And Perth potter Scott Donaldson dreams one day of following in the Golden Bairn’s footsteps by lifting the World Championship trophy. And he’ll take a small step towards that ultimate ambition when he plays his first ever professional match on Saturday.
The step up to snooker’s pro ranks has come quickly for the 18-year-old, as it was only last month that he won the European Championship, beating Brendan O’Donoghue 7-3 in the final in Latvia. And now he’s heading south, cue case in hand, to Gloucester to face Liam Highfield in the first round of UKPTC1.
“It’s exciting, I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “Every match will be a challenge, but if I play well I can compete. Everyone on the tour is capable of winning a tournament, that’s how high the standard is. The main thing is to enjoy it but I want to get results as well.
“It will be a massive step up from the amateur game. That’s what people keep telling me anyway! I won’t know for sure what it’s like until I try it.
“I’ve missed the first two ranking events which is a bit annoying. But on the other hand I’m full of confidence having won the European Championship. I was two frames away from making it through Q School which would have allowed me to play in the first two tournaments, but now I’m glad it happened the way it did because I’ve got a title to my name and no one can take that away from me.”
Donaldson first played snooker at the age of seven, on a four-foot table his dad bought for him. By the age of ten he had graduated to a full size table. At 14 he reached the final of the East of Scotland Championship, and within the next three years he was Scottish champion at under-16, under-19 and under-21 level.
But those achievements, however impressive, will count for nothing when he steps into the arena in Gloucester tomorrow.
“I’d always dreamed of turning professional, and not just that but doing something in the game,” he said. “Now I’ve given myself the chance to see what I can do. My ultimate goal is to win the World Championship, though I know that’s not as easy as it sounds!”
Donaldson practises in Edinburgh with the likes of Michael Leslie (another tour debutant this season) and former pro Craig MacGillivray, but intends to make a few trips to the west of Scotland, where the likes of John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Marcus Campbell play.
“John said I could have a couple of games with him when he starts playing again which is fantastic, and I’m going to play with Anthony McGill as well,” said Celtic fan Donaldson.
But sadly he won’t get to practise with his all-time snooker hero Hendry, who retired at the end of last season.
“What Stephen did in the game was incredible, to win 36 ranking events is insane,” added Donaldson. “I used to play against his son Blaine in junior tournaments and he would be there watching, though I never spoke to him. He has always been my idol, along with John Higgins. Stephen was the one who really got the ball rolling for Scottish snooker so those of us who have come after him have a lot to thank him for.”