Damian Taylor was making 90 breaks in his early teens, and his father, the 1985 World Champion Dennis Taylor, believes he could have had a career in the game.
By Andrew Smith
Damian chose to pursue golf, and now coaches some of the world’s top professionals.
His father won the most famous snooker final in history in 1985, and Damian has fond memories of the match.
“I was 11, I was sat at home with my grandma and grandad,” he recalls. “My brother had actually gone upstairs to bed, he came down on the yellow ball in the last frame. We hadn’t gone to wake him up he just happened to come downstairs. He walked in on the colours and we all know what happened from there.
“We were all excited that he had actually got into the final, then he lost the first eight frames so we thought like everybody else that Steve was going to walk away with it. Dad has determination, as we all know, whatever he does he always wants to win. He fought back well and obviously it was one of the best finals there’s ever been.
“Back in the day the police used to go round the estate, a couple of policemen came and knocked on the door. My grandma and grandad had the champagne, the police actually came in and joined us for a glass of champagne. It was amazing, in school the next day most people had been watching it so it was quite surreal.”
Damian and his family gave Dennis a hero’s welcome on his return to Coalisland: “We put a big banner on the balcony at home just saying ‘welcome home dad’, he was World Champion but he was dad and we were glad to have him home. We were obviously proud of him for becoming World Champion.
“We tried to keep family life as normal as possible, obviously his diary got a little bit busier and he was away a bit more. We’re a fairly grounded family, the kids at school were all excited, as we were, we just kept it low key and very much within the family. We maybe didn’t see as much of him, any opportunities we did get to see him it was always nice to spend time with him.”
Dennis is a enthusiastic golfer, and Damian remembers caddying for his dad as a child.
“He’s a very keen golfer, some of the guys here will tell you he’s probably the best 9-handicapper in the world, it’s not often that he gets beat. His determination on the snooker table is equalled on the golf course. He got me into golf, I started when I was nine years old, I used to caddy for dad. I started off with one club and it progressed from there. He probably plays more golf than me now.
“Steve Davis came to my golf academy, almost a year ago Steve turned up, he was in the area doing an exhibition, he’d just got back into golf. Like anything Steve does he wants to do it well, he really got the bug back. John Parrott is one of the lowest handicappers, Stephen Hendry’s not far behind.
“It’s a very similar sort of sport, you can relate putting to snooker. Obviously having touch, control and feel, that’s why you’ll find that a lot of the snooker players are good putters. Some of the golfers actually love a game of snooker as well. Ryder Cup golfer Andy Sullivan was here the other day, he’s a mad keen snooker player on the road.”
Damian is a leading golf coach and has worked with Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Jamie Donaldson.
He said: “I played full time as most people do when you turn professional. But I was always intrigued in the coaching side, the mechanics of how it was done. When my playing career came to an end I was pushed into the coaching side of it. I started to get a reputation for teaching the better golfer.
“I taught a few of the Asian Tour players. Jamie Donaldson was the first European Tour player I started to work with, he asked my if I wanted to come back over to Europe to work full time with him. From there it developed to working with a number of guys on the European Tour, that’s what I’m doing currently.”
Still an avid snooker fan, Damian has plenty of memories from the 40 years of Crucible history.
“Cliff Thorburn is a good friend of dad’s, I’ve played golf when I was a lot younger with Cliff, he’s a great guy. His 147 was a memorable moment and talking of 147s you can’t forget Ronnie’s in 1997. You have to say Jimmy White as well, probably for the wrong reasons, it would have been lovely to see Jimmy win one of those six finals he was in. But you can’t look past that 85’ moment, it’s one that always sticks in your mind and comes up in conversation all the time.”