David Fitzgerald chats to snooker star Ray Reardon about his life in Torbay, particularly his 20-year association with Churston Golf Club

Snooker world champion Ray ReardonSnooker world champion Ray Reardon

Ray Reardon picked up the phone last week at his home in Torbay and called Ronnie O’Sullivan to congratulate him on equalling his record of six world championships.

Shortly after that, I spoke to my old friend Ray to find out what he though of the man and the match.

“I congratulated him, he is a remarkable player and I know just how exhausting the event is. It’s spread over a fortnight or nine days really and once you have played the first round, which in my opinion is the most difficult one of all where the nasty surprises can happen, there is then a gap of four of five days of waiting.

“You then, if you have made it through; have to continuously play up till the end. Physically and mentally exhausting but mind you, I have never seen a tired winner, they all seem to perk up, especially at the cheque.”

Yes, Ronnie O’Sullivan is £500,000 richer.

“That’s a lot of money and I can tell you that is far more than I ever won in my entire career.”

WHEN DID YOU START TO PLAY?

“When I was eight. Not on big tables, you went onto big tables when you were 14 but by that time, I went down the mines in Tredegar. I spent 11 years in the mines; I got buried alive on one occasion.

“I remember that I just couldn’t breath, I got air in through my nose but for some reason I couldn’t open my mouth. I was there for three hours, somehow I got out unscathed and then I decided to change professions and joined the police in Stoke on Trent in 1960.

“By then snooker was playing a big part in my life and I turned professional in late 1967.”

SO WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TORBAY AS HOME?

“Holiday camps! I was playing matches at Pontins holiday camps in 1969 on the east and south coast.

“Then I won the world title, then lost it... my life was up and down.

“I was travelling all over the country for three years. I racked up 960 miles a week and playing ten shows... crazy.

“So I got a map out and discovered that there were six sites down here and two on the way from Stoke on Trent.

“Marvellous, so I toured down here for 20 years and I loved it. I decided that as soon as I retried I was coming here to live, I had fallen in love with Devon. Fantastic place, I am so lucky really.”

STILL PLAYING GOLF?

“I am president of Churston Golf Club and have been since 2001.”

DO THEY HAVE A SNOOKER TABLE?

“They did but nobody was playing on it so they sold it. And no, they didn’t sell it because I was playing people for money. In fact, I haven’t picked up a cue for a long time mainly because of the current situation of lockdown and I have a hip problem. I am waiting for an operation, as is my wife so we are both a bit stuck at home.”

OK, CAN RONNIE BEAT YOU AND DO SEVEN WORLD TITLES?

“I think he can do more than that. It depends on what frame of mind he is in.

“He is the best player I have ever seen. He is so natural; he has to be seen to be believed. But when he loses the plot, anyone can beat him.

“He is amazing and passionate about the game, he doesn’t say it but I know he is very passionate. He must have been born with a block of chalk in his mouth.”

HOW MUCH CHALK CAN YOU PUT ON A CUE, HE IS ALWAYS SCRAPING IT ON.

“I know, he is a Herculean chalker. How much can you get on a tip? If you looked on the floor there must be a pile of chalk dust down there with little footprints round the table.”