Paul Hunter

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Paul Hunter
Paul Hunter.jpg
Hunter in 2002
Born(1978-10-14)14 October 1978
Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Died9 October 2006(2006-10-09) (aged 27)
Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England
Sport country England
Nickname
  • Beckham of the Baize
  • The Man with the Golden Cue
Professional1995–2006
Highest ranking4 (2004/2005)[1]
Career winnings£1,535,730
Highest break146:
2004 Premier League
Century breaks114
Tournament wins
Ranking3
Non-ranking3

Paul Alan Hunter (14 October 1978 – 9 October 2006) was an English professional snooker player. He was a three-time Masters champion, winning the event in 2001, 2002, and 2004, all by recovering from a deficit to win 10–9. He also won three ranking events. He won the Welsh Open in 1998 and 2002 and the British Open in 2002. During the 2004/2005 season, he attained a career-high ranking of number four in the world.

Hunter was compared to the success of footballer David Beckham being nicknamed the "Beckham of the Baize" because of his good looks and flamboyant style. In March 2005 Hunter was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours. He died shortly before his 28th birthday in October 2006. In his memory, an event was renamed the Paul Hunter Classic, and the Master's championship was renamed the Paul Hunter Trophy. A prolific break-builder, he made a total of 114 century breaks, the highest a 146 in the 2004 Premier League.

Early life[edit]

Hunter was born on 14 October 1978 in Leeds, England and was educated at St Andrews Primary School and Cardinal Heenan High School.[2][3] Aged nine, he was awarded an award for being the best best junior snooker player of the year.[4] He often travelled to Bradford to practise alongside professional player Joe Johnson.[4] He won many junior tournaments and at the age of 14 won the English Doubles Championship with Richard Brooke.[2] With the help of Jimmy Michie and Johnson, Hunter made his debut among the professionals in July 1995 at the age of 16.[1][2][3]

Life and career[edit]

Early career (1995–2000)[edit]

Four months after his professional debut, Hunter reached the second round of the 1995 UK Championship by defeating world number six Alan McManus 9–4.[5] At the 1996 Welsh Open he reached the semi-final, the youngest player to do so at a ranking event, defeating world champion Stephen Hendry in the last 16.[2][6]

Also in 1996, he reached the quarter-finals of the 1996 UK Championship, where he completed a whitewash of Willie Thorne 9–0, James Wattana 9–5 and Terry Murphy 9–7, before losing 5–9 against Hendry, who went on to win the event.[7] Hunter was awarded a wildcard to play at the 1997 Masters, where he lost 1–5 against Mark Williams in the first round.[8] In 1997, he was disqualified from the British Open after testing positive for cannabis. He was later fined £4,550 and docked the 1,140 ranking points he earned at the event.[9] [4]

Hunter won his first ranking tournament at the 1998 Welsh Open. He defeated Paul Wykes 5–3, Neal Foulds 5–2, Steve Davis 5–3, Nigel Bond 5–4, Alan McManus 5–3 and Peter Ebdon 6–1, before defeating John Higgins 9–5 in the final. During the final, Hunter trailed 2-4 but won seven frames from the next eight to win the match and tournament.[10] Following the event, he reached the semi-finals of the 1998 UK Championship, defeating both Jimmy White and Steve Davis, before losing to John Higgins.[11] At the end of the year, he was named the Snooker Writers Association's "young player of the year".[3][4]

Hunter's first qualified to play in the World Snooker Championship in 1999, where he lost 8–10 in the first round to the eventual champion Stephen Hendry.[12] His form that season elevated him to 12th in the 1999-2000 world rankings resulting in automatic qualification into the final stages of ranking tournaments for the first time.[13] A position he retained for the 2000–01 season.[13]

He reached the quarter-final stage or better in six tournaments the following season. He was a runner-up at the 2001 Welsh Open,[14] a semi-finalist at the British Open and Scottish Open,[15][16] and a quarter-finalist at the Grand Prix and China Open.[17][18]

Masters champion (2001–2004)[edit]

At the 2001 Masters, Hunter defeated defending champion Matthew Stevens 6–5 in the first round, Peter Ebdon 6–3 in the quarter-finals and Stephen Hendry 6–4 in the semi-finals.[19][20] In the final Hunter met Fergal O'Brien. He trailed 3–7, but won seven out of the next nine frames to win 10–9.[20] and earned the £175,000 first prize.[21] After winning the championship, Hunter commented that he and his girlfriend had sex between sessions when trailing 2-6 and had caused him to play significantly better.[4] "Sex was the last thing on my mind. I just wasn't in the mood. But I had to do something to break the tension. It was a quick session – around 10 minutes or so – but I felt great afterwards. She jumped in the bath, I had a kip and then played like a dream. I reeled off four centuries in six frames. I won easily."[22]

At the following year's event, he retained his title. He defeated Stephen Lee 6–3 in the first round, Peter Ebdon 6–5 in the quarter-finals and Alan McManus 6–5 in the semi-finals to reach the final, where he met Mark Williams in the final.[23] Hunter lost all of the first five frames of the final, but won the match and tournament 10–9.[23] Hunter was only the third player to retain the Masters along with Cliff Thorburn and Stephen Hendry.[24] Hunter also won his second ranking event, winning the 2002 Welsh Open, defeating Ken Doherty 9–2 in the final,[25] but was defeated 9–10 in the first round of the 2002 World Championship by Quinten Hann.[26] Later in 2002, Hunter won his third ranking event, the British Open defeating Ian McCulloch 9–4 in the final.[27] As defending Masters champion, Hunter progressed to the semi-finals of the 2003 event, but lost 3–6 to Mark Williams.[28]

In the 2003 World Snooker Championship, he defeated Allister Carter 10–5, Matthew Stevens 13–6 and defending champion Peter Ebdon 13–12 to reach the semi-finals.[29][30] In his best-of-33-frames semi-final, Hunter established a 15–9 overnight lead over Ken Doherty, however he only could win one of the remaining nine frames, and lost the match 16–17.[31] The match was later broadcast as a "Crucible classic" on the BBC during the original dates for the 2020 World Snooker Championship when the event was postponed.[32][33] Despite the loss, he earned a place in the world's top eight in the 2003-2004 world rankings for the first time in his career, having been ranked number nine for the previous two seasons.[13]

In 2003–04, Hunter won the 2004 Masters for the third time in four years. Hunter trailed Ronnie O'Sullivan throughout the entire match trailing 1–6, 2–7, 6–8 and 7–9 before winning the final three frames to seal the sixth title of his professional career. He made five century breaks in the match.[34][35] Hunter also reached the final of the Players Championship, but lost 7–9 against Jimmy White.[36] At the 2004 Premier League Snooker event, he made his career highest break, a 146 in a 3–5 loss to Marco Fu.[37] He reached the second round of the 2004 World Snooker Championship, where he lost 12–13 against Matthew Stevens, despite leading at both 10–6 and 12–10.[38]

Hunter began the 2004–05 season, by reaching the semi-finals of the Grand Prix, where he lost 3–6 to Ronnie O'Sullivan.[39] He then reached the quarter-finals of the 2005 China Open, just days after discovering that he was suffering from cancer.[40] His career-high ranking was number four in the world during the 2004-2005 season, which dropped to number five the following season.[13]

Later years and illness (2005–2006)[edit]

On 6 April 2005, Hunter announced that he was suffering from malignant neuroendocrine tumours in his stomach, a rare disease of which the cause is unknown.[41] A spokesman for the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association said at the time: "Paul will undergo treatment to cure himself of this illness. He would like to reassure his fans and supporters that, as with his snooker career, he is tenacious and positive in his fight against the disease."[42] Hunter had been receiving chemotherapy for his illness.[43]

Hunter returned to the circuit for the start of the 2005–06 season, but lost to Rory McLeod in the first round of the Grand Prix.[44] Hunter's next match of the season was at the 2005 UK Championship against Jamie Burnett, in which Hunter dramatically came back from 6–8 down to win the match 9–8.[45] Despite this Hunter lost in the next round 2–9 against eventual champion Ding Junhui.[46] He lost in the first round of the 2006 World Championship 5–10 to Neil Robertson, his last ever match.[4]

He slipped from 5th to 34th in the 2006/2007 rankings.[13][43][47] Hunter admitted that he was worse than the previous year and confirmed that he had been in continuous pain.[48] On 27 July 2006, the WPBSA confirmed that, following a members' vote, the organization's rules would be changed to allow Hunter to sit out the entire 2006–2007 season with his world ranking frozen at 34. He intended to devote the year to treatment for his cancer.[1][3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Hunter died at 8:20 pm on 9 October 2006 – just five days short of his 28th birthday – at the Kirkwood Hospice in Huddersfield.[49] Prior to the Premier League Snooker matches on 12 October 2006, players Jimmy White, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ken Doherty and Ding Junhui, along with referee Alan Chamberlain and commentators Willie Thorne and Phil Yates, all stood for a moment of silence to remember Hunter.[50] He left a wife, Lindsey, and one daughter.[47] His funeral took place on 19 October 2006 at Leeds Parish Church.[51] Many players attended the ceremony, and his best friend, Matthew Stevens, was a pallbearer at the service.[52]

Fellow professionals Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams, Jimmy White, Matthew Stevens and Ken Doherty led calls for the Masters trophy to be named in Hunter's memory.[53] Instead, then non-ranking German Open in Fürth was renamed the Paul Hunter Classic in his honour; a tournament first won by Hunter.[54] Also in 2007, the amateur English Open tournament was renamed the Paul Hunter English Open.[55] On 20 April 2016, the Masters trophy was indeed renamed in Hunter's honour. World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said that the organization "messed up" by not doing so sooner.[53]

In 2006, Hunter was posthumously awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award – his widow Lindsey accepted the award on his behalf.[56] A Paul Hunter Foundation was set up after his death with the "specific aim of giving disadvantaged, able bodied and disabled youngsters an opportunity to play snooker".[57] Hunter compiled 114 competitive century breaks[58] in the course of his professional career, including a high break of 146.[50]

Personal life[edit]

Hunter and Lindsey Fell, a beauty therapist, married in August 2004 in Jamaica.[49] On 26 December 2005, Lindsey gave birth to their first and only child, daughter Evie Rose,[47] who weighed 8 lb 2 oz (3.7 kg).[59] He was seen as an exciting player and became known as the "Beckham of the Baize" named after football player David Beckham due to his looks.[2][60] Hunter made comments that his first Masters win was due to having sex between sessions, which he referred to as "plan bonk".[22] After his death, Lindsay wrote Unbreakable: My Life with Paul – a Story of Extraordinary Courage and Love covering Paul's snooker career, life and death.[61]

Performance and rankings timeline[edit]

Tournaments 1995–
96
1996–
97
1997–
98
1998–
99
1999–
00
2000–
01
2001–
02
2002–
03
2003–
04
2004–
05
2005–
06
Rankings[13] [nb 1] 78 43 24 12 14 9 9 8 4 5
Ranking tournaments
Grand Prix[nb 2] LQ 1R 3R 2R 3R QF 3R QF 3R SF 1R
UK Championship 2R QF 1R SF 2R 2R 3R 3R QF 3R 3R
Malta Cup[nb 3] LQ LQ NH 2R Not Held 1R QF 2R 1R 1R
Welsh Open SF LQ W 2R 3R F W SF QF 2R 2R
China Open[nb 4] Not Held NR 1R 1R QF 2R Not Held QF 1R
World Championship LQ LQ LQ 1R 1R 2R 1R SF 2R 1R 1R
Non-ranking tournaments
Pot Black Tournament Not Held SF
Premier League A A A A A A A A RR RR A
The Masters A WR A A 1R W W SF W 1R 1R
Former ranking tournaments
Asian Classic[nb 5] LQ LQ Tournament Not Held
German Open LQ LQ LQ NR Tournament Not Held
Malta Grand Prix Non-Ranking Event 1R NR Tournament Not Held
Thailand Masters[nb 6] 1R 1R LQ 1R 2R 1R 2R Tournament Not Held
Scottish Open[nb 7] LQ LQ 3R QF 1R SF 2R 2R F Not Held
British Open LQ LQ LQ 2R 3R SF 2R W QF 2R NH
Irish Masters Non-Ranking Event SF 2R 2R NH
Former non-ranking tournaments
Pontins Professional A A A QF SF Tournament Not Held
Malta Grand Prix A A A A R RR Tournament Not Held
Champions Cup A A A A A A RR Tournament Not Held
Irish Masters A A A A A A 1R Ranking Event NH
Scottish Masters A A A 1R A A 1R QF Not Held
Performance Table Legend
LQ lost in the qualifying draw #R lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(WR = Wildcard round, RR = Round robin)
QF lost in the quarter-finals
SF lost in the semi–finals F lost in the final W won the tournament
A did not participate in the tournament
NH / Not Held event was not held.
NR / Non-Ranking Event event is/was no longer a ranking event.
R / Ranking Event event is/was a ranking event.
  1. ^ New players on the tour do not have a ranking.
  2. ^ The event was also called the LG Cup (2001/2002-2003/2004)
  3. ^ The event was also called the European Open (1995/1996-1996/1997 and 2001/2002-2003/2004) and Irish Open (1998/1999)
  4. ^ The event was also called the China International(1998/1999)
  5. ^ The event also ran under the name Thailand Classic (1995/1996)
  6. ^ The event also ran under the name Thailand Open (1995/1996–1996/1997)
  7. ^ The event run under different names such as International Open (1995/1996-1996/1997) and Players Championship (2003/2004)

Career finals[edit]

Ranking finals: 5 (3 titles, 2 runners-up)[edit]

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1. 1998 Welsh Open Scotland John Higgins 9–5 [62]
Runner-up 1. 2001 Welsh Open Republic of Ireland Ken Doherty 2–9 [62]
Winner 2. 2002 Welsh Open (2) Republic of Ireland Ken Doherty 9–7 [62]
Winner 3. 2002 British Open England Ian McCulloch 9–4 [63]
Runner-up 2. 2004 Players Championship England Jimmy White 7–9 [64]

Non-ranking finals: 3 (3 titles)[edit]

Legend
The Masters (3–0)
Other (0–0)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1. 2001 The Masters Republic of Ireland Fergal O'Brien 10–9 [65]
Winner 2. 2002 The Masters (2) Wales Mark Williams 10–9 [65]
Winner 3. 2004 The Masters (3) England Ronnie O'Sullivan 10–9 [65]

Pro-am finals: 1 (1 title)[edit]

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1. 2004 Grand Prix Fürth Wales Matthew Stevens 4–2 [66]

Amateur finals: 1 (1 runner-up)[edit]

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Runner-up 1. 1995 English Amateur Championship England David Gray 7–8 [67]

References[edit]

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  61. ^ Hunter, Lindsey (2008). Unbreakable: My Life with Paul – a Story of Extraordinary Courage and Love. HarperElement. ISBN 978-0-00-726091-1.
  62. ^ a b c Turner, Chris. "Welsh Open". cajt.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. Chris Turner's Snooker Archive. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
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Further reading[edit]

  • Hunter, Lindsey (2008). Unbreakable: My Life with Paul – a Story of Extraordinary Courage and Love. London: HarperElement. ISBN 978-0-00-726091-1.

External links[edit]