Leeds-based David Grace is happy to admit his snooker career is yet to kick into gear – but a trip to Shanghai in September provided the motivation to change that.
The 2005 English Amateur Champion turned professional three years later but it took until this season for him to reach the last 32 of a ranking event – the Shanghai Masters.
The trip was eye-opening for the 28-year-old, who admitted enjoying the celebrity status that came with the event.
He went on to lose in the first round, against seventh seed Barry Hawkins, and was disappointed to suffer the same fate this week at York’s UK Championships, falling 6-3 to China’s Yu Delu.
But Grace – a proud Yorkshireman and Leeds United fan – is desperate to visit the four corners of the earth and trade blows with snooker’s heavyweights.
“It was my first time playing in mainland China and it was unbelievable,” he said. “The support and getting mobbed in the hotels for autographs and stuff like that.
“Obviously I’m not used to that sort of stuff. It was different. Whatever time you went into the hotel, day or night, the same young girls were there trying to get your autograph every time.
“It’s a worldwide tour now and you get to see some good places – I’ve just got to qualify for them. I think India would be quite interesting and I would obviously like to go back to China.
“I want to start getting to business end of tournaments and competing when I do. I’ll have a good tournament and then come up against a top-16 player and I’m not competing with them like I think I should.
“I have started in the gym since January and I have lost about two and a half stone so far and I need to keep that going and avoid the temptations over Christmas.”
Grace was introduced to snooker by his father, Frank, who cut down the legs of a six-foot table to encourage him to play as a kid.
It didn’t take long before the youngster was beating his old man and he went down to Northern Snooker Centre as a ten-year-old, which only fuelled the fire.
“He has always supported me and would take me to play whenever I wanted to, even though he wasn’t that good,” said Grace.
“I think that’s the reason he took me down to the Northern, because I was beating him on the six-foot table.
“He thought ‘if I take him to a big table’ but within a couple of goes I was winning on that as well.
“I knew when I was 16 that I wanted to give it a go full-time but I did my A-Levels, I got those, and then I went full-time at 18. I’ll lose and get in the car and my dad will just go ‘better luck next time’. Sometimes he’s too nice – you want him to just go ‘you played rubbish there’ but he never ever has done. Sometimes I just want him to give me a slap.
“If ever I have needed a bit of helping out with the entry fees they have always paid my way, so it would be nice to pay them back.”
His affiliation with Northern also introduced Grace to Peter Lines and the 2009 UK Championship quarter-finalist has helped encourage him over the years.
“I am lucky, really – it is one of the best clubs in the country and it is the first one we ever went to,” he added. “For a club to have one pro is something special but we kind of take it for granted sometimes that the club has two pros. I have grown up learning off him and picked a lot of it up. He has tried to help me, but I don’t always listen to him.
“We’re off and on, like lovers – we’re like a married couple sometimes.”
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