MICHAEL WHITE was earmarked for stardom at a young age and his capture of the Indian Open on Saturday means he has arrived in the snooker big time.
This is White’s first ranking title at the age of 23. He is the first new ranking event winner since Barry Hawkins secured the Australian Open in 2012.
The unifying factor here is that both players received a huge boost of confidence by winning the Shootout event in Blackpool, in White’s case just a few days before travelling to Mumbai.
Opinions on the Shootout remain divided but let nobody underestimate the boost of confidence received by winning any televised title, particularly when it is your first.
A player may believe they are capable of winning a tournament, they may have been told so by family, friends, media and fans, but until they actually do it then they don’t know for sure.
White went to India safe in the knowledge that he is a winner and underlined it today with victory first over Mark Williams in the semi-finals and then a 5-0 defeat of Ricky Walden in the final.
The future of any professional sport rests on its capacity for renewal. Snooker has been looking for talented young players capable of joining the increasingly ageing elite band of winners. In White, they have found such a man.
He made his first competitive century break at the age of nine and at 14 he won the IBSF World Grand Prix, which was essentially the world amateur championship after this event was cancelled due to an earthquake in Pakistan, where it was to have been played.
White turned professional at 15 but the nit-witted then WPBSA administration refused to let him play in two of the seven ranking events held that season until he turned 16, despite previous dispensations for players such as Shaun Murphy, which the WPBSA denied having given even though they palpably had.
So White was immediately at a disadvantage – no two-year tour cards in those dark days – and was relegated. He got back on two years later.
His chief breakthrough as a pro came at the Crucible in 2013 when he reached the World Championship quarter-finals. Last season, he reached the quarter-finals of the Indian Open.
White will surely become a regular member of the top 16 and still has a chance to gain a Crucible seeding for this year’s event.
He’s the latest talent to come out of Wales, a place which has produced many champions. Williams for one rates him highly and may find himself partnering the young man for Wales in the revived World Cup in June.
The Indian Open gave the chance for lesser known names to do well as several big names stayed away. Everyone raved about the host hotel and the way the players were looked after. Matches were very short and the event was not televised in Europe but hopefully the Indian Open will become a permanent part of the calendar.
Meanwhile White does not have any time to rest on his laurels – he plays in the new World Grand Prix in Llandudno on Tuesday.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.