English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Amateur Billiard Player : May 1998

The Amateur Billiard Player : May 1998

The Game of Billiards

Tom Terry with John Barrie
The Amateur Championship

Sunday January 25th saw the preliminary rounds of the English
Amateur. I could never have won the Amateur but I think that
I may just possibly hold one record and that is for having
played in more different areas than anybody else. I have played
in the Notts Area, Notts and Derby, Derbyshire, Yorkshire,
Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Peterborough. I
was once drawn in the Home Counties but had to withdraw. I
think the reason was that I was something of a billiards loner
in Nottingham and the authorities stuck me in any old area
where they needed someone to make up the numbers.

This year I played at the Breaks club in Lincoln. The billiards
was extremely well organised by a Mr. Bernard Barker
supported by a squad of referees, markers and recorders. All
the players and officials were made most welcome by the club
owners and given a free drink token. A young chap brushed
and cleaned the tables after every game. I think that most of us
would agree that the playing conditions for billiards in many
clubs are not always of the best, but at the Breaks club the
conditions were excellent.

A Personal Reminiscence

I had played in the Amateur at this club before and have a
rather humorous recollection of the occasion. It must have
been some ten or eleven years ago, maybe more, and there
were just four players. Mick Andrew from Skegness, Bill
Watson of Grimsby, Bill Turner also of Grimsby, and myself.

All players of a certain age will, I’m sure, remember Bill Turner.
He was said to be a wonderful player in practice, capable of
big breaks and an expert nursery cannon player. Somehow or
other he seemed quite unable to demonstrate this ability when
playing in matches and I never saw him make even a fifty
break. On the day in question, I played Bill Watson, a good
solid left hander who beat me, whilst Bill Turner was beaten
by Mick Andrew. Watson then played Andrew for the
qualifying place.

I stood by the bar to watch a little of the Watson/Andrew
game. Bill Turner, who was very fond of a cigar, stood nearby
blowing a foul cloud of smoke all over the place causing me to
cough and splutter.

“Well,” he said addressing no-one in particular, “Well”
He leaned against the bar, put his head back and blasted a
cloud of ash, sparks, and smoke towards the ceiling.

He turned to me, “Well,” and then again—much louder—
“Well.” He continued in measured, deliberate tones, “It says
in all the books (puff) that in a game of billiards lasting (hacking
cough) an hour or more,” (pause for breath) “It says,” (another
reeking cloud blasted over everyone within range,)
“It says that in a game of an hour or more, (gasp, ahrrrr) the
run of the balls will even out.”

He grabbed his cue case and made to depart. On reaching the
door, he turned, pointed the cigar at me like the lethal weapon
it actually was and as though something or other were all my
fault, and in tones of bitter disgust bawled,
“Well, I can tell you that it’s not f***ing true!”

And with that he disappeared in a puff of smoke like a stage
magician. I suppose that Bill reckoned he had had a bad run.

For some weird reason Bill turned professional, his first match
was against Roxton Chapman and in his second he held the
other cue whilst Mike Russell performed. I saw a little of both
these games and it was not a pretty sight. I do not know what
has happened to him, I have not heard anything about him for
some years. Bill Watson too seems to have disappeared from
the game. He was a pretty good player, I believe he had played
snooker for England.

This year I played a chap called C. Payne. I won fairly
comfortably as Mr Payne did not do too well and I am sure can
play much better than he did. I then played Phil Welham and
was well beaten.

My best year was in 1982 when (Derby area) I qualified by
beating Herbert Beetham who, although well past his best,
was still a formidable opponent, and Jim McCann against
whom I had breaks of 128 and 136 in succession. The
competition proper was played at the Widnes Snooker Centre.

I got to the last eight by beating Ian Williamson who had not
then turned professional. I was thrashed in the quarter final
by Bill Eady of Peterborough. I didn’t play at all badly but
Eady was a much better player and, at the time, one of the best
billiards/snooker players in the country. A year or two later
poor Bill contracted cancer and died when still quite young.

There are no prizes for guessing who won the championship
that year.
In the final Bob Close scored 2,169 points at an average of
26.4, but his opponent scored more than twice as many with
14 centuries and a highest of 427. I don’t have to tell you
who—do I?

Potting

I have mentioned that I played Phil Welham. The last time I
played him was in an ABC tournament at Nuneaton where he
made a very good spot-end century against me. This time he
did not play quite so well. His touch at the top-of-the-table
play let him down a little, once he recovered with a very nice
little masse”, a shot that very few amateurs can play well. What
did not let him down was his potting.

Ah yes, the potting!

There is not the slightest doubt that the standard of potting
amongst young amateur players is now higher than it has ever
been. The technique of cueing and striking has evolved. The
square stance, the grip and wrist action of the modem player
is quite different to the cuemen of years ago—and they are
consequently much better potters. This leads inevitably to an
earlier mastery of spot end play and the ability to score bigger
breaks more quickly than ever the red-ball or all-round player
could. Intelligent and talented youngsters like Causier or Shutt
needed only a year or two of watching the established
professionals to become double century break players for the
simple reason that when in trouble they could recover position
time and again by virtue of their extraordinary ability to down
the red no matter how tricky the pot seemed. Chris Shutt won
the Amateur Championship at the age of just turned 18 and in
the final made a break of 566, a break containing dozens of
firmly played positional pots at the top end. How many times
have I heard older players sighing, “f I could only pot like
that.”

There is nothing wrong with playing an open game—of course
there isn’t—but, as I have heard Geet Sethi say more than
once, top-of-the-table is mainly about rhythm, once flowing it
is essential to keep the rhythm going and the only way to
build up confidence and proficiency. This is not to say that a
player should play silly strokes to stay at the head of the
table, of course not, but neither must he be too conservative
in his play or be over worried about breaking down—the breaks
will come. This is not to say that a player should not sometimes
voluntary leave the top during the course of a break in order
to vary his play—of course he should. The point is that any
ambitious player has to be proficient at the top end, there is no
argument that there lies the road to success in the modern
game. A man may practice the red ball and all-round game for
hours on end but the brutal truth is that when he comes up
against a spot end expert he will be beaten almost every time
and certainly if the game is of any length. For those of us who
have no ambitions, who simply like to play a game of billiards
in the traditional way it doesn’t matter, but for those players,
not excluding older players, who still hanker after a win here
and there, you have got to be able to get your pretty regular
50’s and more at the top, and to do this you have to improve
your potting—or the young Teessider’s are going to eat you
up!


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