Ashley Carty is hoping for his big sporting break after swapping his football boots for a snooker cue.
The 23-year-old from Thurcroft, Rotherham, dreamed of playing for his boyhood idols Leeds United as a teenager, but opted to chase a career in snooker. And opting for the green baize instead of the green grass of Elland Road is certainly paying off.
He won the English Under-21 Championship in 2014, beating Joe O’Connor 8-3 in the final, before embarking on a successful amateur career.
Then in May he made his big break, winning six matches to earn a two-year professional Tour card at Q School.
“When I was really young, I wanted to be a football player,” Carty told The Yorkshire Post.
“I support Leeds. I used to be pretty good to be fair, played for South Yorkshire, but then took up snooker when I was about eight.
“I then started to get serious about it, I won the Sheffield Under-19s when I was about 12. Ever since then, I moved towards snooker.
“Then when I won a couple of national events, it was too risky carrying on playing football in case of injury. When I got to 14, I realised I wasn’t going to make it at football. I weighed up my chances of what sport I could make it in, and snooker has paid off.
“No regrets, but I would rather be on a footballer’s wage,” he smiled. “I have won a few quid, which takes the pressure off a bit. But if you win games, the money takes care of itself.”
Carty – who lost 4-0 to Kurt Maflin at this week’s Northern Ireland Open – does not have far to travel for his next tournament, this month’s Betway UK Championship at the York Barbican. His only previous appearance in the UK finals – which after the World Championship is snooker’s second biggest tournament – came as a teenage amateur in 2014.
That was my first time at a top event like the UK Championship, and I handled myself pretty well. I enjoyed it.Ashley Carty
He lost 6-1 to Barry Hawkins, but Carty is relishing stepping into the spotlight once again as a full-time professional.
“I played in York four years ago, I lost to Barry Hawkins in the first round,” he said.
“I lost but was on the main table. There were quite a few people watching and I played really well. It could have been a lot closer game than the scoreline suggests. That was my first time at a top event like the UK Championship, and I handled myself pretty well. I enjoyed it.”
Carty has had to adapt to the step-up in quality from the amateur ranks to professional Tour. As an amateur he reached the last 32 of the 2015 German Masters and Welsh Open, experience which can only benefit the rookie.
“I am enjoying it. I got off to a pretty reasonable start to say it’s my first year on the Tour,” said Carty, who beat world No 19 Anthony McGill to reach the last 32 of this season’s Riga Masters.
“There’s a huge difference from amateur to professional. But I had a couple of top-ups into major events which were invaluable, they gave me massive experience against the top players. I know what to expect. I also know that I am capable of competing as well.
“I need to pick points up and really push and get a few last-16s.”
Leeds potter Sanderson Lam, 24, lost 4-1 to Robbie Williams yesterday in the last 32 of the Northern Ireland Open.
The Betway UK Championship runs from Tuesday November 27 to Sunday December 9. Tickets are still available and start at just £8. For details visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets or 0844 854 2757