Prompted by a tactful question from the ever-professional Hazel Irvine, Ronnie O’Sullivan paid a heartfelt and generous tribute to Paul Hunter on Sunday night after winning his record seventh Masters title.
There will be something more substantial on here later today about the Rocket’s achievement, but I would just like to dwell for a moment on the Leeds man who died just over 10 years ago now at the tragically young age of just 27 – and his brave parents Alan and Krystina.
The re-naming of the trophy in Paul’s honour was a fitting and overdue gesture from World Snooker, and credit to chairman Barry Hearn and others involved for realising it.
The first time the trophy was presented after last April’s decision was always going to be an emotional occasion, and more so once it was decided that Paul’s father Alan would present it.
His parents are two people that have done their grieving mainly in private away from the public gaze, and only those who have suffered the same terrible loss could possibly imagine what it must be like to lose a precious child in such circumstances.
World Snooker, the BBC, Eurosport and the written media did everything they could to pay the correct respect with the right tone to Paul, not only for his achievements in the tournament with three thrilling wins, but as a man.
But no matter how much care was taken, and no matter how much those efforts were appreciated by Paul’s family, there must have been aspects of the evening that were something of an ordeal for them with memories of their beloved son flooding back.
I had a very brief word with Alan in the after-final party before heading home. He had shown such dignity all night, and admitted that the evening had been difficult at times for both of them.
All you could really say was that hopefully he had found the evening a fitting tribute for his popular son, and say once again how much he was missed by the snooker community as well as his family and friends.
You can only speak best from your own experiences and I think every colleague would agree that Hunter was a joy to interview, and brought a box-office glamour to the game unmatched by any player other than O’Sullivan in recent years.
It showed enormous courage from the Hunter family taking part in the proceedings last night, I am sure handing over the trophy to a player that had a lot of time for Paul and was at his funeral meant something, and if O’Sullivan took the tournament honours then for me Paul’s parents were not far behind.