Michael White, snooker's Welsh child prodigy, may have found the transition
to professional tough but, as he explains to Paul Kelly, the future looks good
Redhanded: Is it true you’re officially the youngest player to have scored a century?
Michael White: Yeah, it was a competitive league match. I can remember it as though it was yesterday. It got me an invite to the World Championships where they did a piece on theT V on me and Judd Trump and gave us free
tickets for the semi-finals - which was great fun at only 9-years-old.
Was that when you decided you wanted be a professional snooker player?
Sort of. People started saying I was very good at a young age but it wasn’t really until I won the world amateur at 14 – I knew then that I had a really good chance to do it as a career.
How did you get so good so young – was it just practice?
I did practice a lot but not every day as I was obviously still in school and had other interests, especially football which I gave up at 12 after winning the Welsh under 14s at 11. That motivated me to keep winning. And at 12 or 13
I was able to start practising on a full size table in my nan’s garage. It was about that time that I really started to put the practice in.
Any big-name scalps in the early days?
I won a scholarship at 14 to go up to Scotland and train with Stephen Hendry. I went up with Terry Griffiths and played Hendry and Steve Maguire, who I think I might have beaten, which was great for me at that age.
Prior to turning professional, did you have your career mapped out, what you wanted to achieve and by when?
No, not really. I don’t set goals for myself – I just practice, prepare well then turn up wanting to win. I don’t say to myself I want to win a particular tournament or get to a certain point in the rankings.
How did you find the transition from amateur to professional?
Probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with as a snooker player because I went from winning everything as an amateur to no success at all early on, losing regularly in the first or second rounds. Dropping off the tour was probably the lowest point. At 16 there was a lot of talk about me not being good enough and giving in but I had good people around me who convinced me that I was and encouraged me to have another year as an amateur. Then come back stronger at 17 and push on.
Is the step up to professional difficult in terms of the quality of the play or is it the environment?
It’s the conditions. It is far more serious, which I really struggled to deal with. Completely different levels of pressure. I was technically good enough but too young to cope at 16.
What’s life like as a young pro trying to work your way up the ladder?
Lots of practice and a lot of travelling, which I enjoy. It can be quite isolated but you get friendly with the other players. There’s a lot of camaraderie on the circuit and a fair few jokers who like messing about and having a laugh off the table. Lately, we’ve been playing badminton which is good fun because none of us can beat Mark Williams which gives him the chance to wind us all up.
What have been the high points so far?
It would have to be the quarters of the World. I got to the quarters in India in October and I was bitterly disappointed to lose having been two balls away from going into the semis – Jim (Maguire) just did a ridiculous clearance out of nowhere. I was sick as I had one foot in the semi and really fancied going all the way.
Are you starting to feel like you will go all the way?
Yes, in most games my form is good enough to win the tournament. But then I’ll have a dip whereas the top boys don’t tend to do that. But hopefully with more time and experience that consistency will come.
There are more qualifying tournaments and rounds than ever – does that make it tough, financially, for younger players?
Yes, I know that some of the players lower in the rankings struggle to cover the travel costs, especially if they haven’t got a sponsor but luckily I’m doing well enough for it not to be a problem.
Does the dedication needed to succeed mean you rarely get to do the things that most people your age are doing?
Yeah. Most of my mates go out a lot and socialise more than I do. I do go out, just not as much, but that’s the choice I’ve made.
You must hope that all the sacrifice will bring a major tournament in the next couple of years?
I hope, yes, but it’s not a target. I don’t say that I want it by 24. When it happens, it happens.
Fancy your chances in your home tournament?
Yeah, I’ve not qualified before but now that the format’s changed so all the players automatically get to play I’m really looking forward to it. I should have quite a few family and friends there.
Does that add to the pressure?
Possibly. It has in the past qualifying rounds because I’ve really wanted to get to the finals because it’s my local.
Who are the front-runners?
Robertson, Ding and Selby are the main three. And Sullivan is always lurking around, when he decides to turn up! Up and coming, Luca Brecel and Jack Lisowski, who are very talented and will win tournaments one day. And I think
I can do well. Obviously, I’d like to win any tournament but it would be really special if the Welsh Open was my first.
Lastly, any advice to budding amateurs?
Just practice, practice, practice.
Welsh Open Snooker