Gray wins GB9 British Grand Prix Billiard Event

“Granite” Mark Gray wins GB9 British Grand Prix

2008 British Grand Prix winner, Mark Gray.

2008 British Grand Prix winner, Mark Gray.

“Obviously I’m well happy to win the last one, and to beat Imran for a change” said Mark Gray from Peterborough after he won the GB9 British Grand Prix – the final event of the GB9 Ball Tour season, beating Tour supremo Imran Majid 11-6 in the final of the Main Event at Mansfield.

“It’s a shame it’s the last one for me now, because it’s my first victory this season, I’m usually one of the winners but the standard this year now on the English circuit is getting so tough, I’m just one of 12 or 14 players capable of winning The Pro Cup and the Main Event.”

Gray, a former snooker player who has relatively recently converted to full-time American pool, rose to the top of the game at a meteoric pace, and has now “ruled the roost” on the European Rankings seemingly forever!

It’s a strange phenomenon that some players can play well on one tour, and not achieve the same standard on another, just like there are good “money players” who struggle to perform well in tournaments, but this isn’t the case with Gray. Majid’s supreme dominance of the GB9 tour has stifled everyone’s ambitions this year, and Gray admits to Majid being his nemesis in pool only beating him once in the last 13 meetings.

The future for Gray however, is bright, as he is hoping to be selected for the European Mosconi Cup Team after staying ahead of Italy’s Bruno Muratore in the Euro Tour rankings (Gray is ranked No.1 on the Euro Tour, and has been number one for many months, but is now only 5 points ahead of Muratore).

It’s a busy time for “Granite” now, he will shortly be leaving for the Philippines and the World 10 Ball Championships, then he will fly from there straight to the Netherlands for Matchroom’s World Cup of Pool, and then after two days at home he will be off to the next Euro Tour event in Switzerland, but Gray says he loves the travelling as there wasn’t so much travel when he played snooker, as Gray says, “it’s all a great adventure really!”
Maharaja crowned 2008 British Champion after final ranking event of season

2008 British 9 Ball Champion, Imran Majid.

2008 British 9 Ball Champion, Imran "Chicken Dinner" Majid.

Despite losing to Gray in the final event of the season Imran Majid was without doubt the most successful British tour player in 2008.  Majid, from West London, won the first four consecutive events of the 128 player, six event season, and was also a semi-finalist and runner-up in the last 2 events sealing his position at the top of the British Rankings by some considerable margin.

The final weekend of the year is the most important for the UK’s professional pool playing fraternity. The rankings after this event determine which 8 players will be relegated from the elite 32 player Pro division, as well as selecting the top 8 for promotion from the 96 player Challenge division. The bottom ranked 24 players from the main rankings will also be relegated, and will now need to enter the open qualifiers in November along with other hopefuls attempting to gain entry into Europe’s most prestigious national 9 ball tour.

Howard wins GB9 Mansfield Challenge Cup

2008 GB9 Mansfield Challenge Cup Winner, Jason Howard.

2008 GB9 Mansfield Challenge Cup Winner, Jason Howard.

Jason Howard, a quietly spoken gentlemanly player from Bournemouth modestly accepted his victory in the Challenge Cup event at Mansfield, whilst his friends and well wishers roared their very vocal support and congratulations from the overlooking raised tier bar area!

This was the first final for the modest 29 year old, who is a Safety Officer for a Solar Energy company, and the 15 ranking points accrued have boosted his ranking into the vital top eight on the Challenge Cup Division and therefore qualifies him for automatic promotion into next season’s elite Pro Division.

The eight promoted players are Thomas Ainsworth-Smith, Brad Parker, David Walsh, Andrew Nicholson, Christopher Robson, Jason Howard, Andy Barnett, and Scott Higgins ranked 1-8 respectively.

2008 GB9 Mansfield Pro Cup Winner, Darren "Dynamite" Appleton.

2008 GB9 Mansfield Pro Cup Winner, Darren "Dynamite" Appleton.

“Dynamite” wins GB9 Mansfield Pro Cup

A delighted Darren Appleton won the GB9 Pro Cup event for the second time of the season, beating Imran Majid with a comfortable 11-5 in the final.

The timely win promotes the Yorkshireman to the top of the Pro Division rankings, displacing Junior player Phil Burford from the pole position that he had held since event 2.

Karl Boyes and Tony Drago finished the season ranked 3rd and 4th in the GB9 Pro division rankings, with Imran Majid, Kevin Uzzell, James Kay, Daryl Peach, Mark Gray, Jayson Shaw, Craig Osborne, Raj Hundal, Paul Williams, Damian Overton, Pat Holtz and Michael Valentine filling out the top 16 respectively.

Heart-breaking tears of sadness, but tears of joy too!

It was with a heavy heart that Tour Chairman, Lee Rigby, took the microphone after the usual “housekeeping” announcements and began to explain his absence from the playing table at the last two events.

Affectionately known to the players as “Riggers”, he explained that nerve damage from an extremely painful and very rare condition has paralysed his upper-right arm from the shoulder to the elbow, effectively making playing pool impossible for the foreseeable future. The nerve will take up to two years to repair, and even then the condition might not be sufficient to ever play pool again.

With his voice cracking with emotion, and stopping to compose himself several times, he assured everyone that nothing would stop him from continuing to run the tour, and vowed that the 2009 season would be better than ever.

Ironically, despite not playing in the last two events and therefore only receiving ranking points from four events, Lee had already secured sufficient points to secure his spot in the elite Pro Division for the 2009 season.

Later on there was another tearful event, but with a much happier tone, as the players awarded gifts to the Tour Chairman, Lee Rigby, and Tour Director, Shirley Ang.

Shir came to the microphone and “blubbed” continuously for thirty seconds, and the only comprehensible words were “thank you” in between the flood of tears… Bless!

All Photography by Big Dave Knight at www.Pro9.co.uk

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