Yorkshire cueman Peter Lines has experienced the sporting adulation of the snooker-mad nation of China but is a virtual unknown in his hometown of Leeds. Richard Hercock reports
Peter Lines had to beat former world champion Ken Doherty just to reach the UK Championship finals and is determined to enjoy being in the national spotlight this weekend.
For the World No 56 had to win three tough qualifying games to secure his place in the first round at the UK finals when they return to York Barbican on Saturday.
The BBC cameras will be camped in North Yorkshire for the nine-day tournament and 42-year-old Lines is determined to make the most of his rare chance in the spotlight.
Two years ago Lines, who supports his snooker career with a day job at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, enjoyed the best tournament of his 20-year career by reaching the quarter-finals of the UK Championship in Telford. Unfortunately, neither of his first two wins over Marcu Fu and Mark Williams were screened live by BBC, so his TV bow saw him crash out in the quarter-finals to Stephen Maguire.
But under a new format in York, with games shortened to best of 11 frames in the early rounds, it means every game will be televised, including Sunday night’s primetime slot when Lines faces Martin Gould, who is still on a high after beating Ronnie O’Sullivan this month in the final of Power Snooker, his first professional title.
“Last time I qualified in 2009 I won two matches at Telford and got to the quarter-finals, but when I played the quarter-final it was the first time I had been on television,” said Lines.
“The two earlier round games weren’t televised, as they had four match tables. Two main ones for the cameras, then two off to the sides. It just depended who you were playing. Even when I played Mark Williams we were round the side, as I think both Ronnie (O’Sullivan) and John Higgins were playing at the same time.
“They featured their matches. So I went and beat Mark Williams and still no-one knew who I was.
“When I got beat (in the televised quarter-final) people were coming up to me and saying ‘Oh I see you lost your first match’, I was like no it was actually my third game.
“I am from Leeds and nobody ever stops me in the street, yet I have been to China and there everybody recognises you. Everybody seems to watch the snooker on TV, so you win a match or feature on TV and you’re like a hero.
“People stop you and ask to have a picture taken with you, it’s a bit weird really.
“I have never played in York before so I am really excited about it.
“I have been to watch before, but never played. It’s funny because if I don’t qualify for a tournament I don’t usually go but I took some friends a few years ago. It’s really nice, and York is a lovely city.”
Lines is guaranteed £2,300 even if he loses his first round match - it’s £100,000 for the tournament winner - but just to get this far and reach the Barbican, Lines had to beat Robin Hull, former Masters winner Alan McManus and 1997 Crucible champion Doherty in the qualifiers.
“It was a tough game against Ken, I was 4-1 down and then 5-3, but managed to win the last three frames,” said the father-of-two. “I should have probably lost 6-4, Ken was in and had a red he should have potted. I played the last four or five reds to level the match at 5-5.
“It was good to show a bit of bottle and clear up.
“Ken is still a quality player, and it’s great to reach the main venue. It’s so tough in the qualifiers, it’s dog eat dog. When you go to the venue, it’s just nice to play, even if you get beat.”
Lines has faced a hectic 12 months under the leadership of World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.
This season has seen him travel to the likes of Belgium, Poland, Ireland and Germany as well up and down the motorways of England, playing in Players Tour Championship (PTC) events, trying to pick up valuable ranking points.
With limited prize money on offer, Lines admits his aim is just to break even by covering his expenses and then hope to cash in by qualifying for the top ranking events like this weekend’s UK Championship.
The new packed snooker calendar has increased the workload for players and Lines conceded it is a struggle juggling his work commitments alongside the extra demands of travelling round Europe competing.
“It’s tough, but it’s worse for me as I still work as well,” he said. “I can’t play snooker full-time, if you’re outside the top 48 you have to have a second income really. When I go away to play in the PTCs, it’s straight back to work on the Monday. Really you need a bit of time off, but I have two kids and have responsibilities.
“I don’t really get any time to rest at the moment, it’s going from tournament to tournament, back to work, then off to another tournament. It’s really hard to juggle everything.
“I have been travelling almost every weekend going to events, and when you are paying your own expenses it does add up.
“Realistically my aim is to break even at the PTCs, the lesser ranking events. If I can break even there, then I can try and earn money at the ranking events.
“Really, you are just looking to get the ranking points.”
Lines fears younger players may be priced out of entering the professional ranks due to the costs, like increased travelling and expenses, and believes in future World Snooker may have to offer some sort of apprenticeship to ease the financial burden in the early years.
“I feel so sorry for the young players coming through because they have got to find so much money and expenses,” said Lines, whose own 16-year-old son Oliver is hoping to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a professional snooker player. “The game’s so hard, and the standard so tough, that you have to be a super special talent to make it these days.
“I would like to see some sort of system for younger kids who get on the Tour, for some sort of sponsorship from World Snooker to help their funding. A kind of apprenticeship to help kickstart them on the road.
“It’s tough for them and for the first few years they are hardly going to earn any money.
“We don’t want kids being unable to fulfil their dream because they can’t afford it.”
William Hill named as York event sponsor
BARRY Hearn has clinched a top-name sponsor for this weekend’s UK Championship at York Barbican.
World Snooker have signed a deal with williamhill.com – an online betting form – to become the title sponsor of snooker’s second largest ranking tournament.
A firm fixture on the sporting calendar since 1977, the £625,000 williamhill.com UK Championship starts this Saturday at the Barbican in York for nine days.
World Snooker chairman Hearn has worked with William Hill in darts, where he is a key figure.
“We’re delighted to welcome William Hill as the new title sponsor of the UK Championship,” said Hearn. “Having worked with their team at the Grand Slam of Darts I know they are a fantastic company, so it’s fitting that they’re sponsoring one of snooker’s biggest tournaments.
“The UK Championship is one of the highlights of the snooker calendar and receives outstanding exposure through coverage on BBC and across the world, providing exceptional brand exposure for the sponsor to hundreds of millions of fans globally.
“It promises to be a superb tournament with 32 of the best players in the world gunning for the title.”
Kristof Fahy, chief marketing officer at William Hill, said: “The UK Championship is one of the crown jewels in the world of snooker and we’re delighted to put our name to such a prestigious event.
“William Hill is a worldwide brand and our sponsorship of the UK Championship gives us the opportunity to promote our online and mobile betting products to a global audience.”
For tickets call 0844 854 2757 or visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets