The Snooker Smurf, a well-known mascot at the Shoot-Out in recent years, will be back this year for the popular Coral sponsored tournament.
The event has moved from Blackpool to The Hexagon in Reading this time, but that hasn’t deterred a certain little blue creature from making the journey to snooker’s weekend of fast and furious green baize action.
Confused? Let the man behind the Snooker Smurf. James Wightman, take up the story.
“It all started on the Saturday lunchtime before the afternoon session of the 2013 Shoot-Out,” James explains. “My friends and I had some time to kill before the doors opened. Naturally, being in Blackpool, the amusements beckoned. We played for a while, wasting time and money, and just as we were about to leave someone decided to put a pound in the grabber machine. He won a toy Smurf. We had no time to take it back to the hotel so we took it into the venue.
“As you can imagine, a group of grown men carrying a Smurf seemed to attract a few comments. People were even asking for pictures with us. That gave me an idea – to create a Facebook page and a Twitter account to put the photos on. We named him Shaun Smurphy and started asking players and referees for pictures.
“We returned the following year and we were instantly recognised through our connection with the Smurf. Ryan Day offered to carry the Smurf down the stairs for his match and he ended up using it as his mascot and reached the semi-finals.
“Since then it has grown and grown and we have been lucky enough to meet a lot of the players and make new friends. The Smurf has created a lot of engagement with fans through people seeing it on TV or on social media.
“Reading is a lot further away for us than Blackpool but we will still be making the journey down. We are thoroughly looking forward to our weekend down at The Hexagon and seeing friends. Shaun Smurphy has opened doors to a new world.”