Tournament down to a pink
IT WAS a tense, four-hour final that went right down to the wire before Michael Sharp claimed the Bill Ellis Open snooker tournament at the weekend.
Playing in front of a packed Sawtell RSL, Sharp and Daniell Haenga had to play the full seven frames before this year’s champion was decided.
Even then it took until the pink ball before the Taree product, who plays now in Penrith, was able to get his hands on the $1500 winner’s cheque.
The field of high-calibre competitors assembled for the championship meant it was always going to be difficult to cause an upset against well-credentialed stars like Sharpe, Haenga, top seed Shawn Budd, Rob Elsley and Craig Mills.
Seven of the top eight seeds made their way to the quarter-finals, where the action really began to hot up.
Spectators cheered when Budd, a three-time Australian Open winner and current Oceania champion, potted a difficult black to complete a century break (101) to win his quarter-final match against eighth seed Peter Kitchener, from Queensland.
Even though Kitchener lost the quarter-final, everyone was impressed by his commitment to travel down to compete, because he recently lost practically everything, including his snooker table, in the Queensland floods.
In the first semi-final the fifth-seeded Haenga triumphed over his old adversary Budd to earn a place in the final.
Sharp accounted for Newcastle’s Rob Elsley in the other semi to set up the gripping climax to the weekend.
“It was a thrill to have top-ranked players like Budd, Haenga, Mills, Sharp and Elsley as our guests,” Sawtell RSL Snooker Club president Mei Wei Lim said.
“They, and many other competitors, said they would love to come back next year, so we expect to fill the maximum 32 spots in the 2012 tournament faster than ever before.
“The current trend is for clubs around the country to reduce or even eliminate snooker tables.
“We are grateful to the Sawtell RSL for their ongoing support towards the snooker club, especially during this busy period of upgrading their facilities.
“We hope, however, that their support is justified by the great turnout this weekend.
“We believe this tournament showed that snooker is a great sport to play and to watch.”
Competitors enjoyed the tournament and loved Sawtell village.
They said they were looking forward to returning for next year’s tournament with their families and friends.
Plans for next year’s event are already under way, with the first weekend in March locked away again on the calendar.