|Born||31 August 1931|
|Died||12 January 2002(aged 70)|
Bernard Bennett (31 August 1931 — 12 January 2002) was an English professional player of snooker and English billiards, for almost 30 years. Bennett played an important role, but an often unsung one, in the development of snooker and billiards during the 1970s and early 80s. This role was less as a player, than as an organiser, supporter and promoter of both games.
Bennett turned professional in the late 60s, but did so without any significant amateur record. By entering the 1969 World Snooker Championship, and paying the almost prohibitive £100 entrance fee, Bennett enabled a straight knockout tournament to be held, although he was heavily defeated in the first round 4–25 by Rex Williams. He competed in the 1970 event but was defeated in the first round 11-8 by David Taylor.
Bennett's efforts led to the restaging of the World Professional Billiards Championship in 1971, after a gap of 3 years. Bennett provided both the financial guarantee, the venue for the event, and the opposition, but was heavily defeated by defending champion Rex Williams 9250-4058.
Bennett was a founding member of the Professional Billiards Players' Association when it was reformed in 1969, and, as well as being a player, was a well-respected administrator and coach for many years. Bennett was the owner of the Castle Club Southampton which was one of the first modern snooker centres. From here, Bennett organised many pro-am events in both snooker and billiards as well as a mini 'triangular' events featuring three professionals. The Castle Pro-Am event (which Bennett financially supported) was a popular addition to the snooker scene, and was usually held in December. Bennett, whose money was actually accrued from the building trade, went on to own other snooker clubs in the Southampton area.
As an example of how important Bennett's pro-am Castle tournament was. At the end of the 1975/76 season, Alex Higgins (second on that season's earnings) had accrued only £2250 from the three main events of the season, so his £500 from winning the 1975 Castle Open was a welcome boost.
On home ground, at his Southampton base, Bennett inevitably played better and in the 1977/78 season he defeated both John Pulman 3-0 and Doug Mountjoy, the latter being defeated 5-2 in the Castle Professional Tournament. Bennett held eventual winnerJohn Spencer to 3-3 in the semi-final of this tournament, before he lost 5-3.
Bennett played both snooker and billiards into the 1990s, retiring from professional play in 1995. His final professional match was a 5-0 loss to Alfie Burden in the World Championship qualifiers. He died in 2002 at the age of 70. As Clive Everton noted in his obituary, Bennett was unanimously regarded with affection throughout the sport.
Bennett was a stalwart of professional snooker and billiards but his success, especially at the former was limited. He entered every world snooker championship from 1969, save for the November 1970 Championship, which was held in Australia. In 1972 he lost 15-6 to Graham Miles in the first round of qualifying and 9-8 to David Greaves in his 1973 opening match.
In the 1974 World Championship he did defeat 1970 world finalist Warren Simpson 8-2, to record his first significant professional win, but Simpson had discharged himself from hospital and was even accompanied by a male nurse. Simpson's energy left him and Bennett won the last five frames in a row. Bennett was unable to contain Alex Higgins in round two and lost 15-4. The victory was sufficient to place Bennett at 18th place when professional rankings were first introduced in 1976.
During the qualifying competition for the 1978 World Championship, Bennett drew Maurice Parkin, a player who, like Bennett, had won only one match in the World Championship since his first entry. It is an amazing sign of snooker's popularity at the time that over 200 people came to Romiley Forum on Easter Monday to watch a match which produced only 3 breaks over 20 in the first eight frames. Eventually Parkin pulled away from 5-4 to win 9-4 with a top break in the match of just 29, bettered by Bennett's 31 in frame nine.
In April 1979, at the World Championship, Bennett drew Terry Griffiths, in the first round of qualifying. Bennett won the first two frames but lost nine frames in a row to lose 9-2. Griffiths went on to win the title that year.
Bennett played through love of the game, a point proved by continuing to play despite a 10-0 defeat by Sakchai Simngam in the 1986 World Championship and a 10-0 defeat by Billy Kelly in the 1987 World Championship qualifying first round., Following this latter defeat, Bennett slipped to 124th in the world rankings, meaning that he was amongst the first crop of professional players to lose full tournament playing rights.
Able only to enter the World Championship, Bennett played in the 1988 event, losing 10-5 to Jim Meadowcroft, after the first six frames had been split. However, in the 1989 event, after a gap of 15 years, Bennett won his second world championship match in defeating Clive Everton 10-4. He also led veteran Fred Davis 3-1 in the second round of qualifying, but lost the match 10-4. In the 1990 event Bennett led Andrew Cairns 4-3 in the first qualifying round, but made no further progress in losing the match 10-4.
- Everton, Clive, Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p89.
- Everton, Clive, Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, pp106-107.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, February 2002, p47.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, August 1976, p11.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, March 1978, p19 and May 1978, p22..
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, February 2002, p47
- Everton, Clive., Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, pp90-91.
- Everton Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, June 1974, pp4 & 10.
- Karnehm, Jack, World Snooker, Pelham Books 1981, p12.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1978, p. 5.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1979, p.7.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1986, p10.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1987, p14.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, July 1987, p17.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1988, p8.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1989, pp13/14.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, March 1990, p20.