The two highest single game pinnacles of achievement in darts and snooker are the nine dart game and the 147 snooker break. Both of these have a very special meaning for me. No, I have never achieved such heights of glory myself but just happen to know some players who have. On April 23 1983, watched by millions on television, Cliff Thorburn became the first player to make a 147 break in the World Championship at The Crucible, Sheffield.
Some 18 months later, on October 13 1984, John Lowe hit the first televised nine dart finish at the World Matchplay Championship. In subsequent years I was to play both John and Cliff, but it was not at the oche or on the green baize that we teamed up but rather on the golf course, in The Howard Keel Classic. And in 1985, my Brewery signed a sponsorship with John Lowe that was to last a record number of years.
Both were World Champions. “The Grinder” Thorburn was crowned World Champion in 1980 and World Number 1 the following year. “Old Stoneface” Lowe won the World Championship in three different decades – 1979, 1987 and 1993 (the first player ever to do so) and a plethora of titles and achievements in a career spanning almost 50 years.
John was runner up to Leighton Rees in the first BDO Darts Championship in 1978. But it was another 14 years before another future darts Champion made his debut. Coventry’s Steve Beaton made his World Championship debut in 1992.
In 1993 he achieved a huge upset win over the tournament favourite and former world champion, Dennis Priestley, and beat another former world champion Bob Anderson before losing in the semi-final to Alan Warriner.
Steve became a full-time professional in 1993 and also won the prestigious Winmau World Masters. The World Professional Darts Championship followed in 1996 and he is currently ranked World 23. Nicknamed “The Bronze Adonis”, Steve is one of the best known faces in darts currently.
And without doubt one of the best known faces in the world of snooker is Leicester born Willie Thorne, who turned pro in 1975, reached world ranking 7 in 1987, and was a prolific century break maker (over 145 in his pro career). Willie also made 147 snooker history in the 1987 Tennents UK Championship when he became the first player to make a maximum break in the tournament.
Willie somewhat ironically went on to meet and beat Cliff Thorburn in the Quarter finals. Willie and Cliff faced each other on several occasions; perhaps most notably in the 1985 Mercantile Classic when Thorne clinched the event to record the only ranking tournament win of his career.
Some years later Thorne also won the World Seniors Masters in 2000, again beating Thorburn in the final. Willie has become a popular senior character in the game, commentating on snooker for television and featuring in the popular song “Snooker Loopy”, written and performed by Chas & Dave.
Is that a cue for a song ?