Mark Williams has called for young Welsh prospects to be handed the two wild-card spots for February’s Home Series tournament in Cardiff.
The two-time world champion has helped mentor Ebbw Vale’s Jackson Page, the 15 year-old who is the reigning world Under-18 champion.
And other young players including Tyler Rees have also caught Williams’ eye as he looks to extend a proud tradition of snooker in the country.
But Willliams, who will now definitely compete at January’s Masters after good run at the Betway UK Championship in York, wants the game’s authorities to give the kids a helping hand.
For many years China has used its ranking events and wild-card places to hand teenagers vital experience, and the likes of Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong benefited hugely.
And Williams would like to see the same thing happen at his home Welsh Open in a little over two months’ time, with Llanelli’s Rees, 17, another strong candidate.
The alternative would be to give them to ex-professionals like Darren Morgan, or those who have already had a crack at the tour like Andrew Pagett.
But Williams said: “There are a couple of good young players at the moment in Wales, which is great news.
“Jackson Page has just turned 15 and he is winning everything. Not many people here have seen him but I think he has just won the world Under-18s.
“There are two wild-cards for the Welsh Open coming up and he should get one.
“Tyler Rees is another one, they are the ones that should be getting the wild-cards, fingers crossed they see sense and the youngsters get them for that tournament.
“I have seen them play both of them, and Jackson has got everything, if he keeps improving then he can do anything. He is just as good as I was at 15 and he’s a big build – massive!
“But if he gets a wild-card and drawn against a good player on TV in Wales he can gain experience.
“One reason the young Chinese players are so good is because they had that chance with wild-cards, and it’s about time we started giving the youngsters the same opportunity in this country.”
Unusually for Williams, normally one of the game’s most laid-back characters, he admitted to being a nervous wreck in the late-night 6-5 win over Liam Highfield.
Both players appeared crippled by the tension as the error count mounted in the latter stages, with the prize of a quarter-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan looming.
Williams added: “The last red he left me to win the match I came over so nervous I couldn’t believe it.
“My legs were moving, my head was shaking, my hands were shaking, I thought ‘Jesus Christ, what’s happening here?’
“It wasn’t game to win £200,000 or a world title, but my God I was twitching all over the place at the end – but he was too, which helped me.
“I can’t remember being that nervous at the end of a match since I played Stephen Hendry with the re-spotted black in the Masters final. It was a horrible feeling.”