Rob Milkins, Gloucester favourite
Gloucester’s Robert Milkins, based at the South West Snooker Academy in Quedgeley, will be jetting off to Hainan in China this weekend to compete in the 2012 Haikou World Open Snooker.
Milkins booked his trip courtesy of wins over Sam Craigie and a 5-0 trouncing of Welshman Ryan Day.
Gloucester’s highest ranked professional faces Thailand’s Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon in a wildcard round, with reward for victory being a match up against German Masters finalist Stephen Maguire.
At just seventeen years old, Thanawat became the youngest professional to compile a tournament 147 break last season.
Milkins is joined on the trip by Dominic Dale, now resident in Stroud, who is also based at the World Snooker Centre of Excellence on the Waterwells Business Park.
Dale, a former winner of the Shanghai Masters, is a popular figure in China and along with Milkins, is in constant demand on the exhibition circuit in the Far East.
Sam Baird, who shot to fame in the Welsh Open last week, when he reached the televised stages in Newport, is from Devon, but uses the Academy as his permanent practice base, and he joins his colleagues on the plane to China.
He will have to get past China’s Jin Long in the Wildcard round to book the dream tie against newly crowned Welsh Open Champion Ding Junhui.
It is estimated that the match will be watched by up to 1 billion people on Chinese TV.
But before that, the South West Snooker Academy is packed full of the players putting in their final practice ahead of the China Open qualifiers, which take place in Sheffield this week.
Qualification would see the players fly out to Beijing at the end of March.
There are a total of nineteen On Q Promotions Ltd professionals in the event, many of whom are based at the Academy.
Sam Baird, along with Adam Wicheard, who also made his televised deubt in the Welsh Open last week, face Tian Pengfei and Sam Craigie respectively, in the opening round.
Robert Milkins sets out in round three, needing two wins to qualify, while Dominic Dale has one qualifying match.
Both players will watch and wait for results before knowing who they will play.
Milkins is another popular figure in the Far East. On his last trip Milkins stayed on for another week, fulfilling a round of exhibition matches and appearances.
Terry Griffiths working with Junior players
The world number thirty-five has also been working closely with Academy Director of coaching Terry Griffiths.
“I’ve really enjoyed my talks with Terry,” commented Milkins. “We have a chat before tournaments and after matches. his knowledge is amazing and it’s really helped me.”
Griffiths is not only on hand to work with the professionals but is coordinating a project at South West Snooker Academy, with the aim of finding a future star from Gloucestershire.
The former World Champion, widely acknowledged as the World’s leading coach, has been visiting schools in the county and oversees Schools Trips to the Academy.
After School and Junior clubs are in place at the Academy and keen pupils can practice in the professional conditions and receive coaching and structured lessons.
Griffiths is available to visit more schools in the area and schools are invited to contact the Academy on 01452 223214 for further information.