Sanderson Lam agonisingly missed out on professional status by a solitary frame at Q School, but the Leeds cueman is relishing the prospect of a return to the circuit after finishing in pole position on the top up list.
Lam dropped off the circuit in 2019 and two unsuccessful trips to Q School in the following years mean he has been unable to appear on the World Snooker Tour since then.
His performances this year saw him edged out by Mitchell Mann by just a single frame to fall short of professional status. To add insult to injury he was defeated 4-3 by Barry Pinches in the final round of event two, losing the decider on the pink.
Despite this, Lam is assured of entry to the vast majority of events this season by finishing in first position on the top up list.
We’ve caught up with the 27-year-old to find out about his ambitions for the future and hear how he coped with the unique pressures of Q School…
Was the overriding feeling happiness at finishing first in the top up list or frustration at falling just a single frame short?
“I’m happy to be in the position I have now. I knew it was tight. I just concentrated on my matches as I knew if I was looking at other matches while I was playing and trying to figure out the permutations it was going to put me off. It was obviously disappointing not to get on, but I’ve had a result. I can play in all of the professional competitions and all of the amateur competitions. I’m not too disheartened. I’m really looking forward to it. I need to get my head down and enjoy it. I’m not playing for ranking points so I can just play freely, get my head down and enjoy it.”
How different is the pressure of Q School compared to any other event?
“It is so tough, both physically and mentally. Everyone is trying their heart out. There is so much intensity in every match. Each year Q School gets harder and harder. There are so many good players now. I knew I had to stay positive after losing that decider with Barry. I needed to perform in event three to be in the position I am in now. I picked myself up off the floor quickly. Every event is so tough, but you just have to keep on going and keep on battling.”
What have you been up to since we last saw you on the circuit in 2019?
“At first, before coronavirus, I was trying to play in all of the amateur competitions. I’m quite lucky that I’ve been working part time behind the bar at the Northern Snooker Centre. I’ve been playing through the day and then behind the bar in the evening, its been quite good but also pretty full on.
“The preparation for Q School was very difficult because I hadn’t been able to play since the start of lockdown. I was very fortunate that a gentleman who plays at the club, called David Boyes, has a table at his house. He actually sorted me out with some keys so I could get in to practise. He was really good to me. I’m proud of myself to have performed the way I did considering the fact that a lot of the guys were playing on the tour throughout the season. I haven’t been able to play. Once I was finally able to start it was a bit of a race to get sharp. I knew I had to play as much as I possibly could. I had about a month and and a half to get ready.”
What are your ambitions for the upcoming season?
“I just want to work as hard as I can and hopefully push on now. I’ve proved to myself that I can do it. I want to try and get myself on the tour. I take inspiration from people like Jordan Brown. His Welsh Open win was incredible and he showed that anything is possible. It was a great final with Ronnie O’Sullivan, to beat him in a final doesn’t get any better. Jordan was consistent throughout the whole event and it shows what can be achieved with hard work.”
Were there dark moments when you worried that you may not be able to pursue snooker as a career?
“When you are playing in these competitions and keep losing, it does have an impact on you and your confidence. It is horrible. I did honestly wonder if I was ever going to get back on the tour. I just wasn’t showing the form and I wasn’t winning matches. I am in a very good state of mind and a very different place now. I know snooker is what I want to do. I want to become a professional again and start competing on the tour.”
Have you been doing anything differently since beginning your preparations for Q School?
“I’ve been doing a lot of mental work with my coach John Farnworth. Just before Q School, he was ringing me and going through mindsets and how I should be thinking. He helped me so much. I have quite a negative outlook so we did a lot of work on staying positive. I didn’t need to do much on my cue action as I was playing well. He kept me in the right frame of mind, especially at times like after losing that deciding frame. He cools me down and keeps me ready for the next game. We are really good friends as well so whenever I need help mentally he is a great person to talk to.”