24 year old Leicesterman Ben Woollaston first turned professional at the age of 17 back in 2004/05. Since then he has fallen off and regained his place on tour several times, but is finally getting some consistency and heading in the right direction on the rankings list, thanks in part to his maiden professional tournament victory in PTC3 this season. I caught up with him at PTC7 for a quick chat.
You just won a PTC event which is your biggest achievement so far, so how was it and what did it mean to you?
It meant a lot to me. I didn’t expect to win going into the tournament, I just wanted to win two matches to secure my place in the top 64, and then it just got better and better. I couldn’t believe I’d won!
How were you feeling once you got as far as the semi-final?
Surprisingly pretty calm, I just enjoyed it.
When did you first start playing snooker?
I started playing at 9 years old. I played pool with my dad from when I was about 4 or 5 in pubs, but when I saw it on tv I decided to start playing snooker.
How was your junior career?
I’d say I had a good junior career. I won 4 times, the UK U-17s, European U-19s and a couple of English U-15s so I won everything really as a junior.
Who were your main rivals in the juniors?
(Jamie) Cope and then Judd (Trump) because I’m in between their ages.
How old were you when you first made a century?
I was 11.
What was it?
120. My high break was 80 and then it jumped to 120.
What’s your highest tournament break?
145. That was in a junior tournament when I was 14.
When did you first seriously think you could make it as a snooker player and turn professional?
Ever since I was doing well in juniors so maybe 13, 14.
How did you come to qualify for the main tour?
I’ve qualified a few times because I’ve fallen off. I qualified through the PIOS, and I qualified when I won the European U-19s as well. I fell off twice and this is my 3rd consecutive year on the main tour now.
And how do you find it?
Well everybody’s good! No result shocks me because everybody can play on the pro circuit now. I don’t think maybe 20 years ago they were all this good, just the top 10 or 20. Maybe 70 now is as good as 20 was 20 years ago.
Apart from the PTC win what have been your biggest matches?
In my second year on tour I got to play Hendry on tv and that was a big experience for me.
And what about most devastating loss?
There’s been a few! Probably losing 10-9 to Darren Morgan in the World Championship in my first year on the tour because it was to stay on the tour. I think that was in 2005.
I hear you’re currently trying to qualify as a coach, so how did that come about?
I did a course in Belarus which is where my wife is from. I’ve advertised it a bit in Leicester but haven’t really had that many responses so far.
Is this something to fall back on or to do as well as being a main tour professional?
Well I thought it was better to get a qualification badge which is why I did the course, but I’m only coaching one person at the moment because I’m too busy playing.
Have you got any favourite players from when you were younger?
Definitely John Higgins. The first World Championship I watched was when he won in 1998, and since then he’s always been my favourite player.
What are your goals for the coming season or seasons?
Well this season my goal by the end of the season is to try and get in the top 48. And I want to get to the venue of either the UK or the Crucible. Preferably both but I’ll settle for one. And then I want to get in the top 32 in the next two to three seasons.
Have you much experience playing in front of big crowds?
Yes in front of crowds, but not too much tv experience.
You’ll be in the PTC finals so you must be looking forward to that?
Yes I’m really looking forward to that. It’s good prize money for someone like me and there are only 24 players and it’s still best of 7 so it’s quite open. I think if a lower ranked player wins it would be nice because it would change their life a bit more than the top players.
What’s your view on the PTC events?
I think they’re really good. We had only 6 tournaments two years ago and that was terrible because if you lost say two first rounds (in the qualifying events) you were thinking that your season was more or less over, and now you’ve got lots of chances to get back.
So that must ease the pressure?
Yes it eases the pressure and you’re getting more match play experience as well. It is expensive having to travel to more tournaments, but you’ve got more chance of winning money. But it is expensive.
If you’re struggling for sponsors it must be tough funding it all?
Even winning the PTC doesn’t cover the expenses for the season so it’s not as good as people think.
Have you ever had thoughts about whether it’s worth it to carry on as a professional? Has it ever got that bad?
No not yet. I’m definitely going to keep going, and try and climb those rankings!
Well best of luck for that and good luck for the season.