Bedford’s 18 year old amateur protege Sam Harvey is fast approaching the main tour. Last weekend he notched up his first ever televised victory when he defeated the highly rated local prospect, 22 year old professional David Morris, 4-1 at PTC8 in Killarney, Ireland. A match which was seen across Europe via Eurosport as well as globally on the internet. Almost exactly a year ago Sam announced himself to the snooker world by becoming the youngest player ever to exceed a break of 147, when at the age of 17 he registered a break of 151. Kicking off with a free ball extra red, he went on to clear the table taking 13 blacks, 2 pinks and a blue along the way. I caught up with Sam at PTC7 in Gloucester to find out more about him.
Roland Cox: Can you tell us when you first started playing snooker?
Sam Harvey: I first started playing on a full size table when I was 13 but I had a little table at home from when I was about 7.
RC: How old are you now?
SH: I turned 18 a few weeks ago.
RC: So you’ve only been playing on a full size table for 5 years. What’s happened since you were 13 and started playing on a full size?
SH: Well it took me about 7 months before I made my first century. I was practicing every day for maybe 8 or 9 hours, and then I started entering tournaments and I made a maximum at 14 which is when I thought I’d got a chance to make it, and since then I’ve been entering as many tournaments as I can and it’s gone on from there.
RC: Who are the players you’ve grown up practicing with?
SH: It started off with local club players and then I started getting some encouragement from Nigel Gilbert, an ex-pro, and he set me up to play Joe Perry, (Anthony) Hamilton, (Neil) Robertson so obviously that’s helped my game a lot.
RC: Do you still practice with them?
SH: Yes because I’m based in Bedford and they’re in Cambridge which is just 40 minutes away so I go there a lot and play them. And Kyren Wilson is in Northampton which is 30 minutes away so I practice with him a lot as well, and we’re good friends so it’s easy for us to play for a long time.
RC: When you were younger did you watch the snooker a lot on tv?
SH: Yeah I always loved it.
RC: Who were your favourites?
SH: Higgins and Ronnie were my two favourites. Higgins was my first favourite, and when you get older you appreciate them even more, like Selby as well, the older you get the more you appreciate how good they are.
RC: How would you describe your style of play?
SH: I’d say I was quite attacking, but since I’ve been with Nigel I’ve got more of an all-round game so my safety and tactical games have improved as well. So potting and scoring is how I started, but I’ve gradually improved everything else.
RC: Being from Bedford, I guess you would have played in some of the junior events held in Leicester run by Malcolm Thorne?
SH: Yes I won a couple of them, and they were important tournaments because they had all the top juniors, and you learn a lot from playing them. There was Rushden as well which had another really good tournament with a lot of top juniors, so I entered a lot of them as well.
RC: Did you play in the PIOS before the PTCs came around?
SH: Yes I did the PIOS when I turned 16, and I got to the last 32 three times so I was happy with that and felt the next year I could have pushed on and become a challenger, but it stopped. The PTCs are as good as if not better than the PIOS because you’re playing all the best players.
RC: You’ve been on the live stream twice now I think so did you enjoy it?
SH: I played Judd on one and I felt I held it together quite well. In the first couple of frames I had a 40 and a 60 but through a lack of experience I threw it away I guess, but I’ve learnt from it. Sometimes you can learn so much from just one match.
RC: You had a good run in the Pink Ribbon didn’t you?
SH: Yeah I got to the quarter-finals in that and had a good tournament. I beat Barry Hawkins which was a good win.
RC: What have been your best results?
SH: The Pink Ribbon is up there. I reached a few semi-finals in national tournaments as well but I always seemed to lose which used to annoy me!
RC: Did you lose to the same players?
SH: Well I lost to Sam Craigie two years in a row in the semis.
RC: Good player.
SH: Yeah he’s done well has Sam but I think I’m more of a player now than I was then so I’m looking to get a couple of good results this season.
RC: Do you feel you’re improving all the time?
SH: Oh yeah. I feel I’ve improved the most in the last few months.
RC: Are you playing in all the PTCs?
SH: Yes. I had a slow start, but then I had some tough draws like Selby and Trump. It’s hard to play well when they’re playing well! (laughs)
RC: Is the step up really obvious and you know what you’ve got to do in order to compete with them?
SH: Yeah. I thought I was doing well as a junior, then all of a sudden playing in the PIOS and PTCs you’re getting bashed up every week! But it helps you because you can’t do anything but change your shot selection to stop it from happening.
RC: I’ve watched you a few times and you appear to have a lot of bottle. How do you feel you cope with the pressure?
SH: Everyone feels pressure, but I like pressure. It’s what we all play snooker for at the end of the day. If you can’t handle the pressure then you’re not going to be a really good snooker player. But yeah I guess I have got a bit of bottle and if you’ve got it then that’s a good thing I guess!
RC: Do you have any interests outside of snooker?
SH: I like football, support Tottenham and we’re doing alright so hopefully we’ll finish above Arsenal this year. And I used to play golf before I was a snooker player but I had a problem with my arm so I had to stop. But yeah, just the usual things, chill out with friends, that sort of thing.
RC: Have you set yourself any targets for the future?
SH: I don’t like to look too far ahead but I’ll just try and get as many results as I can. As long as you do your best and give yourself the best chance then that’s all you can do, and if you win you win and if you lose you lose. Obviously I’ve got aspirations to get to the top, but I’ve got to work hard and practice all I can and try and keep improving.
RC: How many hours do you practice?
SH: I’m doing a minimum of 6 hours a day at the moment. For a while I was slacking off and getting to that teenage age where you just want to go out with your friends but Nigel’s got me practicing a lot so it’s 6 hours minimum a day now which is what you’ve got to do to get to the top. You don’t get there by slacking! If you’re not enjoying practice it’s tough, but I’m enjoying it at the moment.
RC: How are you coping financially with the demands of the PTCs?
SH: I’m lucky because Nigel and his brother who owns the snooker club I play at have got me a consortium together, so I’ve got a group of sponsors putting money in and paying for all the tournaments at the moment.
RC: So that eases the pressure a bit when you’re out there playing?
SH: Yeah it’s brilliant. My nan has helped the most and is the main sponsor in the consortium, and I’ve also got another sponsor from London who my nan works for, so financially I’m lucky. There are a lot of players who can’t afford it and I can so I’m lucky to be in a good position.
RC: Thank you Sam and all the best for the future.