 days of playing. Just to do it in the last event is even better because the pressure was so big, so very, very delighted,’ he said.
‘I was playing so much, when you play all the time you stop thinking at some point and that helped me.
‘The pressure was the biggest but it didn’t feel as big as some other matches.
On representing Germany, he added: ‘I’m very proud. We all know the German Masters and now the European Masters as well in Germany. Big crowds, many people watch it so I’m very proud to represent Germany.
Asked about his finest achievement he said: ‘Beating Mark Selby in the Northern Ireland Open was my best match ever.
‘I have to be more consistent, that’s the answer, I can’t really say how to get there. More practice, more experience, just put my practice game on the match table. That’s my goal.’
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