Paul Hunter – The ‘Beckham of the Baize’


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THE TRAGIC death of Paul Hunter has devastated not only the snooker community but also the hearts of people all round the world. Aged just 27, he has left behind him a legacy that can never be filled.

Nicknamed the ‘Beckham of the Baize’ because of his dazzling looks, his stunning wife and his ambition to be the best, Paul will forever be remembered as one of the finest snooker players ever to grace the the green baize.

Born in Leeds, he first potted a ball at the tender age of seven and was a revelation ever since.

The likeable potter turned professional at 16 and most notably burst onto the big stage back in 1998 when he won the Welsh Open at just 19, becoming only the second youngest player ever to win a major event.

This was just the beginning for a player who was to become something very special.

Success continued for Paul in the shape of his first Masters title in 2001 – a tournament he seemed to fall in love with.

Paul famously revealed the reason behind his famous victory that year after admitting have result to ‘plan B’ with his then girlfriend Lyndsey during the mid- session interview. This justified his status as the pin-up boy of snooker.

He came back the following year to win the Masters title again which capped a fantastic season for Englishman after winning three major tournaments and by now he had firmly established himself as one of the finest snooker players on the circuit.

Anyone who wins back-to–back is a great player,” described former player now commentator Willie Thorne.

He told the BBC Sport: “Paul Hunter was a great player and I’m sure that he would have been a future world champion, without a doubt.”

As Paul’s world ranking grew so too did his reputation. As well as winning tournaments, Paul showed to the world that snooker wasn’t the only thing important to him as he married his beautiful girlfriend.

His next and what tragically proved to be his last tournament victory was the Masters title once more in 2004 as he became only the third player in snooker history to win the event three times.

He beat close friend and rival Ronnie O Sullivan 10-9 in what many would consider one of the greatest games in the history of the sport.

In March 2005 Paul was diagnosed with Cancer while as the peak of his game.

But showed bravery and pride by playing through the pain barrier, participating in the World Snooker Championships against all odds that same year.

Unfortunately he was knocked out at the first hurdle to Michael Holt, but his presence was miraculous.

In his final season, Paul slipped to 34th in the world rankings and his game was clearly affected by his illness.

Off the table he battled on and was granted what some would call a miracle when his wife gave birth to their daughter Evie Rose.

Paul sadly passed away from the world he dearly loved on October 19 2006 just a couple of days short of his 28th birthday.

He has left behind him a legacy which no player or person could fill. Snooker has been robbed of a potential world number one.

Former World Champion, Ken Doherty, a close friend of Paul, passionately described his close friend in no better way: “We’ve lost a great character, champion and a great friend.

“It’s a shocking loss. He had everything, the world at his feet and it’s such as shame. He was one of our characters and a fantastic player.”

 

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