THE ENGLISH AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP
SETTING THE SCENE
On the 25th May 1997, some 40 Billiards enthusiasts gathered at Bob Coale’s friendly
Atack Snooker Centre at Nuneaton to enjoy this year’s final.
This year’s competition had been billed as the most open ever, with no hot favourite
and the winner predicted to come from anyone of about a dozen likely contenders. The
pundits were right! From the last 32 national qualifiers, fancied contenders such as Darren
Kell, Peter Shelley, David Burgess, Steve Crosland and Mark Hirst, all fell before the semifinal
The two finalists who eventually emerged from the ruck were Terry Ward and Paul
Bennett. Terry, as consistent as ever, battled his way through without annihilating any of his
opponents, finishing with a semi-final victory over Phil Welham, including a 171 break. Paul,
on the other hand, made more comfortable progress to the final, ending up with a landslide
800+ points win against Terry Colby in his semi-final, including a 164 and numerous other
Terry Ward, a 48 year-old from York, was appearing in his second consecutive final,
with umpteen semi-final appearances and two English International events behind him.
Paul Bennett, a 21 year-old from Billingham, was in the final for the first time, but is
currently the top-ranked player in both the “A.B.C.” and “21 and under” circuits.
Perhaps both of them deserved to win! Terry, because he had been ‘thereabouts’ so
often in the past and Paul who, despite his obvious talent had not won a national event at
either junior or senior level – “I’ve won nowt!” was his down-to-earth pre-match comment.
Battle was joined with both players starting hesitantly, as could be expected on such
a big occasion. In the first hour, Ward recorded the only break above 50, a carefully crafted
67, but it was Bennett who had the better of the exchanges, with more scoring than Ward in
the 30 to 40 break range. Consequently, he usually had his nose in front, but never by very
The second half of the first session saw this pattern continue, with no more breaks
above 50 and neither player dominating the game. The interval arrived with Bennett, in play,
ahead by a mere 12 points – the contest, as expected, had developed into an absorbing
struggle between two well-matched players, each with his eyes set firmly on the coveted title.
60, 51, 163
68, 72, 51
At the mid-session interval, most spectators were congratulating themselves on
predicting a close outcome; only the most partisan supporters/relations were prepared to
back their man with any conviction.
The game continued with its nip-and-tuck intensity, although, in contrast to the first
session, the breaks were now starting to flow with more regularity.
Bennett was first in with a 60, but this was countered by Ward with a 68. Not to be
outdone, Bennett produced a 51 but Ward, after out-pointing his opponent with some minor
scores, ran in a solid 72 break to put him some 60 points ahead with less than an hour to go.
At this stage, some heads in the audience were beginning to nod wisely, as it is well-known
that Ward does not easily surrender such a lead during the closing stages of a game.
Sure enough, with the clock ticking away, a lengthy bout of cagey safety play emerged, with
Ward having the upper hand. With just over half an hour to go, however, Bennett was given
an opportunity which he accepted with both hands to produce a break of 163, albeit aided by
a fluke at the mid-point but nevertheless well-constructed.
Now Ward, 100 points adrift, was up against it but, to his credit, he came back
immediately with a 51, breaking down when appearing to be comfortably in the driving seat.
Bennett, now determined not to let his hold on the game slip, then had the better of the
closing stages to win by 116 points.
So there it was – an extremely well-fought final which was in doubt until the last 10
minutes, a new name on the trophy and a very gallant runner-up.
60, 51, 163
67, 68, 72, 51
Following the presentation of trophies and an enjoyable buffet provided by the Atack
Snooker Centre, there was, as usual, much speculation as to future winners. It was generally
agreed that, for the next few years, the competition would remain wide open. The next
predicted superstar from Teesside is still only 13 and, short of any return to the amateur
ranks from the professional circuit, the title will continue to be up for grabs.
Well done Paul Bennett, hard luck Terry Ward and it’s nice to see amateur Billiards
still alive and kicking!