Green-Fingered Castle Hoping To Blossom In Playoffs
Billy Castle will be hoping to regain his place on the World Snooker Tour, admitting “there is a lot on the line”, as one of 16 players competing in next week’s Q Tour playoffs.
The event, which runs from March 4-5 at the Q House Academy in Darlington, sees those placed 2nd to 17th on the Q Tour rankings battle it out for a two-year tour card. After finishing top of the rankings, Martin O’Donnell secured his place on tour until at least 2025.
Castle first acquired professional status in 2017, advancing through Q School at the age of 24. His standout memories on tour came at the BetVictor Snooker Shoot Out, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2020, before achieving a career-best finish last season when he reached the quarter-finals. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to retain his place.
Despite dropping off the tour, Castle is still candidly chipper about life. The busy Hampshire-born potter has been playing, “loads of snooker,” mixing pro-ams, local events and his English Amateur Championship campaign with a side job.
“I’ve got a part-time job gardening,” admitted Castle. “It’s flexible so I’m quite lucky as my wife’s Dad runs the business. It’s local houses, like grass cutting, weeding borders. Just simple stuff. It’s not too hard, but it’s nice being out in the fresh air, taking your mind off snooker.
“I absolutely love it. Every day something different crops up, but I’m learning on the job. You get to speak to different customers about their gardens and projects. It’s really refreshing.
“It’s perfect for me. Because, you could be in a snooker club practising, putting all the hard work in and people are asking you, ‘Oh, when are you getting back on the main tour? When’s your next tournament?’ and that’s all it is. It’s just snooker related. You don’t want to be talking about it 24/7 because it can drive you mad.”
While Castle has been getting his hands dirty away from the table, he’s kept a keen eye on what’s occurring on it. For all, snooker is his first love. And recent remarks made by Ronnie O’Sullivan about top-up amateur Daniel Wells, prior to his 4-2 win over Judd Trump at the BetVictor Welsh Open last month, seemed to strike a nerve.
“I believe I should be on the main tour,” said the 30-year-old. “That’s where I want to be, but obviously, I’ll take it as it is. It’s been difficult, but you’ve got to look at where you are. There are loads of good amateurs out there.
“When you hear comments about amateurs it frustrates us, of course it does. Especially when you’re trying to get your tour card back. People know you’re fighting for it, and they don’t realise just how tough the top end of the amateur game is. I’m quite strong mentally and I take everything in my stride. But Daniel Wells made a good point. A lot of players take those comments quite badly because they put their life and soul into it, that’s their job.”
Victory next week in Darlington and the 2017 English Amateur Champion could win his tour card back. Castle finished fourth in the rankings after winning one of the six Q Tour events – beating Andrew Higginson 5-4 to take the trophy in Stockholm – and reaching the semi-finals in Leeds.
First up in the playoffs, a rematch against Higginson in the last 16 – a contest which wouldn’t be out of place at a ranking event. Such is the quality on show.
“Next week is big for all of us,” said Castle. “There’s a lot on the line, especially with the pro card coming off it. These are big moments. You’re four games away from being on the main tour. But, if you go there thinking, ‘I’m four games away’, then you’ll put too much pressure on yourself. You have to go into these playoffs with a good mindset and enjoy it.
“Whatever the best way to get back on tour, the Q Tour playoffs, Q School, if it’s another route, then I’ve got to go for it. Snooker’s all I want to do. I’m 30, but at the top of the sport right now, people don’t seem to be coming good until they’re 40. So I’m a baby really! But if I get back on tour I know what to do.
“At my first event, I went in the players’ lounge to get ready and John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens were sitting next to me. I was growing up watching them and then playing on the table next to them. It was surreal. Now, they’re just normal people to me.”
Castle is clearly very comfortable with the balance he has managed to strike in his life of late. And it’s refreshing to hear. But when life gets comfortable, it can be easy to overlook your goals or what you initially set out to achieve. Sometimes a little reminder doesn’t go amiss.
He added: “Robert Milkins winning lately opened my eyes. He’s a really close friend of mine. What he’s done has opened the door to prove anyone can do it. He’s an inspiration. I’ve been through good times and rough times with him. Seeing what he’s doing now, is incredible. I couldn’t wish it for a better person. He’s proved if you put the hard work in, your time will come.
“Rob, Jimmy Robertson and I are a close little gang. We play golf together and I dropped Rob a text after he won the £150,000 BetVictor Bonus and said if he could get Augusta booked up for the summer that would be much appreciated!”