World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) held its first event of the year for visually impaired and deaf players at Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon last weekend.
The Southern Classic saw 49 players from four classification groups battle it out across two days, with a mix of new and returning faces in action.
The competitive play followed an initial open day which welcomed a variety of guests including students from Crowdys Hill School, representatives from Vision West of England and Robert Buckland QC MP (Swindon South).
Group 6A saw Faisal Butt claim his second successive title following a 3-1 victory against David Mac.
Champion last month at the Northern Classic, Butt progressed through the round robin stage without the loss of a frame before the 39-year-old defeated Warren Ealy and Michael Busst to reach the final.
His opponent Mac meanwhile was competing in his first standalone Group 6A event and having achieved his best-ever match break of 29, booked his place in the final with a deciding-frame success against Michael Farrell.
The title match in our tournament for people with learning disabilities saw the opening two frames shared, before Butt claimed the following two to secure victory.
In Group 6B there was a long-awaited second title triumph for Leroy Williams, who completed a comeback 6-4 victory against debutant Christopher Goldsworthy in the final.
Having both progressed from a five-player group, it was 26-year-old Goldsworthy who raced into a 3-0 lead, before Williams crucially grabbed the fourth on the final black ahead of the mid-session interval to get a frame on the board.
Although Goldsworthy would take the first on their resumption to restore his three-frame lead, from there it was all Williams as the former Northern Classic champion won five in a row to turn the tables and end a run of five final defeats stretching back over 13 months.
In the Group 7 competition for people with visual impairments there was a third successive title win for Nick Neale who defeated Welshman Ronnie Allen 4-0 in the final.
Once again Neale dominated the breaks list with a top run of 76 during the weekend and having progressed through his five-player group with a 100% record, saw off four-time champion Paul Smith in the semi-finals to reach the title match.
Allen meanwhile came through the same group in second place, before defeating David Baker in the last four to set up a re-match with Neale.
Ultimately however it was to be Neale’s day as he needed just 63 minutes to complete a whitewash victory and secure his fifth-career WDBS title.
Shabir Ahmed defeated long-term rival Lewis Knowles 3-1 in the final to capture a record sixth Group 8 title since he joined the WDBS Tour two years ago.
Having each topped their groups during the opening day of play, the pair progressed through the knockout rounds without dropping a frame to set up their fifth final meeting.
As is often the case it was a cagey affair between the two with every frame coming down to at least the final pink. It was multiple champion Ahmed who took the first two and looked to be set to complete a whitewash victory in the third, before Knowles cleared with 31 to steal the frame and keeps his hopes alive.
Ahmed was not to be denied however and subsequently clinched the fourth frame on the pink to get over the line and secure his first title of 2019.
The Challenge Cup competition for players not qualified for the knockout rounds was won by Gary Gallacher, who defeated Lee Finbow 2-0 to secure his second gold medal almost three years on from his first at the Woking Open in May 2016.
As always, the WDBS Team would like to extend its thanks to our hosts at Jesters Snooker Hall and to all of the players, supporters and officials to helped to make the event possible.
Our next event for players from Groups 7-8 will be the Disability Classic which is to run from 17-19 May at the Cueball Derby. Entry for the event will be available shortly.
View full tournament results from the Southern Classic via the WPBSA Tournament Manager here.
View event photos at our Facebook page here.
View the updated WDBS Roll of Honour here.