Jamie Wilson’s success should inspire the next generation of local snooker starlets
World Snooker coach Tim Dunkley believes Jamie Wilson could be the first in a long line of bright young things from the Portsmouth area to make it to the highest level of the sport.
Havant potter Wilson achieved a feat very few players from the region have managed in recent times by gaining a two-year tour card through Q School last year.
Playing out of Waterlooville Sports Bar, which his parents Suzy and Steve Wilson run, there are minimal cueists from the area the 17-year-old can look up to who had made it into the snooker pro ranks.
Jason Weston was the last player from the PO region to make it onto the main tour, although that was mainly in the 1990s - apart from a single year in 2015 when he re-qualified through Q School. The highest world ranking he achieved was 90 in June 2016.
Yet other than he and Mike Talmondt – who was on the professional tour in the late 1990s - there are few names who have made it to where Wilson currently finds himself in the game.
But Dunkley, who has coached the current world number 125 since 2016, is optimistic that could all be about to change.
He oversees the junior snooker and pool leagues at Waterlooville Sports Bar and feels Wilson’s success can have a knock-on effect.
‘There are youngsters in this area who are knocking on the door,' said Dunkley.
‘What he’s (Jamie) has done is blazed this trail all the way from the junior leagues up to the professional ranks that the others can follow.
‘It’s a case of them seeing that if they do well on the junior leagues they can do well at Cuestars, go up to the gold tour, get on the regional tour, premier tours and they can do what Jamie did if they think ‘I really want it and if I’m prepared to work hard’.
‘There are some that come through and Jamie has proved it.
‘The great thing is that the boys - and the girls - in our junior section at Waterlooville will be in the club playing and Jamie might be over on the Star table.
‘They all know him so it’s all very familiar. He’ll come over and they’ll be chatting about some video game, but then he might give them a frame.
‘They’re mixing with a professional and they don’t realise the benefit they’ve got.'
Dunkley is excited by the current crop coming through at Waterlooville Sports Bar in both snooker junior leagues.
He pinpointed Havant-based Owen Jenkins, 12, and 10-year-old Portsmouth potter Keira Hiscock as ones to keep an eye on.
But Dunkley says these youngsters will have no chance of making it as a professional if they do not continue to put the hard yards in.
He acknowledged that can prove difficult as promising prospects progress through their teenage years.
Dunkley said: ‘You have to work hard, you’re not just going to get there by smashing balls around the table. You’ve got to get stuck in with it.
‘They need to get on the table on their own, they need to challenge themselves, they need to set targets and they need to work hard.
‘It’s not just a case of putting the hours in, Jamie has realised that. It’s all well and good saying you’ve put the hours in, but what did you do?
‘Being a regular century-maker just sort of gets you in through the door if you like, it doesn’t prove anything at all.
‘There’s a lot of progress you need to make, there’s a lot of hard work you need to do and there’s a lot of things that can go wrong.
‘You’re talking about teenagers and they’re going through the teenage years where they can drift away and get involved with women, drink and all that sort of stuff.
‘There are some that come through and Jamie has proved it.'
Dunkley's working pattern has changed somewhat over the past year or so.
His usual packed week spending '60-80 hours' as a full-time coach and running junior leagues at Waterlooville Sports Bar and Chandler's Ford Snooker Club has a much different look.
Both centres are currently closed because of the nationwide lockdown and Dunkley even admitted a number of clubs might not make it through the other side of the pandemic.
But he remains confident Waterlooville Sports Bar will be back flourishing in the future despite Covid-19 - largely because of the selfless way owners Suzy and Steve Wilson run operations.
‘Some of the talent coming through this area, I’ve never seen anything like it before,' he added.
‘We will lose some (players) but we can start again. If we’ve built it up to this stage we can build it up again as long as we have the support of the clubs.
‘If you don’t have the support of the clubs, it isn’t going to happen.
‘Waterlooville - and the same at Chandler’s Ford - they put the juniors first. It’s not a case of they can let me have so many tables, it’s a case of them asking whether they can have a table for a customer.
‘If I need all nine tables I get all nine tables and the customers will get turned away. That would not happen in another business, but that’s costing them money.
‘Suzy runs the junior leagues at a loss and there aren’t many people that would be prepared to do that.'