Player Profile  Paul Hunter

Born: 14 October 1978. Leeds, Yourkshire, England
Died: 9 October 2006
Turned Professional: 1995
Highest Break: 146 (2004 Premier League)
Career Centuries 114
Highest Ranking 4th (2004/5)
As an amateur, Paul Hunter was runner up to Stephen Lee in the British Under 18 and won the Pontins Star of the Future under 16 event. Twice winner of the Leicester Junior Open he joined the professional ranks in 1995 with high hopes of success.
He did not disappoint and in his very first season, still only 17, he reached the semi-final of the Regal Welsh Open, the youngest player ever to reach that stage by some six months. He had beaten Stephen Hendry, then at the peak of his powers in the quarters but John Parrott ended his run. Two other last 32 places helped him to a first season ranking of 78 which had only been bettered by a small and elite group of players. The following season he proved that was no fluke by reaching the UK quarter-finals and moved up again to number 43.
Having reached the last 16 of the Grand Prix in 1997/98 he did nothing in the other early season events until he arrived in Newport where he had enjoyed his previous best performance in the Regal Welsh Open. This time he did even better. He beat Steve Davis, Nigel Bond, Alan McManus and Peter Ebdon to set up a final against John Higgins. Against all the odds, Paul beat John 9-5 for his first major title and a £60,000 cheque. A new star had arrived on the scene it seemed. Another last 16 spot followed in the Regal Scottish and he was up to 24th in the world rankings. He failed for the third time to qualify for the world championships but his performance in Wales earned him the Snooker Writers Association Young Player of the Year award.
The next season he consolidated his position with a UK semi-final and a quarter-final in the Regal Scottish. He reached the Crucible stage of the world championship at last and this was enough to move him into the to 16 at number 12. He did not live up to expectations in 1999/2000 and was criticised for spending too much time enjoying the good life rather than concentrating on his game. Whatever the reason, he failed to progress beyond the last 16 in any event and three times lost his opening match. His world ranking fell to 14th.
Although he began the 2000/01 season still officially in the top 16, his provisional ranking was down to 18 and it was clear that he needed to get his act together to retain his place in the top flight. He had obviously taken heed of the danger signs as, in the first event of the new season, the British Open, he reached the semi-finals and when he followed this with a quarter-final in the Grand Prix his position was looking much more secure. He lost his opener in the UK but another quarter-final came in the China Open and he followed his with his second appearance in a ranking final. Again it was the Regal Welsh but this time he finished with the runner-up cheque as Ken Doherty proved too good. It was then off to Wembley for what was only his second Masters. He beat holder Matthew Stevens in his opener followed by Peter Ebdon and a semi-final win over Stephen Hendry took him into the final. There he met Irishman, Fergal O’Brien. 2-6 down after the first session, Paul produced a fantastic run including a record four centuries in six frames and eventually clinched the match in the deciding frame well after midnight.  He also had a share in the high break prize and took home £185,000. He was still not finished and notched up another semi-final in the Regal Scottish. He ended the season, after reaching the Embassy last 16, ranked at number nine.
His next season, 2002/02 produced mixed results. He won a second Regal Welsh Open title and retained the B&H Masters at Wembley but failed to win a match in four other events including the world championship. Nevertheless he had done enough to hold on to his ranking position of ninth.
Paul collected his third ranking title in 2002/03 winning the British Open and he passed the magic £1million figure in prize money earnings. He ended the campaign with his best ever world championships just losing in the semi finals in a final frame decider after a fantastic comeback from Ken Doherty. This ensured he moved up to eighth in the rankings. The next season saw him win the Masters for the third time and in ranking events he was runner up in the Players Championship and reached three other quarter finals to move into the world top four for the first time.
Another solid season followed in 2004/5 but towards the end of that campaign came the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with dozens of neuro-endocrine tumours in the stomach, a form of cancer. Despite regular chemotherapy treatment he continued to play throughout the 2005/6 season but his game suffered badly and he dropped right down to 34th in the rankings. When he announced that he would take the whole of the next season off to concentrate on his treatment, World Snooker amended their rules to allow his ranking to be frozen.
However despite all the treatment the tumours continued to grow and finally, on 9 October 2006, at the Kirkwood Hospice in Leeds he lost the battle leaving behind a wife and a nine-month-old  daughter.

Career Highlights
World Championship semi finalist 2003
Masters champion 2001, 2002, 2004
Welsh Open champion 1998, 2002
British Open champion 2002
Welsh Open runner up 2001
Players Championship runner up 2004
© Chris Turner 2010
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