IPA Professional Tour Kicks Off 2023 Schedule in Newcastle this Week

Clint I’Anson

The IPA professional pool tour returns for 2023 with the first of five events, starting off at Newcastle at the ever-popular Gosforth Park Hotel with the European Open from March 31st though to conclusion on Sunday the 2nd of April, with free entry for spectators from start to finish.

250 players have eagerly entered with the Open, Amateur, Professional, and Ladies events up for grabs and plenty of money to win – though make no mistake, it will need to be earned in this field, and with 22 tables in constant use it’s going to be fast, furious – and noisy.

Newly crowned World Champion Clint I’Anson will be looking to build on his outstanding form, but can he shake off the champions curse which has seen the champs struggle the following season with everyone gunning for the main man, or will Marc Farnsworth bounce back and cement his place as rankings number one? Nothing is ever as simple as it looks, and in a sport growing exponentially throughout the UK and elsewhere, it would come as no great shock to see an alternative name on the first trophy of 2023. 

With the C4 Sports YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iVZUYpxhiA) covering the events live from 3pm Friday and 12pm Saturday and Sunday, and various bookmakers offering odds, this is my chance to take a guess at the main contenders – read on or make your own minds up, either way we are in for a festival of pool regardless…

Marc Farnsworth

European Professional

The number of times I have got this and the Open the wrong way round is hard to believe, but we go again and once again I will burden Marc Farnsworth with being my selection. You simply do not get to number one in the rankings and stay there without both ability and consistency, and although like everyone he can have an off day, his name is one the rest will clearly want to avoid at all costs until absolutely necessary. I suspect he will still be smarting after failing to win the World’s and although he handles losing graciously as do all of the top players, his will to win is there for everyone to see and he should prove hard to beat if he is on his game.

European Open

Somehow Mark Boyle has slipped to number nine in the current rankings, but underestimate “Mr Magic” at your peril. The former snooker player is a match for any player on the planet on his day, and if the draw falls his way he can certainly go deep in this contest. Meticulous in his shot selection, if the clearance is there I would never bet against him making it, while the odd shot that looked impossible can and will be pulled out of the bag on occasion, demoralising opponents but drawing warm applause from the audience. 

European Amateur

100% the toughest event to even attempt to call with last year’s top amateurs now joining the professional ranks, and new players signing up to the IPA tour on a weekly basis. Don’t fall over in shock if a player most have never heard of walks away with the title here, and anyone even considering a bet on the Amateur winner is a braver person than me. If I had to put forward a name (and sadly I feel duty bound), then Nicky Griffiths is the name I have come up with – he has taken the scalps of some top players over the years and is my tentative selection to do well here.  

Deb Burchell

European Ladies Elite

The Ladies events have a different format this season at their request, and as they are getting stronger every event they thoroughly deserve their place in the limelight. Deb Burchell will be many people’s idea of the likeliest winner here, and if she can get past Ashely Bird in the first round, then she may well prove difficult to beat. A former World Champion, Deb’s game has been getting back to that kind of level again over the past year or so, and if she can repeat recent efforts this weekend, then she may well come out on top.

European Ladies Open

This looks so hard to call that I would prefer not to make a fool of myself, but  the Chairman tells me I have to draw a conclusion, so here we go. I am going to take a chance on Salli Merola to give us a decent run for our money here as she has the benefit of a match in Round One which will give her some table time and may yet see her get on a roll, though as always, this is one of the toughest events to call on the IPA Tour. 

European Ladies Amateur

We end with another new event that is just as difficult to call as any other here! Once again I am second guessing with regard to table time and practice which is all-important at this level, but what we can guarantee is a highly competitive event. If I had a lucky pin I would still struggle to get anywhere near to finding the winner, but if Keira Whitcombe brings her A game she has as good a chance as any – though I would not bet with stolen money on this one, it looks far too open for my liking!

So, in conclusion, anyone can watch the top pool players in action free of charge (no Pay Per View here) on the Channel 4 sports YouTube channel here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iVZUYpxhiA , or turn up at the Gosforth Park Hotel where you will be warmly welcomed by the top table – and all for free as well!

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