England’s Jenny Poulter holds the unique distinction of being an ever-present on the World Women’s Snooker Tour and her appetite for competition remains undimmed as she prepares to return to competition at September’s UK Championship.
The impact of the suspension of the WWS Tour has been felt by many, but perhaps few more than veteran Poulter, who since her debut at the 1981 World Championship has rarely gone so long without competing on the circuit as now.
“I have really missed the snooker tournaments,” said Poulter. “During the pandemic I have mostly been looking after my mum day and night and I have not been able to play much snooker. I have a table in my mum’s garage and have just started playing twice a week during the past six weeks when I can.
“I am really looking forward playing in competitions again and catching up with everyone when they start again.”
While the likes of Reanne Evans, Allison Fisher and Kelly Fisher might have dominated the winner’s circle over the past 40 years, none can match Poulter when it comes to longevity on the tour.
Since making her bow at the age of just 20, the Kent Potter has gone on to compete in almost 300 individual tournaments across approximately 175 events, a significant margin ahead of any other player. It was in fact five years earlier that her journey in the sport began at the British Legion in Aylesford.
“I used to watch my brother John playing in the Maidstone League at the British Legion and I wanted to play,” explained Poulter. “The British Legion let me play snooker when the table was available and that is where I started. In those days, a lot of the clubs in the Maidstone area would not allow ladies in the snooker room let alone on the table.
“When I started playing in the Maidstone League in the 1980s, I could only play my League games at home. But thankfully it has all changed now and all the clubs in Maidstone League allow me to play.
“I entered my first snooker competitions in British Legion, finishing as runner-up in the youth and adult competitions. My mum and dad used to take my brother John and I to enter Pontins Open tournaments and when we found out about the ladies tournaments, my parents entered me into those and that is where it all began.”
During the years since, Poulter has gone on to reach five ranking event semi-finals, as well as a further 48 quarter-finals, notably at the 2015 World Championship, losing 4-2 to eventual runner-up Emma Bonney.
Notably, she holds the distinction of having beaten each of future greats Allison Fisher, Kelly Fisher and Reanne Evans on the tour – both Allison and Reanne on their respective debuts on the circuit – a feat only believed to have been matched by former world number one Lynette Horsburgh.
The feat underlines her unprecedented longevity on the circuit, which shows no sign of slowing down in 2021.
“I am proud of the amount of this achievement,” reflected Poulter. I still enjoy the buzz and excitement of playing other players no matter how good they are, it is the enjoyment of playing and trying to get as far as I can in the tournament.
“Looking at players like Allison, Kelly and Reanne, I could see that they were going to be good, and I would always give good praise to a new player and any helpful advice if needed. They are just three of a number of players who have impressed me over the years, including Stacey Hilliard, Maria Catalano, June Banks, Ng On Yee and others.”
During the second half of her career, as well as competing in WWS ranking events, Poulter has established herself as a force to be reckoned with in WWS Seniors competitions. Since turning 40, she has won 23 Seniors tournaments in total, including six World Seniors Championship titles (2002, 2006, 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2019).
It was, however, a rare defeat in the final of the World Seniors Championship final in 2017 which sticks in her mind as one of her strongest memories from the tour so far and she hopes to continue creating more history as the Tour returns over the coming months.
“When I played Emma Bonney in the Seniors final I narrowly lost out 3-2,” recalled Poulter. “After the match Emma told me that it was the best that she had seen me play and that she thought that she was going to lose. I had led 2-0 but lost in a close decider.
“I just enjoy playing in the tournaments and if I get further in a tournament that have done before then that is a bonus. My main ambition now is to try to keep winning the World Seniors event and I’m really looking forward to catching up with everyone again soon.”
The WWS UK Championship is set to return to the Northern Snooker Centre, Leeds, from 4-5 September 2021.