Legendary golf commentator Peter Alliss has sadly passed away at the age of 89 – read more about him here. WST sends condolences to Peter’s family and friends.
We interviewed him back in 2004 on his love of snooker. Here’s what he said…
Alliss the player
I’ve always been a very big fan of snooker. I used to play every Friday night with some friends, though I haven’t played for some time. I was a hell of a safety player. I wasn’t one to go for outrageous shots but I could win a few games through tactical play. My break-building was very average. It was my ambition to score a 20 but the highest I got was 14. But I loved playing.
Golf and snooker
Snooker is very much like golf because the ball is static and you have to keep your head still when you hit it. So much is down to strategy – you have to attack and defend at the right times. I once had a quarrel with Steve Davis because he didn’t concur about the similarities in the two games, but in the end we agreed to disagree.
Snooker and golf are virtually the only games left in which the players show total integrity. If they have done something wrong and committed a foul, they will own up to it straight away. In other sports there are players who cheat. Footballers dive and pretend they have been fouled, cricketers claim catches when they know the ball has hit the ground first. Some people call it professionalism but to me it’s plain dishonesty.
I love watching snooker on television. I’m amazed at how many young players there are coming through, and how high the standard is compared to how it was 20 years ago. One of the most intriguing things about watching sport is to see how players deal with pressure. So often you will see a lower-ranked player in with a chance of beating one of the top names, but as the winning line draws close he starts missing the vital balls. One of my favourite all-time players was Ray Reardon, because of his amazing ability to win matches when he wasn’t playing that well, just by quietly mopping up the last few balls in each frame.
My father was a great friend of Joe Davis and I used to play a lot of golf with the two of them. I remember him as a small, round man who always had a cigarette in his mouth. He played to a 16 handicap at golf but he was the most awful putter. You’d think he’d be marvellous because of his skill on the snooker table.
I have had good friendships with many snooker players over the years, particularly Cliff Thorburn. He was a very good golfer and I played quite a bit of pro-celebrity golf with him back in the 1980s. I also know Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry. I was always surprised when Steve was criticised for being dull because he’s such a charming fellow, I suppose it was just because he was winning everything back then. My favourite player to watch was Alex Higgins, he was spell-binding when he was on form. John Virgo and Willie Thorne were also very entertaining. I always thought that Willie could have been a world beater, but there was something that held him back.
Golf has changed dramatically over the last few years because of developments in equipment. One of the nice things about snooker is that the conditions will always be the same, although I know the balls and cloth have changed to some extent over the years. There are always new drivers in golf that can hit the ball further, but in snooker there are not many technical changes you can make to cues and other equipment. I suppose one of the major changes was the advent of two-piece cues. Joe Davis had a very old cue and he used to talk about the importance of the wood and the precision required to craft the cue. You would think that cutting it in half would affect the weighting, but it seems they can still be made perfectly.
Many years ago, golfers used to wear ties and waistcoats. The dress codes are very different these days and some of them look like they’ve come straight from the local municipal. It’s the same at Wimbledon – it used to be all white but now they can wear a variety of colours and styles. Some of them still look smart, whereas some of them look bloody awful. I remember the furore over Alex Higgins when he was the first player to undo his tie. Snooker players are allowed to wear more fancy shirts these days. It’s still a traditional look and I like that. I don’t think they would look right wearing the Union Jack trousers that Ian Poulter wore at the Open.
The Ryder Cup is one of golf’s greatest events, and it would be very interesting to see something similar in snooker. I know there are a lot of very good players from Australia and the Far East. But I expect they would still be overwhelmed by the British players.