Of the 99 players competing on the main tour in 2012/13, the last to secure his professional ticket was 18-year-old Scott Donaldson, the Scot having taken victory at this year’s European Championship in Latvia.
Shortly after the conclusion of his 4-2 victory against Liam Highfield in the opening round of the UKPTC1 event in Gloucester, I spent ten minutes with Scott to discuss his rise to the tour and his hopes for the coming season…
PSB: Congratulations, that’s a great start to your professional career.
Scott Donaldson: Yeah, it was a nervous start but I managed to play a few good safety shots. I was quite fortunate to be honest, I got quite a bit of run during the latter stages of the match, but I managed to hold myself together reasonably well. I was quite happy with the way I played, the first match anyway.
PSB: Is it your first time here at the South West Snooker Academy?
SD: No, I was here practising last month. I came down to practice for a week before the Q School and I really liked it. It’s a brilliant set-up, a proper snooker venue where you can play proper snooker because the tables are so much better than what I am used to, so fast. It’s nice, it’s a proper snooker club.
PSB: What is your arrangement at home? Have you got your own table at home?
SD: No, I’m from Perth but I play in Edinburgh which is about an hour and ten minutes away from Perth. I have to travel on the train every day to practice, but my sponsor Paul Marinello from Edinburgh is the Chairman of Scottish Snooker and he pays for that thankfully, it’s a big help.
I don’t mind travelling if it’s paid for, it gets you away and is an escape from the house. Sometimes it’s not really an advantage to play at the house, you can just get lazy, just sit down and have a ten minute break and after an hour think ‘oh I better play.’ It’s not always a better option having a table at home.
PSB: Do you prefer practising on your own or with other people?
SD: I prefer playing people, I don’t like playing on my own. I find it very boring. I can only practise for one or two hours on my own otherwise I just get demented and I want a game with anyone in the club, I’ll give them a game! I much prefer playing people for sure.
PSB: Who do you tend to practice with, any of the current professionals?
SD: Michael Leslie mainly, I’m from Edinburgh and most of the Scottish lads are from Glasgow, so I play Mike Leslie. I sometimes play Craig MacGillivray, he used to be a pro ten of fifteen years ago. I do go through occasionally to play Anthony McGill and John Higgins has asked me for a couple of games as well.
2012 European Champion
PSB: It was obviously a big relief to get on the main tour this season…
SD: Oh…yeah! And the way that it has happened is even better because I was so close in Bulgaria at the European Under-21 Championship where I got to the semi-finals of that. Then at the Q School, at the second event I was two frames away when Jamie O’Neill beat me 4-2 and I thought that it’s not going to happen is it?
But I managed to win the European Amateur Championship, which is even better because I’ve got a title to my name now. The way it has worked out is just brilliant.
PSB: Does that mean more to you than having come through the Q School then?
SD: Oh yeah because I’ll have that title forever, nobody can take that away from me. It was definitely better than getting through the Q School, definitely.
PSB: How happy were you with your performance during the latter stages of the tournament?
SD: I played quite well, Nervous obviously, but I played well. I seem to do quite good under pressure for some reason. I feel nervous, but people tell me that I don’t look nervous under pressure which is good.
PSB: Do you have any particular targets for the season?
SD: I don’t have targets, just to try and enjoy myself and get a few results here and there.
PSB: How much does it help knowing that you are on for two years rather than just one…
SD: Oh aye, definitely, that’s massive. There is so much pressure off the first year really isn’t it? The second year is really the year where you want to start making a move. You do want to make a move in the first year but it is a lot of pressure off and it makes a massive difference. It’s very handy.
In action during his professional début at UKPTC1
PSB: What can you tell us about your junior and amateur achievements to date?
SD: In 2008 I got to the East of Scotland Championship final when I was 14, I beat Stephen Hendry’s record by one year, that’s a record now! I was the Scottish Under-16’s national champion, under 19’s and under 21’s. I won one Scottish men’s title last year, so that’s basically what I’ve done really.
PSB: Looking ahead to the season, is there anything particular that you are looking forward to? The World Championship qualifiers for example?
SD: Oh the World Championship qualifiers, that’s the main one isn’t it, That’s at the end of the season. But just to play matches, enjoy it, hopefully I can play well, if I play well I might get results and if I get results I might move up the rankings.
PSB: Are there any targets that you would have at all, if there was one tournament you could go on a run at?
SD: If there was one thing that I would have…probably just to get to a venue, obviously the Crucible would be the best. Maybe that is too much, but you never know, I believe in my ability. But yeah there’s not really a goal, but if I did have one it would definitely be the Crucible. That’s just massive.
PSB: How disappointed are you to have missed out on the first two ranking events of the season?
SD: Yeah I know, that’s a bit annoying, it’s not as if it were two small events, it was two ranking events that meant something and there are only eight or nine ranking events during the season so that’s a big chunk out of that.
It’s not good, but the thing is though I’d rather be on the tour than not be on the tour. I made that decision before I went to Latvia for the European Championship.
A couple of players who could have gone to Latvia decided just to play in the Wuxi and Australian like Duane Jones, I was a bit surprised he didn’t go to Latvia but it has worked out well for me in the end. I would rather have two years than two tournaments.
PSB: What do you think to the tour set-up this year? Did you play in a few PTCs last year?
SD: I played two last year, I played in PTC11 and PTC12. In PTC12 I beat Liam the same score in the first round and lost to Stephen Hendry in the second round 4-2. Then at PTC11 Marco Fu beat me 4-1 in the last 128. I enjoyed it though, it was good.
PSB: How much can you learn from playing guys like Stephen Hendry and so on?
SD: Yeah, even just to watch them play, it’s the way they go about the table, not so much the way that they hit the ball, it’s really just their attitude that I like to watch. You have got to have a good attitude if you are going to get the chance to play them.
PSB: When you talk about attitude, what do you mean exactly?
SD: Well temperament really. The man behind us (Steve Davis, who was getting changed after his 4-2 win against Zhang Anda), he was amazing, just never seemed to get bothered by anything. No matter how much bad luck he was getting, you wouldn’t have known what was happening in the game just by his body language. I think it’s just fantastic.
PSB: Did you grow up watching anyone in particular?
SD: When I was really young I watched Stephen Hendry but the last four or five years I’ve been watching John Higgins. He’s one of the nicest guys you will ever meet in your life. The thing with John, he has taken so much out of the game, yet he does so much to help the juniors as well. That’s what I look at and that to me, that’s better than anything really.
PSB: What sort of things does he do?
SD: Like the golf days, he goes to every golf day. He’s always helping out juniors, asking them for a game in the club and that. I know he does help the juniors a lot, it’s very, very good to see.
PSB: What do you make of the state of the tour for younger players coming through at the moment?
SD: It’s good. All I would say though is that it is very expensive. You do need a sponsor, that’s massive. But it’s definitely better than it was a couple of years ago that’s for sure, Barry Hearn has made a difference. It’s just very expensive. But it really does give us an opportunity to do something in the game you could say.
PSB: Did you play in the PIOS at all?
SD: No I was after the PIOS, I only started to really improve after that finished really.
PSB: Did you play the Q School the first year?
SD: No, I felt as if I wasn’t ready for it, although I was playing ok. It’s a thousand pounds, I didn’t want to risk that and end up getting beat in the first round, first round, first round. I think I am ready now.
PSB: What do you think of the Q School for players coming through?
SD: It’s very hard because there is a lot of pressure on the Q School because you know if you lose…I played Jamie O’Neill at the last Q School there in the last round and one of us knew that one of us was going to get on the tour and one of us was going to be really sick to have got so close and not got on. But it’s good because it is played in a proper venue like this, so it gets you used to the venues if you do get on the tour.
Shortly after this I let Scott head off back to the flat ahead of his second round match against compatriot Jamie Burnett, which he would eventually lose 4-2, no disgrace given Jamie’s vast experience and quality.
Thanks to Scott for his time and best of luck to him for the rest of the season. You can read more about him at his website: http://scottdonaldson.pro/