Phil Haigh ✍️
Sanderson Lam battled his way through Q School last week, but after experiencing far worse than the gruelling tournament, he is keeping the game firmly in perspective.
Lam is back on tour for a second time after impressively coming through Event Two in Sheffield, when things had looked perilous at least a couple of times.
He bounced back from 3-1 down to Kurt Maflin in the last 16 to win 4-3, before finding himself behind in the final frame of the final round against Steven Hallworth, only to make a break of 60 to win the match.
The Yorkshireman has developed a calmness under pressure, controlling his emotions and alleviating pressure form himself.
‘I knew I was cueing well, hitting the ball really good, but it’s just controlling your thoughts, especially in Q School because it’s so hard,’ Lam told Metro.co.uk.
‘Even in the first event, I lost to Soheil [Vahedi] and I didn’t think I’d played that bad and lost 4-1. I was really down, but just said to myself, “I’ve done nothing wrong, don’t be harsh on yourself and crack on.” Then it just clicked in the second event. I played well, relaxed a bit more.’
The immense sadness of a personal tragedy has actually helped Lam keep his emotions under control, having dealt with the death of one of his best friends, Jake Nicholson, nearly a year ago.
Jake tragically died at just 28 years old due to cancer, and the talented player’s death hit many people on the snooker circuit really hard.
Lam was hurt as much as anyone, but it has unexpectedly helped his game as he now accepts that snooker pales into insignificance compared to other things.
‘I was thinking that, although I’d love to get on, there’s a lot of things in life that are more important. It’s not the end of the world,’ he said.
‘I lost a good friend of mine, Jake Nicholson, he was very close to me, one of my best friends. It’s coming up to the one year anniversary now.
‘Jake was my age. All he wanted to do was play snooker. If you think of losing snooker matches as your life is over, think of Jake.
‘It definitely helped with my mindset, to find some perspective. Just go out there, give it my all and if I don’t win, I don’t win. But I was really happy that I held myself together in the last two matches, and the whole tournament really.’
He added: ‘I’m really pleased with how I did it, 3-1 down against one of the favourites, going on to make a really good break in the decider to get on. It shows that I’ve got it and hopefully I can kick on.
‘The key is, for me, I controlled my emotions upstairs. As long as I can keep them in place, stay positive, give myself the best chance.
‘The last 24 months I think controlling my emotions, I’ve really improved. If I was in that situation in the past I wouldn’t have come through. Before, 3-1 down I’d be giving up.’
It’s impressive that Lam can keep snooker in perspective because it is a game he has dedicated his life to, and whether he is amateur or professional, he is full-time on the baize.
‘If I didn’t get on I’d still play all the amateur comps, the amateur circuit is really good now,’ he said. ‘I do part time shifts on the bar at the club and some coaching as well.
‘That takes things off my mind. I can do that on my terms, which is nice, depending on what comps you’ve got on. I coach amateurs, beginners, decent players, it’s good.
‘Seeing them do well is a great feeling. Seeing them improve and to impart your skills and see them get better is nice.’
The club in question is the iconic Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, which is also home to Peter and Oliver Lines, David Grace and a number of top amateurs.
These guys are not just practice partners, though, and it is a family atmosphere, with Peter and Oliver genuine family.
‘We all play at the same club but me and Oliver are closest,’ said Sanderson. ‘We’ve known each other for 20 years now.
‘When we were growing up, Saturday morning coaching for the juniors. That’s where me and Oliver met. His dad and another coach were running the classes.
‘There’s so many memories from there. I’ve probably spent more time there than in my own house. If I’m not at home I’m there, playing, working, having a few drinks sometimes.
‘It’s not just the pros – so me, David, Oliver, Peter – but a lot of good amateurs – Kuldesh Johel, Dan Womersley, Liam Pullen who is getting there now, it’s really good. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does well in the next few years.’
Lam is back on tour for the first time since 2019 when he’d had a four-stint as a pro and he believes he is coming back mentally stronger and ready to show what he can really do on the table.
‘I did a lot of watching videos on the mind and how the mind works, sports psychology. That’s really helped me,’ he said.
‘I’m going to work more on my mindset. I know I can play, but I need to play with more freedom, get more into a rhythm.
‘Before I over-thought when I was on the table. I’d do things on the match table that I wouldn’t do in practice. I need to enjoy it, I deserve to be there, so lets see what the next two years brings.
‘I think going into your shell is the worst thing you can do, you need to get into a rhythm. I wasn’t playing my natural game, I was nearly 29 seconds a shot and that is not me. At all.
‘You don’t think you’re going that slow but you just slip back into your shell. If you can just play snooker, don’t get bogged down and play your natural game then that’s the best way to do it.’
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