By John Skilbeck, Press Association Sport
24 April, 2010
Sheffield teenage snooker star Joel Walker collected a £5,000 cheque from Ronnie O'Sullivan and set his sights on one day beating the three-time world champion.
O'Sullivan also backed Walker to win a world title as he handed over the prize to the winner of the Rileys 'Future Stars' competition.
England junior international Walker left school at 14 to focus on snooker but will do his GCSEs from home this year.
He will put his new-found riches towards paying for snooker equipment and travelling to tournaments, in the hope he can one day compete on the same level as O'Sullivan.
"I think he's the best player ever up to now, hopefully I can beat him one day," said the 16-year-old.
Walker won Friday's final of a competition which featured almost 1,000 young players.
O'Sullivan said: "I remember when I watched Stephen Hendry play for the first time and I think he was 15.
"He just looked like an adult walking around the table. He had a lot of confidence, was very self-assured.
"And out of all the youngsters today there were two or two that stood out. Joel just seemed to have the maturity, the technique and the right sort of attitude.
"He's got all the right qualities to be a top player, it's just all about enjoying it and spending hours and hours on the table.
"One day he could be a world champion."
Walker, who has already made 147 maximum breaks in practice, said: "I'm over the moon. Hopefully it can help me to become world champion.
"We decided to come out of school when I was 14 because school was it was becoming too much work. I'm doing my GCSEs at home but I can practise more and more every day.
"It's what I want to do so I might as well go for it."
By ANDREW DILLON
Published: 16 February, 2010
RONNIE O'SULLIVAN is searching for the new Ronnie O'Sullivan.
And the Rocket is not stopping there ... he is looking for a bit of Wayne Rooney, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Phil Taylor as well.
That is a massive ask for whoever emerges triumphant from snooker's biggest talent show.
X Factor becomes Cue Factor.
The world No 1 has found new energy in his mission to discover a successor to his role as king of the baize, the game's greatest entertainer and a world-class player rolled into one.
O'Sullivan is teaming up with Rileys snooker halls in a national hunt to find a rough diamond who can be polished to become a future world champion.
Regional tournaments start in the next few weeks - and the closing date for entries is Sunday March 14.
Then 120 under-16 hopefuls will be whittled down to eight.
They will go to a potting boot camp in Sheffield during April's World Championship at The Crucible to be trained in the art and graft of snooker by some of the game's top pros.
O'Sullivan will weed out the winner through a tough series of interviews and practical skill demonstrations.
The winner pockets a Ł5,000 grant from Rileys, plus coaching advice from snooker's top star.
Three-times Crucible champion O'Sullivan said: "I want someone with ability, commitment, instincts for the game and a love of snooker. If he's not in love with the game, then he may as well walk away.
"Snooker is full of highs and lows. Kids who are ready to ride that rollercoaster is what we're looking for.
"Rooney, Federer, Woods, Taylor. They all have that in-built ability, unflinching commitment and passion for their sport. I'm like that."
O'Sullivan, 34, added: "There are proper tasks being laid out for these kids. Tests on break-off shots, safety play, long-potting exercises. It's very well structured.
"We're going to sniff out a future world champion.
I was lucky to have a mentor in Ray Reardon. He played the game a different way to me and taught me discipline at the table.
"He was a tactical player. We shared a lot of secrets and I'll always be grateful for that.
"The lad we take on has to tick all the boxes. If he does, I'm happy to invest not only money but time and consideration, which is more important."
• FANCY getting on the road to snooker stardom with Ronnie O'Sullivan? Please email your playing history, date of birth, and contact details to email@example.com. You must be aged 16 or under. Entries close Sun March 14.
World No 1 Ronnie O'Sullivan has teamed up with Rileys, the UK’s leading cue sports operator, to find a future snooker star.
The new scheme aims to tap into snooker talent through a series of ‘Future Stars’ competitions nationwide for under-16s, starting on March 27.
Regional events will produce 120 winners, who then go head-to-head at regional venues until eight players are left standing.
The eight will attend a ‘boot camp’ in Sheffield during the Betfred.com World Championship, where they will be coached by top players, given a series of skills tests and interviewed by O'Sullivan. The three-times Crucible champ will then choose his winner – and start the process of turning him into a snooker superstar.
Along with coaching and mentoring by O'Sullivan, Rileys will provide the winner with a financial package worth £5,000 to support his snooker development.
O'Sullivan said: “Firstly, this youngster will have to love the game. Then, he or she will need pots of talents. And probably most important of all, the desire to go all the way. The winner will work on cue skills and strategies with me, and I will do everything I can to help."
Rileys CEO Maurice Kelly said: “One of the reasons for signing Ronnie O’Sullivan as our Snooker Ambassador was because he impressed us with his determination to put something back into the game. Rileys are only too pleased to help make this search for a new ‘Rocket’ Ronnie a reality.”
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn added: “This is exactly what snooker requires. A top player like Ronnie O’Sullivan getting involved at the grassroots of the game. What a fantastic opportunity for the youngster who comes out on top and gets Ronnie as his mentor and trainer."
To enter the competition simply go online at www.rileys.co.uk/ronnie