European champions Michael Leslie and Scott Donaldson have praised governing body Caledonian Snooker for helping propel them into the sport’s professional circuit.
Donaldson, 18, who practices at the Capital’s Locarno Snooker club, clinched the European Amateur Snooker Championship in style when defeating Ireland’s Brendan O’Donoghue 7-3 in the final in Latvia recently. He now joins Bonnyrigg ace Leslie, who secured his place on the pro tour by winning the European Under-21 Championship in Bulgaria back in March.
The two youngsters took time out from their busy practice schedules to acknowledge the efforts of Caledonian Snooker for helping improve their game to a level which will see both taking on some of the world’s finest snooker players this season.
Perth’s Donaldson, who will make his pro debut at the first event of this year’s UK Players Tour Championship at Gloucester on July 18, said: “I left school two years ago and thought I would give it a shot at going full-time, but I didn’t know how it would work out.
“The tournament structure provided by Caledonian Snooker has been excellent and has definitely been one of the main reasons both Michael and I have managed to make it on to the pro tour. When you are playing high-quality competition all the time it can only help improve your game. This has definitely helped sharpen up my game and prepared me well for the European tournaments.”
Alan Craig, Secretary of Caledonian Snooker, admits things weren’t always this way for junior players in Scotland.
He said: “When we decided to establish the association three years ago, there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the way the amateur game was being run. We knew there was a lot of talent out there but change was definitely needed if the game in Scotland was going to thrive. We have a tournament structure and environment in which players are comfortable playing. It is important that the players are happy playing in tournaments as if they do not enjoy it they will lose interest and not come back.”
Leslie, who has already competed in two tournaments on the professional tour, said: “For the last few years, Scott and I have been playing week in week out in good tournaments and it has really helped us. I can remember going to tournaments before and not enjoying them. The players wanted change and since Caledonian Snooker took over the running of Scottish snooker, things have just got better and better.”
Craig, meanwhile, admits that if the conveyor belt of young Scottish snooker talent is going to keep rolling, then the hard work needs to continue. He added: “We have got two more very promising young players, Ross Muir of Musselburgh and Stonehouse’s Rhys Clark going off to China this month for the World Under-21 Championship and we’ve got more youngsters coming through the ranks behind them.
“We are constantly looking to improve and two years ago we introduced an under 14 category. We are already seeing young Scottish players show potential and gain good experience at an earlier age. Overall, it is very promising indeed and I think if we can keep doing what we are doing then we will have more players following Michael and Scott into the professional ranks in the not too distant future.”