Hampshire based coach Tim Dunkley believes that 16-year-old Jamie Wilson, the youngest graduate of 2020 Q School, can act as an inspiration for other young talents in the area.
The South of England is fast becoming a hotbed for talented youngsters with the likes of Conor Benzey, who reached the last 64 at the recent English Open, as well as Oliver Sykes, who was featured by Trans World Sport in 2018.
Dunkley is a full-time coach working out of Chandlers Ford Snooker Club in Eastleigh. He’s heavily involved with the Cuestars junior tour and works with a number of the young players in the area including Wilson and Sykes.
With Wilson earning a World Snooker Tour place alongside fellow Hampshire cueman Billy Castle, Dunkley is hopeful that more can follow in their footsteps and earn a place on the circuit.
We’ve caught up with Dunkley to find out more about his work with Wilson and his role in developing Hampshire’s most talented cueists.
Tim, first of all how did it feel when you got the news that Jamie had secured his place on the World Snooker Tour?
“That was such a shock. It is something you dream about. His parents spoke to me earlier in the year and said that they were thinking about putting Jamie in for Q School. I said that I thought it was a bit early, but they told me that he had been saving all of his prize money up and that he was going to pay for it himself. In that case, I said it would be good to go for it and a good experience. He had a couple of amazing days. I was in the garden watering my wife’s plants when he rang me up and told me he was two wins away. Suddenly I realised he could do it. That just goes to show what is achievable. It was a big shock and a big surprise. He wasn’t expecting to go through. The fact he has managed it is remarkable and an amazing effort.”
How satisfying was it to think that you played a part in Jamie achieving his dream?
“This has never happened to me before. I’ve never had a player that I’ve worked with turn professional. A lot of the credit has to go to Jamie himself. He has really put the effort in this year. It also has to go to his parents, who have invested in a Star Table for him. He’s had his own table since he was young.
“He won’t want me to tell you this, but I will tell you anyway. When he was younger the pockets on his table were quite tight, so his parents got them opened up. He loved this table and he has been using it ever since. About a year ago, I told his parents that they had to get him off of it, as it was doing him no good. Instead of just putting him on a match table they actually bought him a Star one. It was a game changer, he could no longer smash the balls in. I thought at one point that it could break him, but it didn’t. He knuckled down, worked hard and that table turned his game around.”
How do you expect Jamie to fare over the next two years as a professional and what are the main characteristics of his game?
“We have absolutely no expectations whatsoever for these two years. If he comes out with a few wins under his belt, I will be delighted. You do not go onto the professional circuit at that age and expect to start winning tournaments. He has to enjoy and learn from these two years. If he doesn’t earn enough prize money, he can go back to Q School again and if he doesn’t get back on he will still be a better player for it. Regardless of what happens, what a great thing to have on his CV that he is a professional snooker player at the age of 16.
“He is a good potter, he is known for taking shots on. When they work they are great. I imagine at Q School he had one of those runs where they all went in. The great thing about the next two years is that it is a fantastic chance to learn what he can and what he can’t get away with against these top players. He likes the exhibition shots, I wish he wouldn’t do them sometimes though!”
How did you personally get into coaching?
“It started with my son Alex, who wanted to get into it. He’s a good player and a known century maker, he played for England once. I drifted into it and before I knew it, I was heavily involved with things like running tournaments and helping with Cuestars. The next natural progression was to take a coaching course. Once I got that under my belt, I actually had a motorbike accident. I packed in my job of 30 years after that and decided to do this full time.
“I worked at Eaton Aerospace, which makes aeroplane parts. I worked in the development section in the engineering department. I was at that factory for 30 years, but the crash was the catalyst to end that. I had seven weeks off and after I went back I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew it would be a risk to throw away a 30-year career. However, I decided I needed to do something that I wanted to do, even if it meant taking a hit on the money. I took the risk and It was fine, I make enough to live on and that is all I need.”
Do you believe that more young players from the area could make it professional in the near future?
“The thing you have to say is why not? I know how hard it is to get on the tour. Jamie Wilson and Billy Castle have blazed the trail. Anyone coming up behind them will have to be saying to themselves that they could do it. There is no reason why you couldn’t have a handful of players in a few years. Once you have a production line from making a bridge hand to Jamie and Billy, then anything can happen. A lot of them know both of those guys, have seen them play and grown up with them. That makes it very real. Conor and Oliver are the two obvious ones at the moment.
“We have a lovely group of exceptional young players. These guys are beating each other up on the table and competing from eight, nine and ten years old. We have one lad called William Thomson, who started in our Junior League two months before his fifth birthday. I actually turned him away originally, but his mum gave me this look so I tried him out. He’s been with us ever since and actually made a 52 break in competition at the age of eight. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
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