Shaun Murphy, the former snooker world champion, produced a remarkable rant following his UK Championship first-round exit on Monday, moaning “it is not fair” for his amateur vanquisher to play in professional tournaments… two years after Murphy tried to qualify for golf’s Open Championship as an amateur.
Murphy, a beaten finalist at this year’s World Championship, was dumped out of the 128-man tournament in York by China’s Si Jiahui, who fell off the main tour at the end of last season and entered the competition as an amateur to top up numbers.
Having fallen 5-1 behind, Murphy won the next four frames to force a decider before 19-year-old Si took a 6-5 win.
“I am going to sound like a grumpy old man but that young man shouldn’t be in the tournament,” Murphy told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It is not fair, it is not right. I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building.
“I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments. This is our livelihood. This is our living. We are self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.
“The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it is their livelihood too. It is wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who is not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am.
“He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. It is not fair, it is not right.
“I am not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory. Amateurs should not be allowed in professional tournaments, the end.
“This is our livelihood. This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I have earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that. He shouldn’t be on the table.”
Murphy, who has a scratch golf handicap, attempted to qualify for the 2019 Open Championship as an amateur, telling Golf Monthly: “I think the one thing I do have going for me is that I already have a full-time job. Golf isn’t my livelihood.
“Relative to the other players I will be playing against, it doesn’t really matter to me if I win or lose. I won’t be under the pressure they are under. Most of them are trying to win the Open Championship. I am just trying to have a good day out.”
He failed to advance from the first stage of regional qualifying.
World Snooker Tour issued a robust response, saying it “strongly disagreed” with Murphy’s claims and insisting the opportunity for young amateur players to compete on the biggest stage formed a “crucial part” of their development.
The organisation said in a statement: “Si Jiahui earns a place in ranking tournaments this season as one of the leading players on the 2021 Q School rankings. While he may have amateur status, he deserves his place in our events, based on his results.
“Amateurs play under the same rules as professionals, they can earn prize money and places on the World Snooker Tour based on results.
“Many elite amateur players like Si Jiahui train and compete full-time in the hope of earning a guaranteed tour place, therefore they are competing under significant pressure with no guarantees.
“Providing opportunities for the best amateur players is important for our growth as a sport and that is something that Shaun benefitted from during his early days as a player.
“We have come a very long way as a global sport over the past decade and that has partly been down to the structures we have built both at professional and grassroots level worldwide.
“For the best young players, the chance to compete on the big stage is a crucial part of their development and the development of the sport as a whole.
“We respect Shaun’s opinions, but in this case we strongly disagree with his comments.”
This season there are only 122 professional players on the World Snooker Tour, mainly because a number of the amateur tournaments which offer tour cards as prizes were not played due to the pandemic.
This means the best amateurs, ranked by virtue of their performances at Q School – in which Si finished fifth – are effectively guaranteed a ‘top-up’ place in 128-strong tournaments.