Although he only ever won one major tournament, Willie Thorne has been one of the great characters of the game for the past twenty-five years.
William Joseph Thorne was an outstanding junior and having only taken up the game at the age of 14, was National Under-16 champion at both snooker and billiards within two years. His parents ran a pub which had its own snooker table so he could play whenever he wanted.
Things did not come easy in the professional ranks, he did not win a match at the World Championship for the first six years. But in 1982 he reached the quarter-finals, beating former champions Terry Griffiths and John Spencer along the way, and setting the high break for that year, 143, the second best ever at that time.
In the early 1980s, with his family’s help, he set up the Willie Thorne Snooker Centre in Leicester. His form began to improve after that world quarter final and he entered the top 16 at the end of the 1982/83.
The Leicester cueman became known as ‘The Maximum Man’ having, he claims, made more 147s in practice than any other player, including one with both legs in plaster! But he has only made one in tournament play, at the 1987 UK Championship.
His first ranking semi-final came in the 1983 Grand Prix and the following season he achieved his only victory in a ranking event when he beat his great friend, Cliff Thorburn, to win the 1985 Mercantile Credit Classic. Two more finals came the following season in the UK Championship and the British Open.
He is still a familiar figure on the circuit as a commentator for BBC Sport.