PAUL HUNTER (1978-2006)

Paul Hunter

Paul Alan Hunter was an English professional snooker player. His media profile developed rapidly and became known as the “Beckham's Mat”, due to its good looks and colorful style.

Honours: he was three times Champion of the Masters, winning the title in the deciding frame three times. Did 114 hundreds in competition throughout his professional career, including his personal record of a 146 in the Premier League of 2004. He also won three ranking titles, the British Open and the Welsh Open (who won twice).

In March 2005 Hunter was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors and died shortly before his 28 birthday, in October 2006.

During his childhood, thanks to the support and encouragement of friends and family, spent many hours practicing snooker and used to travel to Bradford often to train with Joe Johnson. To the 12 years Hunter was considered a “outstanding junior talent”. He won many youth tournaments and with 14 year old won the English Doubles Championship with Richard Brooke. With the help of former professional snooker players Joe Johnson and Jimmie Michie, Hunter made his professional debut in July 1995, at the age of 16 years.

Four months after his professional debut, Hunter reached the second round of the UK Championship in 1995, by defeating world number six Alan McManus by 9-4. Another of his achievements was becoming the youngest player to reach the semifinals of a ranking event., when he arrived at the Welsh Open in 1996 with 17 years and three months, defeating Stephen Hendry along the way.

In 1996 also reached the quarterfinals of the UK Championship, where he beat Willie Thorne (9-0), James Wattana (9-5) y Terry Murphy (9-7) before losing 5-9 against later champion Stephen Hendry. Hunter was awarded a wildcar (invitation) to play in the Masters of 1.997, where he lost 1-5 against Mark Williams in the first round.

His first victory in a ranking tournament came at the Welsh Open in 1998, where he defeated seven players to lift the title and claim the 60.000 Winner's Check £: Paul Wykes (5-3), Neal Foulds (5-2), Steve Davis (5-3), Nigel Bond (5-4), Alan McManus (5-3) y Peter Ebdon (6-1), before defeating John Higgins in the final by 9-5. During the final, Hunter hizo 3 hundreds (108, 116 Y 127). Only 2-4 below, but he won seven of the last eight frames to clinch the title.

Its success continued and reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship in 1998 and was named “Young Player of the Year” by the Snooker Writers Association (Snooker Writers Association’s).

Hunter's first appearance in the Crucible came at the World Championship in 1.999, where he lost 10-8 in the first round against the subsequent champion Stephen Hendry. His good shape that season made him rise to the number 12 world ranking. After the season 1999/2000 fell to the post 14 in the ranking of 2000/2001. The following season he was runner-up at the Welsh Open, semifinalist at the British Open and Scottish Open and reached the quarterfinals at the Grand Prix and the China Open.

At the Masters of 2001, Hunter defeated friend and defending champion Matthew Stevens in round of 16 (6-5), Peter Ebdon in the quarterfinals (6-3) and Stephen Hendry in the semifinals (6-4). In the end, Hunter recovered from a handicap of 3-7 against Fergal O’Brien to finish won by 10-9. He made four hundred in six frames and won first prize, endowed with 175.000 pounds. In his post-match interview, Hunter caused a media sensation by admitting that he turned to “Plan B” con Lindsey Fell, his then girlfriend, during the break while going 2-6 below. The “B” at “Plan B” supposedly refers to the word “bonk”, a British slang term used to say that they have had sex. Hunter and Fell retired to their hotel room and he remembered: “Sex was the last thing on my mind. I was not in the mood. But I had to do something to break the tension. It was a quick session – about 10 minutes more or less – but I felt great afterwards. (…) I took a little nap and then I played like a dream. I was reeling four hundred in six frames. I won easily.".

In 2002 Hunter retained his title. Defeated Stephen Lee in the first round, Peter Ebdon in the quarterfinals (6-5) and Alan McManus in the semifinals (6-5) to reach the final, where he defeated Mark Williams for 10-9, even though he was behind with a marker of 0-5. In this way, became the third player in Masters history to retain the trophy, along with Cliff Thorburn and Stephen Hendry and, in doing so, won the cash prize of 190.000 pounds.

Hunter also won his second Welsh Open title., defeating Ken Doherty in the final by 9-2. But nevertheless, in the World Championship of 2002 was defeated in the first round by Quinten Hann for 9-10.

His success was continuing in the British Open 2002, where he got his third ranking title after winning Ian McCulloch for 9-4 in the end. Hunter failed to win the Masters for the third consecutive time in 2003, since he lost 3-6 in the semifinals against the runner-up from the previous year, and the later champion, Mark Williams. But nevertheless, his biggest hit that season was just a few months away.

In the World Championship of 2003, beat Allister Carter (10-5), a Matthew Stevens (13-6) and defending champion Peter Ebdon (13-12) to get to the semifinals. In his semifinal, Hunter established an advantage of 15-9 during the night session on Ken Doherty, However, he could only win one of the remaining nine frames and ended up losing the game for 16-17. As a result of his performances Hunter gained a place in the top eight in the world for the first time in his career in the world ranking of 2003/2004, after being number nine the previous two seasons.

In season 2003/2004 Hunter won the Masters for the third time in four years, once again with a marker of 10-9. Hunter lost the entire match against Ronnie O’Sullivan (1-6, 2-7, 6-8 Y 7-9), but it prevailed, he won the last three frames and took the trophy after the decider. He made five hundred in that game.

He also reached the final of the Players Championship, but lost to Jimmy White by 7-9. Hunter reached the second round of the World Championship of 2.004, where he lost to Matthew Stevens for 12-13 , even though it was 10-6 Y 12-10 above.

Hunter started the season 2.004/2.005 reaching the semifinals of the Grand Prix, where he lost 3-6 against Ronnie O’Sullivan. He then made it to the quarterfinals of the China Open., just days after discovering he had cancer. His record in the ranking was to place the number 4 of the world in the season 2004/2005, going down to number five on the 2005/2006.

He 6 April 2005, Hunter announced that he suffered from neuroendocrine malignancies. A WPBSA spokesperson (World Association of Billiard and Snooker Professionals) said at that time: “Paul will undergo treatment to cure himself of this disease. He would like to reassure his fans and followers that, like with his snooker career, he is tenacious and positive in his fight against the disease.". Hunter had been receiving chemotherapy for his illness.

Hunter returned to the circuit for the start of the season 2005/2006, but lost to Rory McLeod in the first round of the Grand Prix. Hunter's next game of the season was in the UK Championship against Jamie Burnett, in which Hunter went around a dramatic 6-8 against to end up winning the match 9-8. Despite this, Hunter lost in the next round by 2-9 against the later champion Ding Junhui. Lost in the first round of the World Championship 2.006 by 5-10 in front of Neil Robertson, his last game.

In the ranking of 2006/2007 fell from the number 5 until the 34. Hunter admitted that he was worse than the previous year and that he lived in continuous pain.. He 27 July 2006, the WPBSA confirmed that, after the partners vote, organization rules would be changed to allow Hunter to be absent all season 2006/2007 with his ranking frozen in the post 34. He intended to dedicate that year to treating his cancer.

He died 9 October 2006, five days before turning 28 years. Before the Premier League Snooker matches 12 October, players like Jimmy White, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ken Doherty y Ding Junhui, alongside referee Alan Chamberlain and commentators Willie Thorne and Phil Yates, they remained silent to remember Hunter. Many players came to his funeral and his best friend, Matthew Stevens, was one of those who carried the coffin.

His colleagues Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams, Jimmy White, Matthew Stevens and Ken Doherty led the request that the Masters trophy be somehow called to remember Hunter's memory.. Instead, the Fürth German Open tournament (a tournament that was non-ranking and now lower ranking) was renamed the Paul Hunter Classic in his honor, a tournament that was first won by Paul Hunter. In 2006 Hunter was awarded, posthumously, with the BBC Award "Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason"; his widow Lindsey accepted the award on his behalf. In 2006, after his death, The “Paul Hunter Foundation” was created with the specific objective of providing disadvantaged youth, with or without disabilities, an opportunity to play snooker and socialize (