England Under-21 champion Ashley Carty is hoping to dig out a career in snooker.
For the 19-year-old – who beat Joe O’Connor 8-3 to lift the national title earlier this year – hails from South Yorkshire mining village Thurcroft.
Previous generations of his family worked as miners but Carty has his sights on a full-time career on the green baize.
“My grandad used to work down the pit,” he said. “Thurcroft is a mining village.”
Carty juggles his snooker practice – five hours a day at the Players’ Lounge club in Sheffield – with a sports apprenticeship in schools coaching.
After twice missing out at Q School on a prized Tour card, which gains access to the snooker calendar, Carty hopes his hard graft will bring its rewards this season.
“I normally train about five hours a day but I have a part-time job as well so try and work it around that,” said Carty. “I am an apprentice sports coach, which includes sports like basketball, football, around South Yorkshire. We go into primary schools and coach.
“I normally finish the coaching around 1pm, then I’m at the snooker club from 3-8pm. There’s not much time for anything else.”
His performances at Q School have earned him invites to most tournaments this season, and he faces Barry Hawkins in the first round of the UK Championship at York’s Barbican on Tuesday. He is undaunted at playing an opponent who is ranked No 5 in the world and who spent eight successive seasons in the top 32 and reached the final of the World championship in 2013.
Carty played Hawkins three years ago when aged just 16 and still feels he performed better than the 4-1 scoreline suggests.
“It was at an event in Scotland,” he recalled.
“I won the first frame, but he won 4-1. I felt like I gave him it, the first two frames I should have won to go 2-0 up. If he has a bad day and I have a good day, you never know. I feel like I am a much better player now than when I was 16.
“I can’t wait, I am really excited. I am playing in the main arena, and will have quite a few people travelling up to watch.”
Carty was first introduced to snooker aged eight with Sunday trips to the local club with his father, where his talents were first spotted.
“We used to play a couple of frames, and my dad saw something in me,” he added.
“I went to a coach at Worksop, who also saw something, and I just took it from there.
“I want to become a full-time professional. I just missed out at Q School the last two years, by the odd frame, so I am getting close. Hopefully, this year I can go one further – third time lucky – and get on Tour. That’s the target.”
Carty’s best performance this season saw him reach the last 64 of the Australian Open.
While wins have been in short supply, the teenager believes playing against seasoned professionals can only help his long-term aim of competing on the Tour.