Gareth Allen says claiming his maiden professional card for the world snooker tour was bittersweet after having to beat his best friend to claim the prize.
Chester FC fan Allen, from Ewloe, ended his long wait for a spot on the pro tour after beating fellow Flintshire potter Alex Taubman 4-2 at a Q-School event in Burton-on-Trent on Monday.
The 26-year old defeated Halkyn’s Taubman after opening on a break of 81 and holding his nerve to finally edge himself into the big time after several years on the amateur circuit.
His victory in round five came after wins over David Singh, Lee Shanker, Rhydian ap Owen and Greg Casey, with Allen admitting his win was tinged with sadness.
“It was a strange one as I had such mixed feelings because I had to beat my best mate to do it,” said Allen, who has been playing full-time for the past two years in a bid to make it onto the pro tour.
“Me and Alex go back years to when we used to play at the Sealand Leisure Club and it has been a dream of ours to make it as professionals. But it’s the nature of the game and I know Alex will bounce back.
“But of course I’m delighted to have won. I don’t think it has properly sunk in yet. It’s all been a whirlwind and a bit surreal. I’ve had so many messages congratulating me that my feet have barely touched the ground to be honest.”
Allen, a former member of Broughton Wings Social Club's snooker side, has been practising with Chester's world number 10 Ricky Walden and seasoned professional Andrew Higginson in recent months and will now get the chance to test his mettle against the very best on the baize on a regular basis.
A former IT worker with Flintshire County Council, Allen has been knocking on the door of the professional ranks for the past two years only to be denied in the latter stages.
“You start to think if it will ever happen for you and you begin to doubt yourself,” said Allen, who reserved thanks for Chris Chua of Eden Resources for his sponsorship for the past year and commitment for the next two years.
“But I just kept on plugging away. I knew I was good enough all along and it was just a case of it coming together eventually.
“I was really nervous ahead of my match with Alex as it was all or nothing. I couldn't eat I was that nervous but I got out and practiced and soon settled down when I opened with a break of 81. I just got my nut down and went for it.
“My nan and grandad were there to watch it which meant a lot to me and them. My whole family have been amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
For Allen, who carries his cue in a specially made blue and white Chester FC case, there is little time to savour the moment as he heads to Crawley on Monday for the Australian Goldfields Open qualifiers.
“The hard work starts now,” said Allen, who qualified for the pro tour alongside fellow Welsh amateur international potter Duane Jones.
“I’m under no illusions about how hard it will be but my aim is to keep hold of my tour card from now on.”