Michael Holt’s first ranking event win was a long time coming.
After 24 relatively fallow years as a snooker professional, the Nottingham potter has finally married talent and success at the very top level.
And for a player whose ability has never been in doubt, but has often – by his own admission – struggled with the mental side of the game, it was fitting his maiden ranking event victory came in the “see ball, hit ball” Snooker Shootout format. A one-frame knock-out tournament, with a shot clock leaving no time to fret and stress, seems to suit.
It’s a fact not lost on the refreshingly honest 41-year-old, who also made the final at last year’s Shoot Out.
“Down the years I have stopped myself achieving by over-thinking,” Holt told BBC Sport after Sunday’s £50,000 pay day. “The clock helps me because I can play on instinct and play the shot I first see. It definitely helps me.
“I have always felt I have had the ability but I have not had the composure and not quite had it mentally at times. I have been inconsistent.
“I am chuffed to finally get my hands on a trophy. It was wonderful feeling. If I can use that I might play a bit better.”
Holt’s only appearance in a ranking event final other than the Shoot Out came in the 2016 Riga Masters when he beat Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham and Williams on his way to the final where he lost to Robertson.
He has qualified for the World Championship on eight occasions, the latest of which saw him beat former Crucible winner Neil Robertson in the first round in 2016, before losing to multiple world champion Mark Williams in round two.
His ranking has hovered just outside the top 16 in the world for much of his career, but he had slipped into the 40s before climbing back to 26th following his win in Watford.
Many snooker aficionados have been quick to criticise the shortest form of the game, which sees rapid-fire 10-minute frames and a countdown style clock, all played in front of raucous crowds
Holt, a natural showman, acknowledges the first big win has not come in the traditional format, but says it is good for the sport’s appeal to younger and new audiences.
‘I want to as good as I think I can be’
“It’s a good atmosphere and a lot of fun,” Holt added. “People are often resistant to change, but you have to embrace. If it brings people into the game and helps them get into the traditional format then it has to be good.
“No one has ever said it will take over the traditional format. It will never happen, but it is a different style and a bit of a novelty, and giving it ranking status with good prize money means the players are taking it more seriously.”
Holt also hopes success, and the confidence is brings, will lead to more trophies after a difficult couple of tough seasons on tour, as well as giving him more good times to share with his family. Wife Amy was there to see the victory first hand, with his dad watching on at home, and the win will also give him something to tell his children about when he is older.
“Jude is two in March, and we have a little girl on the way in March too,” Holt said. “We have bought a house and have been working on that, we got married and there has been a lot going on so it has been easy to lose a bit of focus and I have had a lean couple of years. But I am blessed; I have a great family so it’s all good.
“The worst-case scenario now is that I don’t win another ranking event but when I am old and grey or even greyer, I have something to show my kids.
“But 41 is not old in snooker. I am still eager because I haven’t achieved very much, I am not weathered or tired. I still feel as hungry as any 21-year-old. and while I can still see and have the will then age is not really an issue.
“I want to as good as I think I can be and see where that takes me. If I can reach my potential I can win a lot of snooker matches.”