Category: Player Features

Women’s Snooker Icons: Rita Holmes

Next year World Women’s Snooker (WWS) is set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its formation by Mandy Fisher in 1981, but of course there is an even deeper history of female participation in our sport that helped pave the way for the global tour in place today.

Dating back to its inaugural staging won by Margaret Quinn in 1933, the British Women’s Amateur Championship can count the likes of Rosemary Davies, Maureen Barrett, Muriel Hazeldene and of course Vera Selby, winner of our first World Women’s Snooker Championship, among its former champions.

Another notable snooker queen was Rita Holmes, who claimed the title four times (1953, 1957, 1958 and 1963) and recently we were lucky enough to catch up with the 86-year-old to learn more about her snooker journey and what it was like to be a women’s snooker star in what was a very different era.

“My father had a club in London [the Midland Billiards Club] with seven tables and my interest came from watching the men play from quite a young age,” explained Holmes. “I used to go into the club when I was a youngster and I was always quite fascinated by it.

“I didn’t start playing properly until I was 19, but my father asked me if I wanted to be serious about the sport and to be coached. Having decided that I did, he arranged for me to be coached by Sydney Lee, who was a professional player at that time. After 11 months he suggested that I should enter the British Championship in 1953 just for experience, but I was able to win it at the first attempt!”

Held at the stunning Burroughes Hall venue in Soho Square, London, the tournament carried significant prestige as the biggest prize to be won prior to the formation of a full women’s circuit and the inauguration of the World Women’s Championship contested today.

“It was a very special event to be able to compete in,” said Holmes. “Everything was played on just one table in the beautiful tournament room at Burroughes & Watts and done in such a lovely way. It was like a cinema with tip up seats all round and tiers at each end – I had a following!”

As Holmes – whose highest break of 74 was not to be underestimated at that time – recalls, while snooker is now very much a mixed gender sport with no barriers to participation in professional and amateur competitions, back in her day it was a different story with women not welcomed in what were ‘men only’ clubs at the time.

With access to tables at her father’s club however, Holmes was not to be deterred and would go on to meet many of the greats of her era – including the great Davis brothers while establishing herself as a formidable player in her own right.

“Back in the 1950s women weren’t allowed in men’s clubs at all,” continued Holmes. “The women that played were wealthy ladies who had their own tables in their own buildings and hotels. It wasn’t heard of to go into a man’s club but I was lucky because of my father’s club. There I became used to playing against the men and my father saw that I had an ability for the game, but we could not play together in competitions.

“As my coach Sydney Lee was best friends with Joe and Fred Davis however, I was able to meet them when they would come down to visit while I practised.

“One event that stands out in my mind was when the men had a great ball at the Park Lane Hotel and all the players Jackie Rea, Horace Lindrum, the Davis brothers, all of them were there and I was invited as the only woman player. It was a thrill, they were exciting times and it was very upmarket!”

After a decade which saw her reach the final of the British Championship for ten successive years – winning on four occasions – Holmes took the decision to hang up her cue and focus on her other passions. As well as her snooker career, she also had two dance academies for stage dancing, teaching over 170 students and organising her own musicals every year.

But snooker would always remain a part of her life and some 43 years later having received successful treatment for a persistent back problem, Holmes returned to the baize by entering her first WWS event at the 2006 British Open in Derby. There she would defeat Laura Alves 3-0 to reach the quarter-finals, before losing 4-2 to our current world no.8 Suzie Opacic.

“After my therapist was able to heal my back problems I said that I used to play snooker and wondered if I could play again,” continued Holmes. I found my cue after so many years and found that I could play, so I spoke with Mandy Fisher and explained who I was. She knew about me and said that there was a women’s circuit and so I went back to play and I held my own quite well for 73, I was doing alright! [laughs]”

Holmes had planned to enter more events and subsequently entered the 2007 World Championship in Cambridge, but disaster was to strike as she was to suffer a stroke in the run-up to the event that would inevitably have a significant impact upon her ability to play at the tournament.

“I was playing really well,” explains Holmes. “I had some tuition from Dominic Dale and I really picked up the cue again and felt that I had a chance of getting through a few matches.”

“But then I had a stroke seven days before I went to play. It was the worst thing that could have happened and instead of thinking that I should wait another year, I so wanted to play that I went to Cambridge, but I couldn’t play very well because I had lost a lot of my sight. It came back afterwards but at that time it was pretty grim, I couldn’t focus properly.”

“I was very silly to go back but I so wanted to play. I thought about coming back after that, but I was so disappointed and lost my confidence and for some reason just let it go and didn’t pursue it.”

Although circumstances would dictate that her comeback would be curtailed, it was at this time that she would strike up a friendship with two-time ranking event winner and snooker historian Dominic Dale, which endures to this day.

“Before I played in 2006 he phoned me because I was on TV ahead of my comeback,” said Holmes. “I used to practice in Dunster Castle and Dominic phoned and said he would like to come down and give me some tuition. So, he came down bless his heart, I met him and we went to the Castle which intrigued him as a collector of memorabilia and we’ve stayed friends ever since. He is such a lovely man and still visits me a lot. As soon as possible he will come down and we will go for a meal and a catch-up.”

Now approaching her 87th birthday, how does Holmes view the sport which has given her so many memorable moments over such a long period and could she be tempted by another comeback on the World Women’s Snooker Tour?

“I never miss it on the television,” said Holmes. “I’m still as interested in snooker now as I was when I was 19.”

“I used to practice in a social club a few yards away from where I live but at my age you don’t do that do you? It would be a bit embarrassing at my age to go along with all the youngsters – but I would long to play again if I had a table to play on.

“Never say never – once you have played you keep in touch with people and it is good!”

World Women’s Snooker would like to thank Rita for her time and insight into women’s snooker in the 1950s and would love to welcome her to a future tournament – either with her cue or just to meet our current players! We would also like to thank Dominic Dale who has provided the images used in this article.

Zoe Killington Q&A

Among those who will be competing at this weekend’s UK Women’s Snooker Championship in Leeds is 13-year-old Zoe Killington and we recently caught up with the Merseyside youngster to talk about her snooker journey so far…

Hi Zoe, you are one of our youngest players on the World Women’s Snooker Tour, how much have you enjoyed competing on the circuit and how did you get into snooker?

It has been nearly a year since I started at the Eden Women’s Masters last year. I have enjoyed the events immensely. It is fantastic to be able to play snooker with other women and girls and be part of a community.

I first started playing about a year earlier, just for fun. I wanted a hobby and just have something fun to do at the weekend. My dad has played snooker since he was young and plays with a few of his mates. One week I had to go with him and I found it quite interesting. At first I didn’t want to take it seriously, but I started having lessons around March 2018, and that’s when I thought about taking it more seriously.

You come from a real snooker hotbed in Merseyside, tell us a little about where you play and the other notable players in the area…

Where I play is fantastic [George Scott Snooker Club]. We have a kids club on a Saturday morning and everyone there is nice and friendly. I’ve made some good friends. It’s good to have friends who enjoy playing snooker, even if they are all boys.

One of my teammates, Sean Maddocks, is an upcoming talent. He recently just missed out on a main tour place at Q School, making it to the final round. He’s only 17 and he’s made two 147s. Another good player is Danny Harwood, who plays on the World Disability Billiards and Snooker circuit. He plays in our league and is always a challenge. Another teammate of mine is Mikey Roberts. He’s 15 and won Merseyside events and is another outstanding player.

Who are your snooker heroes? Earlier this year you played Mark Selby in an exhibition…

Earlier this year I did play Mark Selby, set up by my coach. But some of my heroes are Anthony McGill, Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump. When I first started to play snooker, I noticed Anthony McGill. I liked the way he played, and I learnt a lot on shot selection. He also noticed my cueing action on Facebook as he is friends with my coach. That did make me like him more. I’ve met him in person in my local club and in the club he plays in, in Glasgow.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s UK Women’s Snooker Championship, the event will be a little different for you as for the first time, your younger sister Laura will be taking part in the under-21 competition in Leeds. How special would it be to have two Killingtons high in the rankings one day?

I am so excited for my sister, Laura, to play in Leeds. I have wanted her to play for ages, but she did gymnastics and enjoyed that. It would be so fun if we could both be some of the best players on the circuit. It would just be great to have her there and for her to play at a young age would mean she would improve so much, so quickly, I could have a real threat soon! We hope to compete together in the World Women’s Pairs Championship at some point.

 And finally, what message would you have for other girls who might be thinking of taking up snooker and joining the WWS Tour?

For anyone who’s joining the circuit and playing snooker, it’s fabulous. You feel part of a community, and it is a brilliant feeling. Everyone is always friendly. There’s nothing to be nervous about, because everyone has been there on their first day.


We wish Zoe the best of luck this weekend at the UK Women’s Snooker Championship, which takes place at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. Click here for links to tournament information, with the draw and format due to be released this Thursday.

Rebecca on the Rise

Since 2005 there have been just two winners of the World Women’s Snooker Championship as leading stars Reanne Evans of England and Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee have firmly established themselves as the dominant forces in the sport.

There are now however signs that perhaps this long-standing duopoly on the World Women’s Snooker Tour could come to an end following the emergence of Keighley’s Rebecca Kenna, who has made rapid progress in the sport since her first event at the Eden Classic in March 2016. That year she reached the semi-finals of the World Women’s Snooker Championship at only her second event, a feat that she has since matched in both 2017 and 2018.

Kenna can also count three ranking finals among her achievements in the sport so far, including at this September’s LITEtask UK Women’s Snooker Championship where she notably shocked eight-time UK queen Reanne Evans with a 3-2 win at the last 16 stage, her second ranking event victory against the player widely regarded as the best-ever woman to have picked up a cue.

Although she was able to follow-up her win with a dramatic black-ball 4-3 victory against highly-rated Thai youngster Nutcharut Wongharuthai, coming back from 3-1 down at one stage, Kenna eventually fell to world number one Ng On Yee in the title match. Nevertheless, it was a strong start to the season and enough to see her rise to a career-high equalling position of number three in the world rankings:

“I was very happy to reach the final of this season’s first ranking event,” said the 29-year-old. “My targets going into the season included to reach more finals [Kenna reached her first final at the 2017 Connie Gough Trophy] and hopefully to win one, so I was pleased to achieve that at the first event of season.”

Practice makes perfect

Since she first joined the tour back in 2016 the improvement in Kenna’s game has been significant, something that she credits to her increased time on the practice table, particularly since the opening of her own shop Cue Sports Yorkshire together with her husband Ash Kenna in September 2017:

“After competing in my first event I was keen to improve my game,” explained Kenna. “Before then I had never tried any practice routines or drills, so I had some coaching and followed drills from books and online and started to see improvements in my game.

“To compete with the top players you need to be on the table for a lot of hours, so I decided that I needed my own table. This came together with the idea for a cue sports shop and so last year we opened with a full-size installed which enables me to get as much practice as possible in between my work as a personal trainer.

“Practice is a pleasure for me, not a chore and I believe that since having my own table my game has improved tremendously. I am very competitive and love competing in tournaments so will thoroughly enjoy trying to better my ranking over the coming seasons!”

Global growth

The women’s circuit is currently enjoying a period of significant growth with the backing of snooker’s world governing body the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the introduction of new international ranking events in countries such as Malta, Belgium and Australia in 2018. With new opportunities both on the women’s tour itself and to compete at prestigious mixed gender events through the World Snooker Federation (WSF), Kenna is excited by the potential of the sport and to be able to follow in the footsteps of her professional heroes.

It was recently announced that this season’s World Women’s Snooker Championship will be held at the spectacular Dubai World Trade Centre in the U.A.E. for the first time, as part of the second WSF Championships following this year’s inaugural edition in Malta won by On Yee.

“I think that I have come into the women’s game at the right time,” continued Kenna. “I can see it growing at every event and also now with having more events abroad it’s a great opportunity to see the world and travel to places I wouldn’t have ever visited whilst playing a sport I love.

“I’m really excited to be heading to Dubai for next year’s World Championship. After being in Singapore and Malta during the last couple of years it will be another different experience and I’ve heard great things about Dubai so am looking forward to it.”

Kenna says that snooker helps her to de-stress and relax, but as well as playing the sport to a high-standard, she is also actively involved in snooker as a coach and recently gained her 1st4sport Level 2 Certificate in Snooker Coaching in Leeds, enjoying the ‘bonus’ of being able to complete the course with three-time professional ranking event winner Marco Fu earlier in the year.

As committed and determined to succeed in her snooker journey as anyone, she will be hoping that her maiden title on the World Women’s Snooker Tour is just around the corner and that she can be the one to break from the pack and truly challenge the feared top two on a regular basis.

Get involved!

Why not join Rebecca on the World Women’s Snooker Tour? With tournaments regularly held for women and girls of all ages, regardless of experience, you will be made to feel welcome by our experienced events team.

Learn how you can get involved and to enter your first event HERE. Whether you aspire to compete at an elite level or wish to play snooker and have a great time meeting new people, we would encourage all women to participate and to give snooker a try!

This article was originally published in the tournament programme for the English Open.

Aimee Benn Q&A

Today we speak to perhaps the most consistent player on the World Women’s Snooker Tour during the 2017/18 season. No, not 11-time world champion Reanne Evans or current snooker queen Ng On Yee, but 16-year-old Aimee Benn from Leeds who impressively was able to reach the last 16 at each of her tournaments during over the past 12 months, an achievement matched by only a handful of other players on the circuit.

The youngster has continued to steadily improve her game since she joined the women’s circuit back in 2015 and now sits inside of the world’s top ten for the first time in her career. She is not done yet however and tells us below how she hopes to continue her development over the coming months…

Hi Aimee, firstly congratulations on your recent win at the Otley and District Singles (handicapped) Snooker League title recently. Tell us a little bit about that and what it means to have taken the title?

Thank you, it was my first season playing in the league which includes players of any age, any gender. I wasn’t playing my best snooker as I hadn’t had much practice since my GCSE exams, but I just kept getting further and further in the competition and I remember my dad saying to me once I reached the semi-finals that he was already proud of me for getting so far.

I managed to win the title in the end which is such a huge achievement for me, as it built my confidence which I didn’t have to start with. My dad is a very competent snooker player and he has never won the event, so that makes me even more proud.

Looking back at your last season on the World Women’s Snooker Tour, you were extremely consistent, reaching the last 16 at all of the events that you entered. What do you put that consistency down to?

To achieve consistency in matches, you have to be consistent in practice time, regularly repeating drills until they’re drilled into your head.

Obviously, I’ve faced some tough opponents on the tour which more times than not I’ve fallen short against. It is 100% a learning curve for me as I know that I do need to be more consistent with the standard of my snooker, as well as raising that standard so that I can reach the latter stages of tournaments.

Do you feel that you are continuing to improve as a player?

Yes, I’m sure. Becoming a better player is what everyone strives for and when you keep achieving the little milestones like getting to the last 16 more times than not feels great. It shows me that I really am becoming a better player.

You also finished the season ranked inside the top 10 for the first time, how special an achievement was that for you?

Honestly, it feels great to be inside the top 10, but at this stage it doesn’t mean a lot to me as it’s not about the rankings for me personally. It’s about how well I play and improving my standard to compete more and more with the more competent players inside the top 10.

What do you feel that you need to do to be able to take the next step and reach the latter stages of competitions?

To reach the later stages of the competitions, I feel that I would need to put in a lot more work on the practice table to improve my standard enough so that there is a higher chance of me beating the top players than me losing to them. Also the more I gain experience in competing with the better players, the more I’ll be able to beat them to reach the later stages of competitions.

You are getting used to competing against some of the best women players in the world like Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee. What can you learn from these great players?

When you play the top two seeds, you get a lot from watching. Watching how they look around the table and get a feel for the pace, the spin, the angle. Watching how they break build by getting themselves into the easiest positions and thinking three shots ahead.

Once they get into their swing, they’re unstoppable and it’s phenomenal to watch. You can see how you would play the shot, and if they would play it differently, that helps me to improve as a player.

How much are you looking forward to the new 2018/19 season and returning to action?

I’m looking forward to it as I have many friends off the table who compete alongside me and against me, but I’m more looking forward to improving and showing people that I can do it.

Speaking of your friends, there are indeed a lot of junior players now on the tour – how much does it help you to have the junior community that we now have on the circuit?

Outside of snooker, we’re all friends and that helps to keep us going on. But on the table we’re enemies, out for blood! The junior community is really great because we are all at roughly the same stage and it’s great to see us all developing and growing as players and people.

What are your favourite hobbies away from the baize when not playing snooker?

Honestly, snooker is my sole hobby, I don’t really do much else other than going out with friends, just anything a normal teenager would do.

Finally, what would you say to other young girls like yourself who might be tempted to pick up a cue and give snooker a try?

Give it a go. You won’t regret it at all. Picking up a cue is the first step, we all had to start somewhere.

What I’d advise to any young girls that are interested in snooker would be for them to just give it a go, get up to your local snooker club and see how much fun it is. Snooker is a sport where it’s very difficult at first but then when you look back, you improve every single day.

The best thing for someone wanting to get on the tour would be to come to one of our events, local to you, and just watch and get involved with the lovely community we’ve got.

Thank you to Aimee and best of luck to her for the start of the 2018/19 season which gets underway in Leeds, England, with our new Women’s Snooker Open Day event on 14 September, ahead of the 2018 UK Women’s Snooker Championship at the Northern Snooker Centre the following two days.

 Learn more about how you can get involved and join the circuit HERE.

On Yee Crowned ‘Best of the Best’ for Second Time

Newly crowned three-time world champion Ng On Yee has been named ‘Best of the Best’ for the second time at the Samsung Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards earlier this week.

Having previously won the prestigious award in 2015 following her maiden world title success, the 27-year-old again received the honour at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in recognition of her career-year 2017, which saw her claim five ranking event titles on the World Women’s Snooker Tour including her second world crown in Singapore last March.

On Yee told the South China Morning Post:

“Winning the World Championship in 2017 was a great moment for me. I had to play until the last shot in the final before beating my opponent, Vidya Pillai.

“Since winning the world title for the first time in 2015, I’ve become a more mature player. I have been playing in more tournaments all around the world. I have seen more young faces come up against me and they are finishing on the podium.

“I hope my success can help lift the sport and make it more popular in Hong Kong, for it is a sport that can be played by men and women, young and old.”

Crowned world number one for the first time earlier this year based on her results during the past two seasons, On Yee recently cemented her position at the top of the women’s game by claiming her third world title in Malta. The event represented her most dominant victory to date, as she overcame world class players including Belgium’s Wendy Jans and English duo Maria Catalano and Rebecca Kenna without the loss of a single frame in Malta.

Her victory also ensures that On Yee has qualified to play in the qualifying rounds of the professional World Championship in Sheffield next month, while she is also set to begin her defence of her world 6-Red and 10-Red titles at the Festival of Women’s Snooker in Leeds.

Suzie Opacic at PHWC

Opacic Plans Flying Start at UK Women’s Championship

This weekend sees the return of the World Women’s Snooker Tour returns with the LITEtask UK Women’s Championship 2017, the second ranking event of the new season.

Among the field will be current WLBS world number eight Suzie Opacic, who is looking forward to returning to the baize having missed out on the recent Paul Hunter Women’s Classic won by Reanne Evans in Germany.

We caught up with Suzie recently to look ahead to this weekend’s tournament, hear why she believes that recent changes to the Tour have given women’s snooker a real boost and also learn more about her life away from the table…

Hi Suzie, you are currently preparing for your first event of the new season this weekend in Leeds. How much are you looking forward to getting back to the baize for what will be your first event of the new season?

I’ve still been practising over the summer and I’m really looking forward to getting back into tournament play after missing the Paul Hunter Women’s Classic.

I was surprised that I managed to hold onto eighth spot in the rankings despite missing the event in Germany, so I am hoping that I can have a good tournament in Leeds and push on up the rankings.

You played well in Leeds last year and were unfortunate to lose out in a decider to eventual runner up Tatjana Vasiljeva. What are your targets for this year?

To not lose as many deciders! I had a number of very close matches last season at crucial times, and so hopefully this season I can maintain my composure under pressure and win those vital frames when they really matter.

I always just aim to do my absolute best at a tournament – at the end of the day it’s all down to how you play on the day and everything clicking into place!

You have been competing on the tour for most of the last decade but we have seen some big developments over the past 12 months, notably with tournaments overseas in Germany and Singapore. What have you made of the changes and the direction that the tour is heading in?

Yes, my first tournament was in 2006. I had a four-year break from the circuit largely due to studying and completing a Masters, but also because the circuit was going downhill, with low entry numbers, fewer tournaments and no real incentive to play.

The last few years however have seen a huge change to women’s snooker with backing from sponsors like LITEtask and Eden but the change of structure too, which has been a real boost.

I’ve been really fortunate this season to have the backing of Billiards Boutique, and this sort of sponsorship really boosts the circuit and allows more players to compete.

The circuit is seeing new faces at every tournament, and more tournaments abroad which is increasing the standard and giving the game more appeal. I was very impressed in Singapore by the standard of some of the younger Thai players especially.

How much encouragement for the future does it give you to see Reanne Evans winning matches on the Main Tour and Ng On Yee playing in big arenas at the World Games and in Hong Kong recently?

Seeing Reanne and On Yee increasing the profile of the women’s game is a real boost and it gets more girls playing – we need more of this to raise the publicity of women’s snooker and encourage girls to take up the game.

There’s still a standard gap between the men’s and women’s circuits and this gap needs to be broken down so the women’s game can attract more sponsors and increase the profile of the women’s game – and there’s no reason the standard should be any lower, it’s just down to getting more girls playing from grassroots level.

Looking back at this year’s World Women’s Championship in Singapore in March, how memorable was the week and would you like to see more tournaments held in Asia?

Singapore was a fantastic experience. To be able to play the game you love on the other side of the world, meeting new players in a new environment, it was great. It was clear that there’s some huge talent across other parts of the world and there’s no reason why the women’s game should be so restricted to UK tournaments. More tournaments in Asia will boost the profile of the women’s game and help increase the standard too.

For many years Reanne Evans dominated the women’s tour and of course she is still the number one ranked player, but in Ng On Yee she seems to have a real contender now. How good is that rivalry for women’s snooker?

Women’s snooker, and any sport, needs that rivalry to increase standards and push players to strive to be the best. Everyone wants to be challenged and it was clear in Singapore there are some real contenders pushing forward in the women’s game, which is great to see.

Earlier this year we saw Chloe White win her first under-21s event at the Eden Masters in Derby. You know her well and must have been pleased to see her win that event?

Chloe plays at the same club as me and so it was great to see her win. I’ve seen her progress really well over the last few years. Her game has rapidly improved and she’s proved she’s a real contender to pick up junior titles. It’s great to see more junior players on the circuit and their commitment is fantastic.

Finally, away from the baize there have also been exciting developments for you as you have taken up a new job. Tell us a little bit about that…

I changed jobs in the summer and now work for Heathrow Airport as a town planner in the Expansion team. My role is to help get planning consent for the new runway and associated expansion project. It’s a £17 billion project and also includes realigning the M25, so it’s a very exciting project to be working on but also very challenging.

It’s a fine balance between work and managing to find the time to practice, but as long as I can continue to compete, especially when many of the girls play full time, then I’ll enjoy playing on the circuit. At least if there are more tournaments abroad I can go straight from work to the plane!

Good luck to Suzie and the rest of the field in action this weekend at the LITEtask UK Women’s Championship. View the draw here.

Stephanie Daughtery

Next Generation Geared For German Trip

As the Paul Hunter Women’s Classic returns to the city of Fürth, Germany later this month, a number of the Tour’s younger players are preparing for their first taste of snooker action outside of the UK.

The tournament will be the first event of the 2017/18 World Women’s Snooker Tour and as in 2016, will be headlined by familiar faces including multiple world champions Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee, as well as fellow top 10 players Maria Catalano, Wan Ka Kai and Rebecca Kenna who will all be eyeing a title tilt.

As well as the big names however, the event will also see no fewer than six players aged 18 or under representing the next generation of women’s snooker, five of whom will be travelling from the UK to play in their first ever overseas competition.

Leading the charge will be Wakefield’s Stephanie Daughtery, two-time defending UK Women’s under-21 champion and WLBS world number 17. Set to be among the seeded players at a ranking event for the first-time, Daughtery first began to play at the age of 12 and was introduced to the World Women’s Snooker Tour by her coach Anthony Hebblethwaite back in 2014.

Now 16, Daughtery is already looking forward to her first overseas competition and the chance to gain crucial experience as she looks to achieve her ultimate goal in the sport.

“I am very excited to be able to compete in Germany for the first time!” said Daughtery. “My aim is to one day become world women’s snooker champion and this will be a great opportunity to be able to learn from the top players.

“I hope that being able to experience playing in a different environment will help me to improve my game and am looking forward to being able to watch and compete against some outstanding players during the week.”

Daughtery is looking forward to being joined by players including Aimee Benn and Claire Edginton, both also regular faces at UK based events who will be competing overseas for the first time.

“The social aspect of these events is really important,” continued Daughtery. “Aimee and Claire are my closest friends on the tour so it is great that we will all be able to make the trip together.

Players aged 18 or under at the Paul Hunter Women’s Classic (age in brackets)

  • Lily Dobson (14)
  • Aimee Benn (15)
  • Stephanie Daughtery (16)
  • Emma Parker (17)
  • Linda Erben (17)
  • Claire Edginton (18)

Another of the younger generation who will be making the trip is 17-year-old Emma Parker, who in April claimed victory at the LITEtask World Under-21 Championship for the first time. Unlike Daughtery and her other contemporaries, Parker is a relative newcomer to the Tour having entered her first event at the Connie Gough Trophy back in February.

“I played pool with my dad when I was little,” said Parker. “Where we played there was a snooker table and I always wanted to play but I was too small. Eventually when I was able to play snooker I loved it and became hooked. I have been playing competitively for two years now.

While this will be her first playing experience overseas, the tournament will not mark Parker’s first visit to Germany, following a unique experience back in 2006 when she was lucky enough to play a special role at the FIFA World Cup.

“I went to Germany in 2006 for the football World Cup,” explained Parker. “I went as a mascot for the England team after winning a competition sponsored by McDonalds. I walked out on the pitch with John Terry and I will never forget the feeling when the crowd cheered. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

“So I am really looking forward to the trip this time. I love snooker and watching the professionals, it encourages me to play as well as them one day. My Nan and grandad both love snooker too and they will be coming along with me.”

Like Daughtery, Parker hopes to be able to learn from the tournament so that she can fight for titles, not only against other women but one day against the men as the likes of Reanne Evans, Ng On Yee and Tatjana Vasiljeva have recently demonstrated in professional competition.

“My snooker goal is obviously to win as many tournaments as I can,” said Parker. “I would love to play competitively against the men as well. To be able to achieve this I need to practice hard, have commitment and put all my effort into the sport.

“I can learn a lot playing against players like Reanne and On Yee. Their experience can show me how important it is to practice and learn how to play the game as it should be played. I have the good fortune to play and practice with Ronnie O’Sullivan. I have learnt so much watching and playing him and it really drives me to improve. He is my idol in the game and I am very lucky to be close to him.”

The Paul Hunter Women’s Classic 2017 will be played on 24-27 August.

Photo of Reanne Evans with UK Trophy

Evans Above

It has been another record-breaking year on the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker (WLBS) circuit for Dudley’s Reanne Evans, who claimed four of the five ranking events held in 2016 to remain the undisputed world number one in women’s snooker.

The highlight came at the Eden Resources World Championship in April, where she won a landmark 11th world title with a 6-4 success against Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee, winner of the event in 2015.

Further victories came against her closest rival came in the final of the Eden Classic in March and most recently at the semi-final stages of the LITEtask UK Championship in October on her way to a record eighth title, while she also successfully defended the Connie Gough Memorial Trophy in February.

Evans would not enjoy a clean sweep in 2016 however, as world number two On Yee defeated her 4-1 in the final of the inaugural Paul Hunter Ladies Classic in Fuerth, Germany.

On the rise

Few would dispute the status of Evans and On Yee as the leading players on the WLBS tour, but which players have impressed behind them in 2016?

Ending the year third in the rankings is Latvia’s Tatjana Vasiljeva, whose highlights this year included a first WLBS ranking event final at the UK Ladies Championship, as well as a run to the semi-finals of April’s Eden World Championship. The 33-year-old also came to the attention of the wider snooker world at the professional Riga Masters in June, where she lost out to Marco Fu 4-1 in a deceptively tight encounter, two of the frames decided on the final black.

Fourth placed Maria Catalano has enjoyed another solid year, reaching the final of the Connie Gough Memorial Trophy and the last four of the Paul Hunter Classic to stand behind only Evans and On Yee in terms of points earned during 2016.

Next up on that criteria are Laura Evans and Rebecca Granger, who have both made significant moves up the ranking list during the year. Welsh number one Evans returned to the tour with a bang at the final event of 2015, reaching the final of the Eden Masters and has taken that form into this year, consistently reaching the latter stages of events. She ends the year ranked up inside the top 10, with the scope to climb higher if she can maintain that level of performance.

Close behind her is Keighley’s Granger, who having reached the semi-finals of the Eden World Ladies Championship at her first attempt, is already up to 14th in the list and eyeing a place inside of the top ten.

Finally, German national champion Diana Stateczny has also impressed in 2016, reaching the quarter-final stages of each of the two events that she has entered, enough to see her climb to 23rd in the list.

Young Talent

The calendar year has also seen three under-21 events staged in support of the main Women’s World Ranking Series competitions.

The first was held at Derby in support of the Eden Classic, with 19-year-old Yana Shut defeating Claire Edginton to take the title to Belarus.

There was also an overseas winner at the Eden World Ladies Championship as India’s Varshaa Sanjeev defeated South Korea’s Jeong Min Park 3-0 in the final. It was a particularly memorable event for the 19-year-old, as she completed a title double having already won the Plate competition with victory against Suzie Opacic the previous evening.

Most recently, Wakefield’s Stephanie Daughtery claimed the U-21 competition at the LITEtask UK Ladies Championship in Leeds, completing a successful defence of the title that she first won 12 months earlier.

To Singapore

The action continues in 2017 with the Eden Women’s Masters at the Cueball, Derby in January, before the players will fight to win the Connie Gough Trophy in Dunstable a month later.

From there, the tour will head east for the 2017 Eden World Women’s Championship, which for the first time will be held in Singapore at the Lagoon Billiard Room on 13-19 March 2017 with the support of Cuesports Singapore and their chairman Christopher Chuah.

“Earlier this year I was contacted by Mandy, who asked whether Singapore would be keen to host next year’s WLBS World Championship,” said Chuah. “We were only too happy to do so and are now extremely excited by the prospect of hosting the WLBS Eden World Championship next year here in Singapore.”

The event will mark the first time since 1995 that the biggest WLBS tournament will be staged outside of the UK, as the circuit continues to expand globally.

WPBSA supports WLBS

It has been also been a significant year in the development of the WLBS off the baize, as it became a subsidiary body of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), in December 2015.

The following year has seen new events staged with the support of the WPBSA, including the Paul Hunter Ladies Classic, which saw the WLBS hold an event outside of the UK for the first time this decade.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “As world governing body, the WPBSA must demonstrate equality and diversity in our development plans. The World Professional Snooker Tour is open to anyone who is good enough, however we are now making a conscious effort to encourage more women to take up our sport through their own organisation. We are delighted with the progress made by the WLBS and there is no doubt that in the future we will see more women competing at the top level.”

Paula Judge Q&A

Ireland’s Paula Judge, sister of former top 32 professional Michael Judge is preparing to make her WLBS debut at this weekend’s LITEtask UK Ladies Championship at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds.

We caught up with the 32-year-old earlier this week to discuss her preparation for the event and her family background in cue sports.

Your brother Michael Judge was a well known face on the World Snooker tour for 19 years. Did he inspire you to take up the sport?

“Our uncle Fran had a snooker table in his house so as kids we learned the game. I first held a cue when I was eight or nine and he taught me all of the techniques as he did for Michael. I went through stages of playing a little and then giving up as you do as you get older. Watching Michael was always an inspiration and as a whole family we all had a bit of talent; even my two other brothers Eugene and David could hold a cue and I always played with my cousin Peter who was my age.”

Why did you stop playing and what made you decide to come back?

“I gave up playing seven years ago as life just got in the way and I never really gave myself a proper chance to reach my full potential. During the last couple of years I saw Michael back playing on the Irish amateur scene. Last season I went to Carlow to watch his match and I got the itch back to take my cue out. I asked Michael for a game in April this year and when he saw me cue he said he could see a lot of talent in me and advised me to stick it out for a couple of seasons and try and reach my full potential.

“Hearing that from him really inspired me and also being able to play alongside him so to speak is great. So we decided to get two new cues as his one he had for years and needed a fresh bit of wood. I then started practicing hard and entering as many competitions as I could.

“I also play in weekly flyers in Celbridge and Spawell with Cathy Dunne, another talented Irish player. It’s great to have a few women giving the lads a run for their money.”

Last weekend you won the first Irish Senior ladies ranking event, also making a 71 break during the tournament.

“Yeah I played in first ladies Irish competition and I’ve never gotten the better of Michelle Sherwin before as she’s been unbeaten in over 10 years. We’ve always had close matches but she has always had the upper hand so it was nice to come out the winning side.

“The 71 break was my highest match break since I’ve been back playing this year. I’ve had 50s and a few 40s but was nice to have a frame-winning break and hopefully it’s the start as I’m still looking to get my first century match break.”

You will make your debut on the WLBS tour this weekend as you entered the LITEtask UK Ladies Championship at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. What made you decide to enter and what are your expectations for the event?

“I decided to enter because I want to compete with the best women in the world and no better place to start than in Leeds. I’m going to go over and enjoy it and see what happens. I’m not going to have great expectations or going to be putting pressure on myself, I have only been back playing a few months so it will take time to improve, but I’ll give it a go and see how I fare.”

What would you say are your greatest achievements in snooker so far?

“I suppose reaching the last 16 of 2016 European Championships and the final of the 2016 Irish Ladies Championship. Also my victory in the first ladies ranking competition of the season in Ireland, starting the season as Irish ladies number one would make any girl smile!”

What tips would you give other girls that want to start with snooker?

“I would say to play with better players, male or female. I will be entering as many competitions as I can as even if I keep getting beaten, it won’t matter because you learn more from a defeat than a win. The only way to improve is to play against players of a high standard. I often practiced with my brother Michael and Philly Browne and that helped my game a lot.

“Also to find a good coach if possible and make sure you know all of the basic techniques (stance, bridge, back arm etc) and practice proper routines. If you have some natural talent then it will all come together.”

Do you play other sports besides snooker?

“Yes I’m a recently qualified fitness instructor. So along with snooker fitness is another passion. I specialise in weightlifting and follow a healthy diet daily. I think snooker is a physical as well as mental sport, so looking after yourself physically is very important. The combination of both go well together.”

Home Hopes

With just two days to go before the start of the 2016 Paul Hunter Ladies Classic in Germany, today we profile some of the eight players who will be competing in a WLBS event on home soil for the first time in their careers…

Diana Stateczny

Bochum-based Diana Stateczny is perhaps the best known and certainly the most decorated German female snooker player, having won the German Championship on five occasions and made a tournament high break of 78.

Also a finalist at the European Championship in 2010, the 36-year-old enjoyed a strong performance at this year’s WLBS World Ladies Championship. Having progressed through her group with four wins from four, she then shocked fourth seed Maria Catalano with a 3-1 win to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

Christina Schneider

A talented American pool player, Christina Schneider will be competing in her first snooker tournament in Furth as she looks to take herself out of her comfort zone.

On the pool circuit she notably reached the semi-finals of the 2014 9-ball German Championship and plays regularly for BC Ludwigsburg. This week however snooker will be the challenge and she has stated that she is looking forward to meeting her fellow players from across the globe and seeing how her game matches up against them.

Ramona Kirchner

Something of a local hero at the Paul Hunter Ladies Classic, Ramona Kirchner plays for 1.BC Lechbruck and has a competition high break of 50.

Winner of the German Championship back in 2005, like Schneider she is looking forward to mixing with international players and to seeing how her standard compares to the other players in action in Fuerth.

Diana Schuler

Following a two-year stint based in England, Diana Schuler has recently moved back to Germany and perhaps has reason to look forward to the Paul Hunter Ladies Classic more than most.

Alongside her playing career, which has seen her compile a competition high break of 53 and reach the semi final of the European Team Championship 2013, the 35-year-old also acts as Marketing Director for the WLBS and has been instrumental in the organisation of the event.

At local level she plays for 1.SC Schwalbach and has the distinction of being included on the professional game’s 147 list, as she was the opponent when two-time world champion Mark Williams made his second career maximum in Rüsselsheim six years ago.

Completing the field

Completing the German contingent in Fuerth will be four relative newcomers to the scene:

Dorothee Rapp (Bielefeld)

Ingird Kuna (Berlin)
Tanja Ender (Fürth)
Steffi Henze (Stuttgart)