VIRTUALLY every young Scottish player showing real promise has to deal with the proud snooker traditions of the country, and hopes that they can emulate the likes of Stephen Hendry and John Higgins.
Perth’s Scott Donaldson, just 19 and now based in Edinburgh where he practises with another hopeful in Michael Leslie, is the latest and has made a pretty decent fist of his second season on the main tour.
After reaching the last 16 at the Wuxi Classic last summer and then the last 32 at the UK Championship in York before Christmas, Donaldson was at it again at the BetVictor Welsh Open where a shock win over top-16 player Rob Milkins was followed up with victory over David Gilbert.
Currently ranked 77 in the world, Donaldson does not have to worry about his tour place despite not being in the top 64 on prize money provisionally, having comfortably secured another two years via his place on the Players Tour Championship rankings.
But an indication of Donaldson’s motivation can be seen in his desire not to have to rely on that route, but to be in the top 64 on merit by the end of the season.
For that he will need to move up the table by around £2,500 at the time of writing, and for future travel plans Donaldson also learned another salutary lesson in Newport having forgotten his passport and misjudged a start time for a planned flight home after the win over Milkins.
Happily four-time world champion John Higgins was able to help out with a lift home over the weekend, and Donaldson admits that the encouragement from Scottish elders he admired as a child has made life on tour a lot easier.
Donaldson said: “It was a strange start to the event in Wales, beating Rob after booking a flight home for that night. I finished that late I didn’t get it, but to be honest I forgot my passport as well which wouldn’t have helped at the airport.
“I ended up actually glad I finished too late, or I wouldn’t have found out until check-in. But John gave me a lift home the next day, it was good of him and he is a great guy.
“It has been a good season, I got to the last 16 in Wuxi and the last 32 at the UK Championship. You just have to keep trying to put the performances in and see how you get on, you don’t always win which is tough, but you just want to play well.
“I am based in Edinburgh and I go through to Glasgow now and then to play the big guys, but mainly I practise with Michael Leslie, I meet him and play a lot of games.
“We all know that Scotland has a proud tradition of snooker and are very aware of it, but it is difficult to follow in the footsteps of players like Stephen Hendry and John Higgins, these are among the greatest players that have ever played the game.
“If Hendry had never played there probably wouldn’t have been all these other Scottish players anyway coming through, Alan McManus, Higgins, Graeme Dott, Marcus Campbell and Stephen Maguire. There are so many good players in Scotland.
“And what is nice is that the guys at the top really encourage us younger players, it is really appreciated. They are always nice to you, they look out for you and say well done if you get a good result at a tournament.
“It is great to hear from people that you grew up admiring. I grew up a huge fan of John Higgins and now he is giving me a lift back from tournaments in his car and helping me with advice.
“I found the first year on tour very daunting. I didn’t feel I did too badly but you don’t have to do a lot wrong to get some disappointing results. This year has also been tough but my performances have improved, and I feel good out there and am not shy to score heavily.
“I think I am doing okay and hopefully am close to a big breakthrough. I don’t keep close track of my results but I feel I have won a fair few this season and am still not in the top 64, so I need to keep going. To finish in the top 64 I am £2,000 to £3,000 off, I am already on again via the PTC list but it would be great not to have to rely on that and get in the 64. I don’t want to stay on that way.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos