Q School: The Graduates
Earlier today at the Meadowside Leisure Centre in Burton we saw the start of the 2015 Q School, marking the fifth edition of an event which has seen 42 players turn professional (two of them on two occasions), since 2011.
What better time then to take a look back at a few of the qualifiers who having come through Q School, have since gone on to soar up the professional rankings and show what can be achieved in the game?
David Gilbert (2011)
It is perhaps easy to forget now, but just four years ago, current world number 35 David Gilbert was one of the qualifiers from the inaugural year of Q School back in 2011.
Although he dropped off the tour after a tricky spell between 2010-2011, he had shown improved form to reach the final qualifying round of the World Championship in 2011 and duly entered Q School at the end of the season.
Winning four matches at each of the first two events, before losing in the final, Gilbert made it third time lucky to immediately regain a main tour card.
Since doing so, Gilbert has gone on to peak at 31st place in the rankings in 2014, notably reaching the last 16 of the 2012 World Championship at the Crucible.
Kurt Maflin (2011)
As I sat at the Crucible this year for the opening session of the match between Mark Selby and Kurt Maflin, I was surprised to hear Master of Ceremonies Rob Walker describe Maflin as having regained his place on tour through Q School.
Upon checking back the records however, I saw that Rob was of course right and that like Gilbert above, Maflin had come through the third event of Q School back in 2011, having dropped off tour at the end of the previous season.
As with Gilbert, Maflin has since been able to comfortably retain his place on tour, also attaining a career-high ranking of 31st position to date, reaching two full-ranking event semi-finals and this year successfully qualifying for the Crucible for the first time.
Rod Lawler (2012)
Back in early 2012, Rod Lawler looked to be at a crossroads in his career, with his professional place very much on the line and struggling to recapture his form of the 1990’s.
Three years on however, having successfully battled through Q School that year, Rod has not only been able to recapture that form but perhaps better it by climbing back up into the top 40 of the world rankings.
Notable runs included a semi-final appearance at the 2014 German Masters, but unquestionably the highlight so far came at the third event of the 2012 Players Tour Championship, where he defeated Marco Fu to claim his first title carrying ranking points.
Robbie Williams (2012)
Also qualifying from Q School back in 2012 was Robbie Williams, who defeated the likes of Mitchell Mann and Adrian Gunnell to turn professional for the first time in his career.
Since then he has gone on to establish himself inside the top 64 of the world rankings, notably making it through to the venue stages at the Crucible in both 2014 and 2015.
David Morris (2011, 2013)
One of two players (Tian Pengfei being the other) to have come through Q School on two separate occasions, Ireland’s David Morris was first able to qualify back in 2011, coming through a tough section including the likes of Gary Wilson and Adam Duffy.
Back in the days of one-year tour cards though, Morris was relegated from the main tour at the end of the 2011/12 season and elected not to enter Q School in an attempt to immediately regain his tour card once again.
Having sat out the 2012/13 season, David entered Q School for a second time in May 2013 and enjoyed the same outcome, successfully coming through the third event to regain a place on the main tour.
This time however, the Irishman has not looked back, a number of strong results during the past two years helping him up to a career-high 51st in the rankings and consolidating his position on tour.
Other successful Q School qualifiers who have gone on to achieve success in the sport include both Robin Hull and Michael Wasley, Hull having reached the Crucible during each of the past two years, while Wasley of course shocked Ding Junhui on the biggest stage of all with a 10-9 win in 2014.
Another Crucible debutant with roots in Q School was of course Craig Steadman this year, Steadman having breezed through the first event of the tournament in 2012 for the loss of just two frames.
Even that though was not the most comprehensive Q School qualification seen to date, as Sam Baird came through in 2012 with a perfect record of 20 frames won from 20.
Since then, Sam has also gone on to qualify for the venue stages of the World Championship back in 2013 and last season earned an impressive £36,332 to leave himself well-placed to break into the top 64 during the next 12 months.
Other current professionals to have come through Q School include David Grace, Tian Pengfei, Stuart Carrington, Ian Burns, Joel Walker and Fraser Patrick.
Soon we will know who the next eight Q School graduates will be and judging by previous years, we can expect at least one or two of them to do rather well during the coming years…