David Grace swapped potting for painting when he captured an iconic moment in snooker history, and has raised £1,000 for two charities.
World number 59 Grace is a keen artist and has painted a range of portraits of snooker stars.
“Last April, when the World Championship was supposed to be on, I was watching the Crucible Gold series of videos including the 1982 World Championship when Alex Higgins won the trophy and held his baby in his arms,” recalls the 36-year-old Yorkshireman. “It’s such a great moment and one that everyone remembers, so I decided that would be my next painting.
“Most of my paintings are in black, white and grey where I only use six shades, but this time I decided to use colour, which was a new ball game for me. I used two different screen grabs from YouTube to help me get the image right. It took a few weeks to get the painting as I wanted it.”
After watching the recent Gods of Snooker documentary on BBC, Grace decided to auction the picture. Proceeds from the winning bid of £1,000 will be split between GM Fundraising and MND Association.
“I had no idea what to expect when I started the auction, then I got a bid of £500 straight away,” said Grace. “To end up with £1,000 was fantastic. A lot of charities have had a really tough time over the past year with their usual fund-raising activity cancelled, so I’m happy to be able to do something for them.”
On the baize, it was a season of highs and lows for Grace. In November he reached the semi-finals of a ranking event for the second time in his career with a superb run at the Northern Ireland Open. Wins over David Gilbert, Sam Craigie, Michael White, Michael Holt and Yan Bingtao put him into the last four, where he lost to Judd Trump.
Grace impressed again at the UK Championship, beating Ding Junhui 6-5 on his way to the last 32. “That was my best moment of the season because I haven’t often beaten top-16 players in big tournaments before,” he said. “Even though there was no crowd, I knew everyone would be watching it on BBC.”
However in the second half of the season he found wins harder to come by, and the campaign finished in disappointment with a 6-3 reverse against Steven Hallworth in the Betfred World Championship qualifiers.
“Overall I’m very positive about the season, especially getting into the top 64 which I have only done once before,” said Grace. “In the second half of the season I was still doing all the same things in practice, I just had a few tough draws and other matches went against me. I see it as a cycle of improvement, sometimes you’re on an upward curve and then there’s always a drop.”
Grace practises – and looks after the tables – at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, one of England’s best clubs. On Monday, the facility was one of many around the UK able to open its doors for the first time in months, as restrictions on indoor sport were lifted.
“By 10.30am that morning we had 27 tables in use and it was still like that in the afternoon,” he said. “People were desperate to play snooker, it’s an addiction, whatever level you play at. The club had missed out on the usual boom we get when the World Championship is on. So it was great to see it busy and hopefully it will stay like that from now.”