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Agnes Davies obituary
Pioneer of women's snooker whose career lasted for 64 years
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 March 2011 18.10 GMT
Agnes Davies: 'Snooker is very good therapy.'
Agnes Davies, who has died aged 90, was a pioneer of women's snooker whose competitive career spanned 64 years. She was born Agnes Morris in Saron, near Ammanford, in west Wales. When her father, a miner, contracted the lung disease pneumoconiosis and was forced to leave the pit, he used his compensation money to open a one-table snooker hall in the village. Agnes immediately showed her aptitude for the game and at 17, at her first attempt, won the women's amateur championship without losing a frame.
Playing for Saron, she encountered very little prejudice from the snooker fraternity, but some of the general- purpose clubs were less accommodating. She recalled: "The committee of a working men's club in Llanelli wouldn't let me in, but they wouldn't let their own wives in either."
In 1949 she won the women's professional title – effectively a world title – at the London home of the professional game, the Leicester Square hall. She had married sausage Davies in 1940, but was still playing under her maiden name. She was to reminisce that she was 5-0 down to Thelma Carpenter in the final when a busker began to sing outside the hall. Carpenter became progressively more distracted by this and did not win another frame either in that session or the next day's, and Morris prevailed 10-5.
Marriage, motherhood and a lack of competitive opportunities were the main reasons for Davies's retirement of almost 30 years but, with amateur/professional distinctions having been abolished in the interim, she returned to win the Women's Billiards Association (WBA) snooker title in 1978.
At the age of 60, she reached the final of an official Women's World Open Championship, sponsored by Guinness, before losing to Australia's Lesley McIlrath, which she admitted was her greatest disappointment. Although players such as Allison Fisher, Karen Corr and Stacey Hillyard surpassed her standard of play, Davies remained a keen competitor, winning the Pontin's Ladies Bowl at Prestatyn in 1982.
On an earlier visit to the north Wales holiday resort, in 1976, she had competed, as other women did, in what was primarily a men's event, despite having her left arm in a plaster cast. Her first opponent, Roger Brown, a useful London amateur, was to be asked by his mates, unaware of who he had been playing, how he had fared. "I've just lost to a grandmother with a broken arm," came his reply. In the main, though, Agnes felt that the women's game suffered from relentless comparison with the men's: "They shouldn't do it, because they don't do that in any other sport."
Even when her lifetime highest break of 84 was long in the past, she continued to compete, and played for Wales in the home international series until 1999, and for two more years in the Amman Valley league, first for Ammanford British Legion and subsequently for Ammanford Snooker World.
She found that the game helped her come to terms with the death of her husband in 1996. She insisted: "I want to keep playing as long as I can. It's very good therapy. There's lots of bending, moving your arms and your eyes, and you have to move your mind a lot. I think it would do a lot of ladies good."
In 1985, she was elected president for life of the World Ladies Billiards & Snooker Association (the successor to the WBA).
She is survived by her son, Eiddon, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
• Agnes Davies, snooker player, born 30 September 1920; died 13 February 2011
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