Shootout looking the salvation for Lines of succession

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Professional Peter Lines and son Oliver, the former English Under-14 champion.  Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Professional Peter Lines and son Oliver, the former English Under-14 champion. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Peter LINES spends his days pulling pints at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds to help pay the family mortgage.

But today the 41-year-old will pack his snooker cue and head to Blackpool for the inaugural Snooker Shootout, one of the first players to benefit from World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn’s new plans for the sport.

Ranked a career-high 41 in the world, Lines plays the circuit, travelling to qualifying events around the country and has experienced the hardships that go hand-in-hand with being a professional sportsman on the lower rungs of the ladder.

The Shootout – televised over the weekend on Sky – sees the world’s top 64 players play a one-frame match lasting just 10 minutes and whoever has most points when the clock runs out, wins. The rules have been tweaked meaning one foul and the game could be over, leaving stars like John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan walking a tightrope towards Sunday’s £32,000 top prize.

“This weekend’s tournament will be great, it will be very exciting. With the £32,000 first prize it gives anybody in the top 64 a chance of winning a big lump of money in one go,” said Lines. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lower-ranked player win it. With the rules as they are, where you can pick up the white, you are just one shot away from going out, whether you are Ronnie O’Sullivan or someone ranked a lot lower like myself.

“I think a lot of players will get caught out during the weekend by forgetting the rules. You will have to be on your toes. There are no ranking points, so it’s purely for the money which should make it exciting.

“I think even the senior professionals will want to win it. Ronnie O’Sullivan, in some of the ranking tournaments, his heart doesn’t seem in it. But I think in this tournament, he loves to entertain and this is right up his street.”

Lines, who turned professional 20 years ago, is looking to become a pioneer in Hearn’s snooker evolution. Not only for his benefit as a player, but for the next generation, like 15-year-old son Oliver, who was the Under-14 English champion last year.

New tournaments have been introduced to the snooker calendar, and while Lines and others down the food chain have struggled financially to travel and compete in Europe, the Leeds potter believes their sacrifices will help the game grow.

“Everyone wants more tournaments, but the way some have been structured make it expensive to take part,” he said. “If you haven’t got a sponsor, you struggle to get to all the tournaments. I don’t have a sponsor so have to pay my own way. I managed to win a few quid, but I know a lot of players who didn’t. I bet over half the players ended up losing money.

“My son would like to be a professional. Hopefully, by putting the effort in now, there will be a game left for him to play for the next 20 or 30 years. That’s why I am fully behind Barry Hearn, willing to make sacrifices now.”

Lines looked to have a promising future, reaching the World Championship at the Crucible in 1998 only to exit in the first round to John Parrott, before beating John Higgins 5-1 in reaching the China International quarter-finals 12 months later.

Personal problems, including a divorce, meant he lost focus and Lines only returned to the tour in 2008, thanks to the coaching help of the late Steve Prest.

Lines beat former world champion Mark Williams and World No 8 Marco Fu in reaching the UK Championship quarter-finals in 2009, and he harbours hopes of a return to the Crucible.

“I am fairly optimistic I can get there again. I have worked hard the last few years, moved up the rankings and am 41st in the world now. It’s been hard work, but I am just loving it and hoping for some rewards.”

Tonight sees 32 matches before Lines faces Barry Hawkins tomorrow at the Circus Arena.

“I might only be there for five minutes but I am going to stay for the weekend and just enjoy it and, hopefully, win a few matches. You get £500 even if you get beat first round, so that will at least pay for the hotel.”