The inaugural season of the new Challenge Tour is now under way at the Meadowside Leisure Centre in Burton as the up-and-coming players try to get a foothold in the sport.
There are 10 events scheduled, with the players travelling to places such as Preston, Latvia and Belgium before proceedings conclude at the Barnsley Metrodome in March next year. The much-anticipated series has divided opinion, however, with just 59 players from a maximum of 64 entering the draw for the first event this weekend as it is being held so close to the end of the three-week long Q School. Some feel that the rewards on offer – £2,000 for the overall winner but nothing for a first-round loser – are restrictive as many players will be out of pocket and the event may be counterproductive to their careers. A second-round loser will pocket just £125.00 and that will not be enough to cover food and accommodation, let alone flights to Latvia later in the year.
Many players who came close to earning a full card at Q School have opted to miss the event, mentally and physically drained after coming so close but missing out on their dream, and it is not the strongest of line-ups in Staffordshire. That may well change as the season progresses and the competition gets more recognition, and organisers were prepared for teething problems. There is the carrot of two Main Tour places being made available for the top two players on the Challenge Tour and so it seems likely that the tournaments will be more competitive in future weeks.