Hugill looks to gain foothold as Tour hits close to home

York's Ashley Hugill is hoping for a few home comforts as the Betway UK Championship cues off at the Barbican today.

Ashley Hugill has reached the last 64 in three events after earning a two-year Tour card.
Ashley Hugill has reached the last 64 in three events after earning a two-year Tour card.

The 23-year-old has endured a tough start to life as a snooker professional after earning a two-year Tour card via Q School in May.

But he has reached the last 64 of three tournaments and climbed to 116th in the world rankings.

Now Hugill – who comes from nearby village Melbourne – gets to play on his own doorstep as 128 players from around the world congregate in York.

The tournament launches this morning, but Hugill must wait 24 hours before he takes on world No 17 Anthony McGill tomorrow morning.

“It has been a new kind of pressure for me this season because now I’m fighting for ranking points in every tournament,” said Hugill.

“It has been good experience for me and I’ve got a few wins under my belt.

“The way the tour works, if you have one good week you can win a lot of money and jump up the rankings. So I’m just trying to build confidence and go on a run.

“I know I’ve got two seasons on the tour so this season is all about gaining a foothold, and then next season my aim will be to get the results I need to keep my place on the tour.”

It will be his first time playing at the city’s Barbican as a professional.

He played in the UK Championship two years ago when he was an amateur, but lost to Shaun Murphy in the first round.

This time he faces another tough challenge against McGill, a winner of two ranking events.

“I played Anthony in the Indian Open earlier this season. I won the first frame and then he played well and beat me 4-1,” added Hugill. “I’m aware there is more expectation on me now that I’m a professional, but I’m really looking forward to playing in York in front of my friends and family.”

Hugill is one of eight Yorkshire players at the UK Championship.

Leeds’s David Grace is the first in action tonight when he comes up against Jak Jones.

Joining Hugill tomorrrow are father and son Peter and Oliver Lines – from Leeds – as they face Chinese opposition in Zhou Yuelong and Mei Xiwen.

On Thursday it is the turn of Doncaster’s Chris Keogan (playing David Gilbert), Sheffield’s Adam Duffy (v Dominic Dale) and Leeds’s Sanderson Lam (v Liang Wenbo).

Also on Thursday, Pickering’s Paul Davison, 46, faces a rejuvenated Mark Williams, after the latter ended a six-year ranking title wait by winning the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday night.

The 42-year-old Welshman beat Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao – who trains in Sheffield – 9-8 in Belfast to clinch his 19th ranking title. His previous triumph was the German Masters in 2011.

“I said to myself a while ago if I could get to 20 ranking titles I would be over the moon,” said Williams. “You never know now. I just need one more.

“Up until six or eight months ago I thought I was never going to get another title. I have changed coach to Steve Feeney and he has helped me loads.

“My only aim for the season was qualifying for the Masters. I’ve done that now and my next one is to try and qualify for the Crucible.”